I am an avid collector of notes and cards that have been handwritten, I just can’t seem to throw them away the way I can delete emails. I don’t think anything is really quite as nice as a handwritten note, whether it is to say thank you, or to remind someone to pick up milk on the way home.
I love going through old family cookbooks and finding someone’s recipe scribbled down and tucked inside the pages. My favourite copy of Artusi, my bible of Italian cooking, is filled with little notes written in my husband’s grandmother’s handwriting. Just like her laugh, it’s immediately identifiable as hers, a bit like looking over her shoulder as she’s cooking.
I was thinking about all this recently when I read about someone who used to give her friends handwritten recipes of her fabulous afternoon tea treats as mementoes. This was a good half a century before the time an emailed recipe or blog post could be passed around in just a click, but still, I thought, what a beautiful idea.
So I began writing down some of my favourite recipes, the ones that I go back to time and time again, found on those stained and dog-eared old pages. Some of them are from my favourite classic cookbook writers – Elizabeth David, Alice B. Toklas, and Pellegrino Artusi. All, I’m sure, handwrote their own recipes and would thoroughly approve.
I bought some watercolour paper and a pen and ink – you cannot be in a rush writing this way. It’s all about carefully and slowly dipping the nib in the inkpot and thoughtfully scratching letters one by one onto the paper. Some watercolour illustrations add a bit of whimsy and colour and make them special enough to even hang up in the kitchen. This has a double purpose – something nice to decorate the walls and no more sticky fingers on already well-thumbed pages.
It becomes a gift with that little touch that only handmade gifts have – personal, special, with a little element of surprise. Imagine a batch of homemade cookies together with the handwritten recipe for them. I’d be as pleased as punch. Now when a friend asks me about that recipe that they love, I will make sure I write it down for them. Properly, scratched onto paper with ink.
Words and drawings by Emiko Davies. Emiko is a writer and photographer based between Florence and Melbourne. Food, travel and art are particularly close to her heart. Emiko’s Etsy shop can be found here.