Grit Blogs > The Open Book

Recipe Box Secrets

By Jean Teller, Sr. Assoc. Editor

Tags: Recipe Box, recipes, magazine,

Recipe Box in the magazine.

When I started with GRIT back in 1997, one of my first assignments was the Recipe Box department. A venerable feature of the magazine, Recipe Box was designed to answer questions such as “My grandmother used to make a delicious pie/cake/meatloaf/etc., and I don’t have the recipe. Can someone help?”

And we try our best to help. The requests are published in the Help Wanted box usually found at the end of each issue’s Recipe Box article. You’ll notice we only publish a person’s name and city, asking responders to send their recipes to the GRIT office in Topeka. That’s so we can publish the responses. (If the recipes were sent directly to the requestor, we wouldn’t have a Recipe Box.)

The folders waiting for Recipe Box.We collect all the recipes in a file folder (located to the right of my desk), and right now, I’ve stuffed more than 60 folders into three plastic bins. A lot of recipes, to say the least.

Our process begins with a request from you. For instance, in our January/February 2009 issue, we published this in Help Wanted: “Nera Johnson, Berryton, Kansas, would like a recipe for squash pie. Her mother used to make the pie using a white-and-green-striped, crook-neck squash called Kershaw. It was a lighter color and milder tasting than a pumpkin pie. Nera says her mother found the recipe in a magazine.”

Now, Nera sent in her request in May. The number of requests we receive make it difficult to publish items any sooner. The requests set to be published in the March/April 2009 issue were received in October 2008. We like to publish all the requests we can rather than ignoring some of them. This, of course, can be a double-edged sword.

Just a few of the recipes received in response to the Hamburger Gravy request.

Depending on how quickly responses appear in my inbox, it may be the end of the year or even an early issue in 2010 before a response to Nera’s request is actually printed in the magazine. When I pull the folder for Squash Pie, I will go through all the responses and select one or two recipes (depending on how close they match Nera’s request and how interesting the recipe sounds).

With 60-plus folders to deal with, including one for Nera’s request, it’s a time-consuming process. One thing to note, I do try to publish the requests, as well as the responses, in the order they were received. It’s a challenge, and sometimes the responses are published out of order, as I try to match up similar recipes or place them in some sort of a loose theme.

How many responses for Grape Pie?When we finally publish a response in Recipe Box, we hold the responses for a few more months, just in case any late responders send wayward recipes. Eventually, I send every response to the person who made the original request. So, Nera, you can look forward to a large envelope heading for your mailbox sometime in the future!

Wow, it takes longer than I’d realized. No wonder I have so many folders in those plastic bins!

We can’t really publish a recipe for every request. So, sometimes, a request goes unanswered or the responses don’t match the request. And we simply don’t have the space to publish all the recipes. But if we receive any responses, those are sent to the person who made the request, whether we publish them or not.

So please don’t stop sending in requests for recipes or responses to a particular request. We’re depending on you to fill the pages of Recipe Box.

If you answer a request, your recipe eventually will get to the person who made the request. It just takes a while. Thanks for making Recipe Box such a great feature of GRIT!

11/14/2013 4:51:32 PM

I came across a recipe that I had cut out of Grit several years ago when it was still a newspaper, maybe ten years ago. I want to see if anyone can find the recipe. This was in Amber Fraley's column, "Reader's Favorite Recipes," and was entitled Pineapple Cake and Pineapple Cake Frosting, but the doesn't call for any pineapple. The note says, "Patricia Bowers of Rockingham N.C. has looked in vain for a pineapple cake with a thick pineapple frosting." and then reports that Avis Barfield of Monitcello, Florida reports that "I have used this recipe for many years. It never fails and is delicious." The cake calls for 1 cup buttermilk mixed with 1/2 tsp of soda, 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 4 eggs 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1 tsp baking powder, and 1 tsp of vanilla, but no pineapple. The frosting calls for 20 oz of crushed pineapple, 1/2 cup of butter, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 cup of the reserved cake batter. Do you still have this recipe? Should there be any pineapple in the cake part?

jean teller
12/15/2008 4:03:45 PM

Hi, Becky, good to hear from you! It was great to meet all of you as well. Elly was a joy to be around - oh, and so were her parents! :) We do file electronically the recipes we actually publish. And one of these days, we hope to have that electronic database available to our readers. It's fairly extensive, as it holds not only the few years of Grit recipes, but several decades of Capper's recipes as well. (If a recipe archive existed when Grit was located in Pennsylvania, it didn't make the move to Kansas in the early 1990s, so our archives only go back to about 1995.) We also hope to add recipes that have appeared in the pages of Mother Earth News and The Herb Companion. Our sister publication, Good Things to Eat, which is published quarterly, draws its content from our recipe archives. Take care, Becky, and I hope the winter doesn't get you down! Happy Holidays!

becky and andy
12/15/2008 3:53:59 PM

Jean, it was so nice to meet you a couple weeks ago. We have been trying to keep our heads above water since we got back with ice, snow, winter animal housing and general farm chores. However, the end is in site and we are looking forward to a relaxed, family Christmas in *gasp* less than two weeks. Elly still hangs on to that stuffed sheep! Thank you again for your kindness to my family! And...have you ever thought about filing all the recipes electronically? I guess not; it would be another enormous task just to type all that info in. Nevermind! Your system works just fine! Becky

jean teller
12/15/2008 9:59:59 AM

Thanks, Cindy! One of my hopes with this blog was to give the readers a few behind-the-scenes glimpses. It seems only fair that we share with you all a bit of what makes Grit Grit!

cindy murphy
12/15/2008 9:52:01 AM

Fun post, Jean - this and your last one. It's interesting to see what goes on "behind the scenes", and what it takes to get the magazine out to us. Thanks for sharing.