Prep time: Lifelong
Level of difficulty: Challenging
Recipe serves: Limitless  

The first ingredient is people. More than one person is required for the recipe to turn out correctly, although substitutions are possible: non-blood relatives, people from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, or friends who morphed into family. Vigorously mix all these ingredients together and then set aside, allowing them time to blend, speak together, and inform one another.

Add devotion, a steady and consistent commitment to loyalty, apologies, familial touch, long moments of lingering, and heads often tipped together to catch every soft and heartfelt word spoken by more sensitive members. Work in smaller batches if necessary to allow time for all ingredients to be included in the mix.

When thoroughly incorporated, add a willingness to forego backbiting to avoid separation. Never triangulate. While moments of solitude are advised to preserve the integrity of the finished product, this recipe also requires an avoidance of overly frequent separations from the rest of the ingredients and a willingness to accept noise, disruption, occasional chaos, and spills. Experimentation may be required to perfect results. Reparations are possible as long as the existence of all ingredients remains.

Heavy cell phone and screen usage along with other forms of distraction will harm the recipe. Finances must be distributed fairly among the ingredients and often sacrificed for the welfare of all.

Whip until batter adheres. May be lumpy, which is normal and adds to the rich character of the finished product. If the texture is tough, more love is needed, applied using whispered words and caressing touch administered with level eye contact in a private setting. Allow extra time to soften. Then add extra patience according to taste and level of trials. Occasional tapping with a mallet is sometimes needed to tenderize overly tough spots, but withhold this step until all other methods have failed. Be careful not to bruise. Some sections may be more prone to bruising than others.

If the texture is too gooey or soft, add rigorous work through whisking and kneading, including the addition of more ingredients, including but not limited to a firm voice, assigned tasks, limited contact with friends and gallivanting around town without completing homework and chores, and learning to engage with other ingredients respectfully and kindly.

Fold in remaining items, allowing for brief moments of touch and affection. Season with a pinch of salt in the form of a productive day’s work, paired with time for rest and play. Failing to use enough of these seasonings will result in a bland product. Overseasoning can ruin the overall flavor and success of the recipe. Experimentation needed. Breathe in the subtle aroma of the mixture unique to each family and ingredient, discovering its delicious depth, even before cooking.

When desired texture is accomplished, consider skewering ingredients on a stick and then exposing to high heat. Turn often to prevent any side from becoming too overdone. A firm consistency and strong, bold flavor will result. Some charring may occur. Dark spots may be ignored as overemphasizing appearance will cause poor relationships and influence the product’s integrity.

Baking under high heat is also possible, allowing for ingredients to melt together. Warning: baking results in the inability of the product to separate in the future without harm to the recipe. After baking is complete, set the product in a cool, dry place, such as a window with a view and exposure to light, fresh air, and the color green—all elements necessary to preserve the recipe’s flavor.

After removing from the oven, never cut on a bias. Instead, create randomly shaped pieces in keeping with all individual elements. Never compare with other family recipes. Serve with your favorite saucy guests after displaying in the middle of a table, any old table—be it farmhouse, drop-leaf, glass, Formica, picnic table, coffee table, or blanket in the grass—located in any area of the home, yard, or great outdoors. Ocean air, mountain air, camping trips, beach picnics, and hikes in the woods have been known to enhance flavor, results, and good memories.

Enjoy finished product accompanied by lively conversation and other family recipes. Always take time to recall past experiences of eating the same recipe—the first attempt at cooking it, the guests present at the table, times the recipe flopped, burned, etc. How many years have passed and home locations have changed from the first consumption? Be sure to pass these discussions down from generation to generation, accompanied by deep gratitude and the pleasure of preserving the family recipe forever.

Linda MacKillop
Linda is a fiction and creative nonfiction writer and works in publishing. Her creative nonfiction has been featured in several literary journals and she recently completed a novel, Try Again Farm. Linda earned her B.S. in Communications from Florida State University and her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the Rainier Writing Workshop. She is the mother of four grown sons and lives outside of Chicago in a mostly empty nest with her husband Bill. She blogs at http://opsimathjourney.blogspot.com/
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