Zucchini Flower Casserole from Pamela in the USA

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  • What's the recipe? Zucchini flower casserole
     
  • Who sent it? Pamela in the USA
     
  • Where did the recipe come from? Pamela's neighbour Despina
     
  • Why is it special? "This recipe comes from Greece and San Francisco. I have a wonderful (now very old) Greek next-door neighbour and she's taught me a number of Greek recipes. In San Francisco the houses are all together - touching walls - and in 1996 it was warm and my windows were open and I smelled a delicious smell coming from Despina's house. I went right over and asked "WHAT is that wonderful thing you are baking?" She gave me a piece and taught me how to make it." 
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Insalata Caprese from Asher in Australia

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  • What's the recipe? Insalata Caprese
     
  • Who sent it? Asher in Australia
     
  • Where did the recipe come from? Asher didn't say
     
  • Why is it special? "The recipe I send you this evening is one I made 15 years ago as part of a meal I prepared for friends at a dinner party in Elizabeth Bay, Sydney. I had spontaneously invited a work-mate to join my friends that evening - little did I know that three years later he would become my husband. The insalata caprese has become a summer go-to recipe for me as it is so simple yet elegant. Most recently I made it for a work friend who is moving interstate. A dear girl I am sad to lose, however I have made plans to keep her close to my heart with letters I will write to her."
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Apple Dumplings from Jaimee in New Zealand

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  • What's the recipe? Nana Shirley's Apple Dumplings
     
  • Who sent it? Jaime in New Zealand
     
  • Where did the recipe come from? Jaime's grandmother
     
  • Why is it special? "As I write the temperature here is -1 degrees C and my hands are so cold they don't want to hold the pen! I have enclosed my favourite recipe for winters like these. My Nana Shirley's apple dumplings. I would always have a second helping, usually sitting on the rug by her fire, watching the pinecones crackle and glow as I mixed my melting ice-cream into the buttery sauce."
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Pa amb tomata (bread with tomato) from Yam in Spain

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  • What's the recipe? Pa amb tomata
     
  • Who sent it? Yam in Spain
     
  • Where did the recipe come from? Yam didn't say
     
  • Why is it special? "While I am writing letters in the afternoon, I like to eat bread with tomato. I never rub garlic, instead I love to combine it with dark chocolate. I love the combination of salty-sweet. And I often drink infusion. This is my favourite snack when I write a letter."
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Blueberry buckle from Ana-Maria in the USA

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  • What's the recipe? Nana's blueberry buckle
     
  • Who sent it? Ana-Maria in the USA
     
  • Where did the recipe come from? Her grandmother
     
  • Why is it special? "Perhaps the most beloved of my grandmother's, Joan Hoxie Bell's, many wonderful recipes. For decades, Nana summered with her husband and five children on a 200-year-old farm in Alexandria, NH. The kitchen window overlooks a field where wild blueberries grow." 
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Jezebel sauce from Kevin in the USA

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  • What's the recipe? Jezebel sauce
     
  • Who sent it? Kevin in the USA
     
  • Where did the recipe come from? Kevin didn't say
     
  • Why is it special? "Family recipe we have every Christmas"
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Chocolate cake from Sarah in Australia

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  • What's the recipe? Chocolate cake
     
  • Who sent it? Sarah in Australia
     
  • Where did the recipe come from? She didn't say
     
  • Why is it special? She didn't say, but told a lovely story about her longing to live in a country community
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Two Thai meals from Mandy in the USA

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  • What's the recipe? Thai cashew chicken, and Issan-style chicken on a stick
     
  • Who sent it? Mandy (@mandyengland) in the USA
     
  • Where did the recipe come from? She didn't say
     
  • Why is it special? Favourite family recipes 
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Lemon cake from Helen in the UK

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  • What's the recipe? Lemon cake
     
  • Who sent it? Helen (@abookishbaker) in the UK
     
  • Where did the recipe come from? Her grandmother
     
  • Why is it special? "Possibly my favourite cake"
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Ratatouille from Claire in France

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  • What's the recipe? Ratatouille
     
  • Who sent it? Claire in France
     
  • Where did the recipe come from? Claire didn't say
     
  • Why is it special? "When summer is at its finest, the garden starts to give plenty of treats: onions, eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes are its 'stars' and ratatouille is just making the best dish out of the best and freshest veggies."
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Weetbix slice from Sandra in Australia

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  • What's the recipe? Weetbix slice
     
  • Who sent it? Sandra in Australia
     
  • Where did the recipe come from? Her mum
     
  • Why is it special? "This is one of those comfort foods from my childhood."
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Slow cooker chicken from Brandi in Canada

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  • What's the recipe? Grannie Annie's chicken
     
  • Who sent it? Brandi in Canada
     
  • Where did the recipe come from? Her grandmother
     
  • Why is it special? "Grannie Annie's chicken - a childhood favourite. Grannie Annie was born in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada in 1896. Moved to Stewarttown, Ontario, Canada, at the age of 13 to be a housekeeper at her brother's farm. It was in this kitchen that I likely had her chicken for the first time... She died at 84 years of age in 1980. I was only four.

    "I moved to Peterborough, Ontario, in 1993, from Stewarttown, Ontario. It wasn't until I sat down to write this letter to share her recipe that it dawned on me that I followed her path in life in some way to her birthplace in Peterborough. Funny that - I spent eight years in Peterborough not fully understanding the connection-draw that led me there.

    "I hope you enjoy the recipe of hers my family adopted for the slow cooker. Think of her - Grannie Annie - when you make it, share it with your family." 
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Apple cake from Roxane in Cyprus

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  • What's the recipe? Apple cake
     
  • Who sent it? Roxane in Cyprus
     
  • Where did the recipe come from? Her mother
     
  • Why is it special? "The apple cake was brought by my mum after a French chef that came as a teacher at the high school where she worked as an English teacher. This recipe became one of her favourites and me, my sister and I make it often." 

Rajas con crema from Monica in the USA

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  • What's the recipe? Rajas con crema (roasted Poblano strips with cream)
     
  • Who sent it? Monica in the USA
     
  • Where did the recipe come from? Her mother
     
  • Why is it special? "This is my mother's 'Rajas con Crema.' It means 'Poblano peppers with cream. This is a Mexican creation of roasted Poblano peppers, mixed with diced tomatoes and onions, some delicious Mexican cream is added, as well as some seasoning. Always so simple, yet so satisfying. I like how easy it is, the flavours, and fond memories it brings."
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Shaked cucumbers from Sanna in Finland

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  • What's the recipe? Shaked cucumbers
     
  • Who sent it? Sanna in Finland
     
  • Where did the recipe come from? Her grandmother
     
  • Why is it special? "This recipe is special, because it reminds me of: my grandmother, who made these every summer, like so many other Finnish grandmothers; and childhood midsummers spent in family summer house. They taste like Finnish summer."
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Chocolate cake from Dora in Italy

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  • What's the recipe? Chocolate cake
     
  • Who sent it? Dora (@doralovespaper) in Italy
     
  • Where did the recipe come from? Dora didn't say
     
  • Why is it special? "I'm sending you my favourite recipe for the moist, soft chocolate cake. Works every single time I'm making it."
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Start here: about Meals in the Mail

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During the years that I have been writing letters, making mail-art and hosting mail-projects, I've noticed that there is a beautiful synergy between old-fashioned letter-writing, and the sharing of recipes.

This makes sense because they are practical: recipes are flat, lightweight, easy to share as a little gift in a letter, and ultimately give the reader something tasty to eat. But I think there is much more to it than that.

Sharing a recipe is a wonderfully personal act, because food is all about community. Families bond around the kitchen table, love blossoms across a restaurant table, and friendships are forged around the dining table (or the barbecue).

Sharing food with loved-ones is an essential element of the Danish concept of hygge (comfort and community), and scientific studies have found that comfort foods, because they remind us of our social ties, can help lessen feelings of isolation and loneliness. Research has also shown that the degree to which we enjoy the taste of some foods can be related to how they make us feel - the association they carry with happy memories and dearly loved friends and family. 

Meals in the Mail was a project I came up with in June 2017 to try and capture some of these beautiful food associations, while also celebrating that other very personal act... of writing letters. I invited people to send me a favourite recipe by post, and asked them to share a line or two about what made that recipe special to them.

I thought I'd receive about 20 recipes, and promised to group them together into a little zine or book, and post it back to all the participants. Instead, I received close to 250 recipes, many of them lovingly hand-written, personally illustrated, and travelling to me from all over the world in joyfully decorated envelopes. Receiving all those letters in my PO box day after day during the six weeks of this project was overwhelming and humbling, in the best way. I was deeply touched by the effort and enthusiasm that people shared. 

Now I'm in the process of collating all those recipes, scanning the art work, and planning how this enormous book will work. It will be an abundance - a cornucopia - of precious recipes treasured by people from across the globe, and I truly cannot wait to share it with everyone who participated, and with everyone else who has shown so much interest and support in this fun project.

Given how long it will likely take me to create the book and raise the funds to print it, I've decided to share the recipes and artwork with you here as I go. I'll publish one or two recipes each week, pulled randomly from the enormous box where I'm keeping all the letters. And in case you'd like to try them for yourself but find some people's handwriting tricky to read on a screen, I'll also type out each recipe and make it available as a printable download. 

If you'd like to follow along or be part of this project, thank you! There are loads of ways you can take part or help out. 

1. Subscribe to email updates whenever I post a new recipe or have news about this project. Sign up here, or use the sign-up box at the bottom of every post. 

2. Help spread the word about Meals in the Mail by telling all your food- or mail-loving friends about this fun project, and inviting them to subscribe for updates too (just send them to naomiloves.com/meals-in-the-mail). 

3. Give these recipes a go! Each one of them holds a special place in the heart of the person who sent it, and I know they will be over the moon if you try their food. If you do try any of these recipes, please tell us all about it! Use the hashtag #mealsinthemail and tag me on Instagram (I'm @naomibulger) so we can see what you create. 

4. If your recipe is published here and I've misread your handwriting or otherwise gotten something wrong, let me know in the comments so I can get it right in the book.

 

If you have any questions about this project at all, please feel free to get in touch with me, either by leaving a comment below, or by emailing me directly at hello@naomiloves.com. 

Yours sincerely, 
Naomi xo

November, 2017

ps. The envelope-artwork at the top of this post is by Katherine Scott in Australia


Meanwhile, on my blog...