Go ahead, bring that cookbook into the kitchen.

The worn pages of a cookbook have a unique ability to drill into a place where food memory mixes with love and loss. As our kitchen adventures increasingly get recorded in sleek digital files or even the fleeting history of a recipe search, beat-up cookbooks become more valuable, both personally and historically.

Kim Severson writes movingly about inheriting her mother’s old cookbooks and recipe notes, and about the details–and mysteries–they offer:

She had odd little notes — “3 qts water 1 qt vinegar 1 cup salt boil and put on pickles” — and mysteries I have yet to solve, like who was Shirley, why were there quotation marks around her “sugar cookies,” and did they really need a cup of lard?