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Bookmarked moments

Spots saved in cookbooks with handy slips of paper recall life's journey.

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Photo illustration by Joanne Ciccarello/Staff

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I once left my paycheck in a library book. The next borrower at my local library was kind enough to return it to the circulation desk. Because I have the habit of marking my place with whatever scrap of paper is at hand, I'm constantly searching piles of books for missing bills, coupons, or unanswered letters.

The corollary, of course, is finding books bristling with markers of forgotten purposes. My poetry books are full of these. I can never recall why this sonnet or that villanelle, the subject of love or roses or sleep, mattered at the moment I marked it with a postcard or an envelope.

Notes and lists stuck in cookbooks, however, are a different story – they retain their context.

In the bread section of my copy of "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook," a list written on an old envelope from the Vermont National Bank is headed "Pampers." My daughter has children of her own now. But when she was a baby and we lived in Vermont, I made all my own bread. It was what everyone did. We made our own baby food and yogurt, too, grew bean sprouts, and drank goat's milk. I agonized over those Pampers headed for the landfill, but I had no washing machine and the diaper service simply refused to come down our dirt road.

Several pages farther on, at a recipe for panettone, the landscape changes. We have moved to Massachusetts, and I made panettone for Christmas bake sales at my daughter's school. Tied with a piece of blue yarn is a recipe for cranberry orange relish, eccentrically spelled but carefully written, in her grade-school hand, with her name printed at the bottom.

Another shopping list on a small square of paper in my "party" cookbook calls for stew beef, tomatoes, eggs, three cups of whipping cream, brown sugar, and soft drinks. Clearly, I am giving a dinner party featuring "beef something and crème brûlée."

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