Fifty two recipes.

These recipes span decades. I began cooking for myself my second year in college, going on to cook at least two meals a day for decades. Most of these recipes have endured through years of cooking for a family of several serious carnivores and one strict vegetarian and beyond.

I can barely remember those meals from childless days in Madison, Somerville, Massachusetts, Rochester, New York City, and Venice California, but stained cookbooks and piles of old newspaper clippings are compelling evidence.

Once there were kids, there was rarely a night—despite ballet and clarinet lessons and rehearsals, soccer and gymnastic practices, and endless other diversions that we didn’t eat a home-cooked meal together.

Now, after thousands of collective meals, I’m living alone, but can’t break the cooking habit.

My refrigerator is always too full of vegetables that need to be cooked before they age beyond salvage—and how many times a week can I eat lentil soup or roast chicken or whatever too large meal I’ve recently cooked?

I’d thought I’d welcome the break from cooking, but I now see it was as much pleasure as obligation.

In recent years, now that my grown children, Sarah and Sam cook for themselves and their friends, they call home regularly for cooking hints.

Given the accessibility of all recipes on the Internet to say nothing of Sarah’s extensive cookbook collection, I wouldn’t have thought my counsel was necessary, but it turns out that memory of childhood meals trumps perfection or sophistication.

We decided we could all use a compilation of some of our favorites, perhaps accompanied by the original documentation—be it a handwritten note from my mother, or a faded and stained clipping from the New York Times stuffed into my overflowing red and green loose leaf notebooks.

Sarah and Sam put in requests and I supplemented the list with my own decade spanning memories.

I have tried to group the recipes by category, so there is much chronological jiggering, but I’m hoping that won’t be a problem. Most are dishes I cooked regularly while Sarah and Sam were growing up, though several that originated in the pre-kid years may have ultimately fallen out of the rotation.

As is always the case, the categories are not hard and fast—vegetarian dishes appear in the pasta section (well, in every section except meats and poultry, I’d imagine), many vegetables and meats could be used as pasta sauces, and any meal can always be enjoyed for breakfast.

Although there are now fifty-two recipes—a number that evokes the rotation of the earth around the sun and implies some order in the universe as well as a guide for weekly meals-that is a mere numerical accident. I’m afraid I’ve also omitted certain old favorites and standards—which I’ll add if there’s a clamor from any quarter. I tried to make the recipes as comprehensible as possible—but I’m sure they could be much improved. I will of course amend and edit as necessary.
(for more recipes, in a much less organized format, I'm now (as of February 2012 begun posting my daily meals with bonus goofy pictures  here.)

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