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How do I file "marbles and grass" in my recipe box?

My husband, Don, and I are being buried under 3 by 5 cards. Our cookbooks and recipes are squeezing us out of our home. Other people collect glass or coins. Not us. We spend hours reading and preparing new recipes.

On the positive side, I don't have to dust my recipes. Furthermore, it's a cheap hobby. But quietly tearing a clipping out of a magazine in a dentist's waiting room is not easy.

People could not know by looking at us that we are obsessed with food. We're both thin. However, only some of our recipes are lean.

Since the invasion of carb terrorists, we've tried to accommodate their wishes. When they visit, we avoid sugars and starches. But it does get tricky if the guests at the table include some no-carb, some no-meat and some no-fat. I've been so frustrated planning a menu, I almost decided on no dinner.

Sometimes we've tried new recipes on visiting victims. Our family members have always survived, but we've lost a few friends.

Other than some old pals drifting away, we have found cooking can be a stress reducer. The simple click, click of a knife on a cutting board or the sizzle of steam spewing out of a pot has a calming quality much like music.

Many people don't see it that way. Cooking and entertaining can bring shivers to someone who doesn't like to be a hostess.

Ambience is a big part of entertaining. We have gone to extremes. Our guests have been choked by the scent of candles and flowers when we've created a too festive mood.

Our cooking preparations haven't always been so great, either. We should have been wary of a friend's recommendation for an English dish named "toad in a hole." It ended up tasting like its name.

Another time, when I tried to duplicate my mother's Italian fried meatballs, which are shaped like tiny footballs, I confused my sports. Mine were shaped like hockey pucks. Fortunately, there were few sports enthusiasts at the table.

The booby prize, though, was when we prepared turkey in a plastic baking bag. A boiled bird does not tempt the palate.

Costly ingredients don't ensure that the meal will be perfect. Once we made a seafood chowder that cost a small fortune, but the flavor shortchanged all the diners.

On the other hand, simple preparation doesn't always bring good memories. We wanted to impress my mother with an appetizer of crusty Italian bread that is dunked in seasoned olive oil.

"This is Depression food," she said. "I had to eat this stuff every day when I was a child."

Often, I volunteer to bring a dessert to a party. I recommend this only for expert bakers. The first time we pulled a puffy pumpkin souffle out of the oven, we gasped in delight. We took it to our cousin's house, an hour away. Imagine our disappointment when she pulled that pancake out of its box.

When our friend Mildred visited, we did serve the perfect dessert, a creamy chocolate mousse. Who could miss the rhythm of her spoon clinking around the bottom of the stemmed bowl? "Got any more of this stuff?" she asked. That's when all the stress of entertaining melts like butter in a hot pan.

CAROL FLEISCHMAN lives in Niagara Falls.