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DEDICATED COOKS PROTECT THEIR RECIPES ZEALOUSLY

They use three-ring binders and copy machines.

They use computer systems.

They clip, classify and file -- all the time, it seems.

Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night will keep a cook from collecting recipes.

When I used this space last week to bemoan the difficulties in keeping such a collection in any sort of retrievable order, I got all manner of helpful hints. Ladies and gentlemen, I salute you!

Three-ring binders are an especially big deal it turns out. All the more when the binders are accompanied by clear plastic sheet protectors. The idea is to insert the recipes into the plastic sleeves which are organized under alphabetical headings.

It's a system that seems to work well if the collector is disciplined. Sharon Plaut of Amherst, for instance, is so organized it took my breath away. The system involves, in her words, "serious commitment to invest time, money and effort upfront."

It sure does. Plaut included a shopping list: buy binders and plastic sheets plus tabs. She uses a copy machine to avoid typing the recipes. Eventually, recipes are filed under various headings like "children's favorites" or "slow cooker" or even "holiday menus." But here's the kicker: in the Plaut system, to-be-copied recipes in various forms are thrown into a special box for that use. She copies once a week.

The copies go into another box for filing and the tattered originals are discarded.

Other cooks or would-be cooks make use of sophisticated computer systems that file under specific ingredients and Kathleen Sarvas of Hamburg inserts cooking notes too.

"I plan to incorporate who I served what to, whether they liked it, what they did or didn't eat and use that information to to be certain I don't serve the same food to them next time," she wrote.

And that I consider impressive.

Tony Ventura uses a laptop for his recipes so he can take it right into the kitchen. "No more coffee or peanut butter stains on the old recipes," he writes. "However, I have to make an effort to keep the flour out of the keys!!"

There are so many other variations. Susan Lichtblau of Tonawanda uses spiral bound notebooks (at least three). Each handwritten recipe therein is numbered. And, in the back is an index of recipe titles with the numbers next to them. (Luckily she has excellent handwriting.)

So many systems; so many clever little quirks. But here's an idea that that would seem to apply to all of us:

It comes from Francie Potter and it's seasonal. "A few years ago, I typed up my favorite recipes along with the ones the kids had requested when they left home and had them printed up as Christmas presents for them," she wrote. How about that?

Thank you for all your responses. And have a wonderful holiday.

e-mail: jokun@buffnews.com