When you lose a favorite recipe

Have you ever had a terrific recipe that you absolutely adored but that you somehow managed to lose? That is the scenario I found myself in this evening. I was tasked with making a salad for a potluck and my thoughts immediately turned to a raspberry walnut salad dressing I discovered over twenty years ago and which I have made on and off over the years. However, when I went to look in the personal recipe database that I have kept since I first started using Microsoft Access in the 1990s, it was not there.

I thought I might have it saved somewhere else and was just forgetting that it was not housed in this collection. But now I believe I tossed out the recipe when I did a database purge a few years ago. I probably became overconfident in my ability to make the dressing without relying on the recipe and decided that I did not need it any more. However, because I had not made it in some time I wanted to refer to the original for a reminder on proportions. Alas it seems to have disappeared.

I cannot remember exactly where I first found the recipe but it was likely in a cooking magazine that no longer exists (because everything I subscribed to in the 90s is now gone). A search of the EYB Library found a handful of recipes that were close, but no cigar. I fared no better with Google – many results had similar ingredients but none had the technique that I recall.

This recipe is unusual in that you simmer shallots and chopped walnuts in walnut oil before adding the remaining ingredients (fresh raspberries, raspberry vinegar, honey, salt and pepper) to finish. When I followed the recipe to a “T”, the results were always amazing. When I decided to “wing it,” I had varying amounts of success, so I wanted to return to the recipe’s roots.

Of course making a vinaigrette is not rocket science. I can (and this evening, did) produce a perfectly serviceable dressing, but something seemed a tad off from the fantastic version I remembered. Was I missing a small but vital ingredient? Was the proportion slightly out of whack? Or is the answer that the present can never live up to a wonderful memory?

It looks as though I will have to tinker with the recipe I made today until it more closely resembles the one from my memory, and then WRITE IT DOWN, preferably in multiple places. It would have been so much easier if I had just kept better track of it in the first place. Let this be a lesson: even if you believe you do not need the recipe any longer because you have it down pat, you should still save the original for reference. You never know when you might need a refresher and you will lament losing the recipe when that situation occurs.

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  • rosajane8  on  May 8, 2022

    Oh yes 😢 I still dream about the recipe I lost 😭

  • EmilyR  on  May 8, 2022

    I feel your grief… I hope you find it – somewhere.

  • MFJ196  on  May 9, 2022

    I get the regret, but don’t lose hope, and keep up the hunt! You might end up improving on that perfect recipe with your experiments, or find it stuck on a piece of paper in one of your cookbooks. I recently found a particular brand of black currant tea (Ahmad Tea of London) that I’d been searching for in vain for decades. I had this enduring taste memory from drinking an amazing cup of black currant tea in Paris when I was in my early 20s, but didn’t know the brand. Over the years I bought dozens of ‘black currant’ flavored black teas and none were ever exactly right. Then I found it again, quite by accident, on the shelves of a newly opened Asian market.

    • Darcie  on  May 11, 2022

      Nice! I will do some (belated) spring cleaning next weekend and will look again to see if I stuffed the recipe in a notebook or binder. In the meantime I will keep tinkering.

  • mharriman  on  May 9, 2022

    I can definitely relate to this and sympathize. I somehow got rid of my favorite bell pepper risotto recipe from Gourmet Magazine (1981 or ‘82). I had cut it out and put it in my recipe binder. When I went to make it for a special occasion, I realized I had tossed it during a decluttering mood. I was hopeful the recipe would be included in the 1,000+ page (2004) comprehensive Gourmet Cookbook, but alas it’s not. I’ve since discovered similar risotto recipes, but nothing as good as that one. Lesson learned- yes!

    • Jane  on  May 10, 2022

      Maybe if another EYB member has kept Gourmet magazines from that era, they may be able to find it for you? If they do, please email a copy to us at info@eatyourbooks.com and we will forward it to mharriman.

  • hillsboroks  on  May 10, 2022

    When I was first married my husband’s family always talked about a fabulous fresh strawberry pie that my mother-in-law had lost the recipe for many years before. One day at work one of my older co-workers, whose daughter had gone to grade school with my husband, brought in a little mimeographed cookbook with a wallpaper cover they had made in the second grade. Looking through it I was thrilled to see that the recipe my mother-in-law had submitted was the long lost strawberry pie recipe. I made photocopies and we have enjoyed that pie for 40 years now.

    • Darcie  on  May 11, 2022

      That’s amazing! So happy you found the recipe.

  • mharriman  on  May 10, 2022

    Thank you so much, Jane. It would be great to get the recipe if someone has a Gourmet magazine from that time period. As I think about it more, the recipe was published more likely in 1984-86.

  • lgroom  on  May 18, 2022

    What a great story, Hillsboroks.

  • lgroom  on  May 18, 2022

    Darcie, technically, it’s still spring until June 21st so your cleaning isn’t belated.

  • jwolfe  on  May 19, 2022

    Here’s an interesting article about the history of Raspberry vinaigrette, wildly popular in the 1980s: https://tastecooking.com/raspberry-vinaigrette-will-never-say-die/

    Please let us know if you do figure our your recipe or find it; I love raspberry vinaigrette and your version with walnuts sounds delicious.

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