Recipe Box Secrets

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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.)

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.

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.

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!