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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Monkey see, monkey do

RecipesAs early as I can remember, my mother clipped recipes from magazines and newspapers, finding ever-more-elaborate methods of filing them. Recipe boxes, giant clips, and plastic bags are stuffed to the gills with recipes in her house. I’ve had fun in recent months digging through those treasures. Food styles change! I feel like a History Detective delving back through the years.

Somehow, watching her do that ignited the same spark in me. I’ve been a recipe clipper since I was in 7th grade Home Economics. I still have the recipes for s’mores and the hot dog hot dish that were given to us by Minnegasco. (That’s a bit of history in itself.) Steve might say that my recipe-clipping is an excessive activity because I will never live long enough to make all these dishes, but I take great comfort in knowing I will never run out of ideas.

Imagine my surprise when we cleaned out my grandmother’s house to find book after book of clipped recipes pasted scrapbook-style into my grandfather’s leftover auto garage receipt books. There, among the columns for profit and loss are recipes for “Peach Wine,” “Sauerkraut,” and “Orange Kiss Me Cake.” Many have notations in the handwriting I remember so well. My grandmother never wrote a book and I’m sure people threw away the many letters she wrote, but she lives on in those recipe books. (When I read Loretta Ellsworth‘s book, In Search of Mockingbird, I was reminded of notations in the margins … the only thing her character Erin had left of a mother she never knew.)

My grandmother would have said “monkey see, monkey do.” I never saw her clip a recipe but my mother did … and I saw my mother do the same. Nothing was ever said. My mother never made me sit down and clip out a recipe; she never even suggested it.

To Kill a MockingbirdIt doesn’t take much to imagine the same thing happening for reading. “Monkey see, monkey do.” Although my grandparents didn’t read books (except the Bible), my mother had shelves and shelves of books from my earliest memories. She was always reading fiction, nonfiction, magazines. She read To Kill a Mockingbird, I picked it up a couple of months later … curious. She never made me read a book. To this day, I read the same variety of books she did.

If you’re reading in places where it’s noticed, other people, especially your children, nephews and nieces, and grandchildren, will see you. It’s an unconscious reaction … if you’re reading, there must be something good about it. If you have books around, they must have books around. This will be harder to do with an e-book reader—few people will know what you like to read by perusing your shelves, but I guess you can always share your list of books with them.

Keep reading. Help somebody else engage in a little “monkey see, monkey do.”

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