Have you ever created a fantastic dish, or improvised on a recipe, and then gone back later to make the dish again and found that you can’t recall what it was you did the last time? This used to happen to me on a regular basis, and it took many years of forgotten details, before I was finally forced to acknowledge that my memory was not as solid as I seemed to think it was. I finally changed my ways a few years back when my employer asked me to recreate a dish that I had made for her a number of months before. Too embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t recall exactly what I had done the last time, I took to the stove, convinced that it would all come back to me once I got into the groove. Well, suffice it to say, my boss was not fooled and I ultimately had to fess up that I couldn’t remember what I had done the first time, and hadn’t documented it anywhere for future use. That is when I started keeping a recipe journal.
My recipe journal is hardly a pristinely organized collection of recipes, but rather a somewhat random, chicken-scratched assortment of notes and sketches written in a plain, spiral bound notebook, and it would surely be illegible to most other people.
Most of the journal is written in my own culinary shorthand and chances are if it wereunearthed a hundred years from now, it would take both a linguistics and a culinary specialist to make any sense of it at all.
Sometimes I just jot down a list of ingredients, as I tend to do with sandwiches and salads, as quantities are fairly simple to gauge. At other times, I am more specific about writing down what I did step by step, but then also add to that a list of ingredients or techniques to try with that recipe the next time I make it. Still other times, I add simple sketches to the book, so that I can remember not just what went into a dish, but how I presented it as well.
I also leave some pages at the back of the book blank so that I can note recipes from cookbooks that I want to try or to write down ideas or ingredient combinations that I want to eventually play around with.
If you decide to follow my advise and start your own journal, I would also advise that you write down the recipes or thoughts when they are fresh in your head, because I promise you, details will start to slip away almost immediately. And on that note, I need to get back to my journal and jot down a few things from tonight’s dinner before I forget.