Lebanese Food and Culinary Traditions & Thoughts

Lebanese Food and Culinary Traditions & Thoughts
Spring time always inspires me...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Handwritten Recipe Book at the Paris Flea Market


When visiting Paris this summer with my family, an imperative and most important place to visit was the Paris Flea Market. What joy, what exhilarating feelings I get to look through all the junk and all the overly priced items better known as antiques. Of course one man's junk, nic nacs, and garbage collectibles is anther's joy! For me it's looking through treasures - lost forgotten treasures of the past. Objects are quite numerous ranging from books, personal objects, clothes, cosmetics, housewares, and so much more.

Sometimes you can spend a whole day at the flea market and come out with a few items which are very likely to collect dust in your own home. And sometimes, you find a buried treasure, for a few coins, that can change your life forever... at least, for a while.

After a long search, I fall upon a handwritten collection of recipes written by a woman - it is a notebook or booklet entitled: Cahier de Recettes a Madame de Chenest. The booklet is make up of 140 handwritten pages carefully written with detailed recipes. When the merchant shows me the the book, my first thought is what a pity that the family members of this poor woman have not inherited this valuable collection. I feel almost ashamed or embarrassed to even purchase such a personal artifact. I leave the book stand and continue my search for "fleas".

Then this re-occurring thought invades my head, "and why can't I purchase this collection of recipes carefully written with tender loving care?" I decide to walk right back to the merchant's stall and decide to purchase the recipe book He is very pleased to have found a customer, but categorically refuses to lower his price.

Was I meant to have this collection of recipes? I believe in serendipity - destiny in other words. Things don't happen like that. There is a certain purpose, I am meant to write about this collection. I am meant to cherish every single page, every single recipe, every single word that this woman has written on her booklet. I think to myself I have to try out these recipes, which of course she made to feed her own family.

Where is this woman now? Has she left this earth? Surely no one would part with such a valuable scripture. Why did she not offer this collection to her close descendants? Would they have not appreciated such a tiresome effort of jotting endless numbers of recipes on this little booklet? Was it important that it falls into my own hands?

Madame de Chenest, I will do honor to your recipe collection. I know how much time and effort it takes to write and collect recipes. I wonder how many recipes must have been part of your weekly repertoire. Which ones did you use for special occasions? Who sat at your table? Did you have any children? Were you happily married? Did you live on a farm or in the city? Did you read English? I see a piece of paper with the recipe of the traditional English Christmas Cake? I see a paper dated 1925 with a handwritten recipe, one of your friends might have given you. I'm very intrigued, again it's going through a buried treasure - I shall decipher what is written and share your treasure - wherever you may be, I write in appreciation and respect to your meticulous repertoire. Thank you!