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Gram scratched her recipe for Ice Box Cookies on the back of a used envelope. She listed the ingredients -- butter or lard, nutmeats, brown sugar, and so on -- and, as an afterthought, "Mix as any cookie."
Today, life is complicated, and recipes come at us from all directions.
Last month, the hardcover "The Fallingwater Cookbook" got a sibling -- an eBook (electronic book). I won't lie to you. It was a thrill to see our book, subtitled "Elsie Henderson's Recipes and Memories" pop up on my Kindle Fire.
Though I didn't think I'd like it, rereading the story on the screen made me fall in love again with Elsie (she turned 100 in September), the avant-garde Kaufmann family she cooked for, and their magical Frank Lloyd Wright house above the waterfall in Pennsylvania.
The first thing our daughter, Jessica, a skilled farm-to-table cook, asked was, "Is it free?"
No. Even we authors have to pay to see our eBook, though it costs less than the printed version (it should: no paper, no postage).
Curious, I wondered how many eBook cookbooks Amazon offered. Last month, I watched the computer screen the day ours joined the eBook generation. In minutes, the number shot up, from 11,255 to 11,305. And counting. At last look, 11,593.
"When eBooks are free, how do the creators get paid?" I wonder.
Will Gram's recipe collection go the way of the rotary telephone? Will Mom's favorite holiday salad clipped from the Columbia River Reader be lost in the shuffle? Will well-worn, well-loved cookbooks disappear into the ozone?
One thing I love about cookbooks are the splatters on the pages of favorite recipes. The place where Clove Cake resides is so well-thumbed that my kitchen copy falls open right there. Co-author Chef Bob Sendall's recipe for Beef Daube is rumpled from the steam of sauteeing chuck roast nearby. (Jessica told me you can buy a $36 holder to hang from your cupboard to protect your iPad.)
Sure, it's easy to go on the Internet and find a recipe that will match the three ingredients that are calling your name from the kitchen counter or refrigerator drawer. But I never try a recipe until I've read the testimonials from cooks, just as I always read movie reviews before I invest my money.
One advantage of having an eBook was the chance to add a missing ingredient or clarify an instruction, as well as to add more photographs.
Still, rebooting how we cook -- shall we call it "recipe-delivery systems"? -- is a challenge for me. "Why do we have an index when there are no pages?" I asked the uber-patient computer guy making the conversion from paper to electronic. Touch the recipe on your screen, he explained. The "view" pops up. Easy compared to rifling through my battered metal recipe box. Did I file the Christmas brunch casserole under E for Eggs, I wonder, or B for Betty Jo, who gave me the recipe?
Whatever happens, I won't be burning my roomful of cookbooks anytime soon. Because I doubt there are autograph parties for eBooks, I'll treasure the book signed by Elsie, Bob, photographer Linda Mitzel and me.
Besides that, the Fallingwater cook who became my friend and I will always have our John Henrys on a bathroom wall in Oakmont, along with all the other authors who introduced their books at Mystery Lovers Bookshop.
Forever, or at least until they paint us over.
Suzanne Martinson is a retired Post-Gazette food editor who lives in Kelso, Wash.: AcesMartinson@comcast.net.