Shelf Space

An Essay

by Aleksandra Crapanzano

The five white binders sit on a shelf a few feet from my desk. They are a testament to organization—not mine, I assure you, but that of a wondrous intern I hired a few years ago to catalog and file one thousand recipes. She did this with the precision and detail normally reserved for, say, compiling a Shakespeare concordance or a folio of Leonardo da Vinci drawings. Her work was impeccable. Recipes are cross-referenced by ingredient, cook, country of origin, and course. Crepes might be found in Breakfast, subcategory Pancake, but surely also in Dessert, subcategory French, and in France, subcategory Traditional. There would be a dozen or so variations to choose from, including, I remember, a Viennese one for Palatschinken from David Bouley’s lavish book East of Paris: see Vienna and New York Restaurant Chefs. This system, you must understand, was my dream. Or so I believed. Since Lauren presented me with these perfect binders three years ago, I have not once opened them.

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