This post is dedicated to the memory of Cal, a man I never met.
Like almost everyone I know, I have an online life. I'm more immersed in mine than some and less involved than others, but it definitely has taken much of my time and attention.
When I talk about blogging, on-line friends, social media connections, I'm often told that this isn't my "real" life.
Yet even when I'm behind the screen, I'm fostering relationships, learning and growing. It is real life and this is one example of why:
One day, quite a while ago, I got a private message on my blog's promotional Facebook page from a woman who had made one of my recipes, Potato Crusted Meatloaf. She took the time to tell me that her husband had a chronic illness and had lost his appetite but when she made the meatloaf he requested a second helping. This epitomizes the reason I share recipes, it's all about the connections.
The story doesn't end there. Cathy maintained a presence on my Facebook page but the relationship progressed in a more personal way too; she and I kept in touch via private message as well. One day she told me about a family wedding where the entire family got together and made her daughter-in-law's grandmother's Stuffed Cabbage. Everyone together in a room making a beloved family recipe, I imagined them talking and laughing and prepping as cooking is meant to be done, with love.
The cabbage used had been grown by Cathy and her husband Cal in their garden.
She offered me the recipe and I asked her if I could play with it a little. I didn't want to be disrespectful to her daughter-in-law's family but I believe that recipes should be adjusted to fit your taste or your time availability or the level of your cooking ability.
I didn't change the ingredients at all, that's my nod to Jonna's history. I just adapted it for the crock pot so you can put it in and go. I also deconstructed it and made it layered "lasagna style" to cut down on the prep time.
I posted the recipe to my blog (see it here) and held my breath. It was well received, but what mattered most was that Cathy and her daughter-in-law approved. These are real people, how they felt about what I'd done with their long-standing family tradition mattered.
Recipes can be a connection to our past, our family, our history. Putting your stamp on them just enhances the story. And now, thanks to someone who had been a stranger, Cathy's family and mine are connected. Through a recipe. And a screen.
For me, this is pretty much as real as life gets.
A version of this piece was originally published on Baking In A Tornado as Secret Subject Swap: Buried Treasure
Karen is a former Director of Social Service and Retail Buyer, now adjusting to a semi-empty nest. She blogs and shares recipes at BakingInATornado.com
Karen's been featured on websites including BlogHer, The Daily Meal, Mamapedia, Scary Mommy, GenerationFabulous,Treat a Day, Foodie Network, Wellnez TV, Midlife Boulevard and BA50. She's a BlogHer Influencer as well as a contributor to The Culinary Content Network and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka. Karen has been published in the Life Well Blogged series and co-authored the book The Mother of all Meltdowns.
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