Every so often, my friend Katie calls me from Montana to say, “I made your pumpkin muffins and they got me thinking of you.”

The pumpkin muffins aren’t really my muffins. But I found the recipe in an old magazine, whipped up a batch and Katie was the first ever to sample them. In her mind, they will forever be linked to memories of us drinking tea in the L-shaped kitchen of my old Morgantown, W.Va., apartment. Call it muffin as madeleine.

I have my own such memories, of course. When I make my friend Odile’s chicken in wine sauce or lemony pound cake, I picture evenings spent around her table and hear her urging me in her French accent, “Please Marie, have a little more.” Ray’s lasagna recalls more than 15 years of friendship and parties, and my sister’s coconut cookies taste of her good humor.

One of my most cherished recipes, though, comes from my friend Joachim, a German astrophysicist who lived in Baltimore for several years. Aside from being a jazz pianist and a nifty zydeco dancer, Joachim is a fabulous cook, and during the few years he was in town, we shared many dinners at his apartment or my house.

The menus varied. One night he’d make pork loin with spaetzle; another night he’d roast a staggeringly huge leg of lamb crusted with rosemary. But he nearly always made pfitzauf, a dessert from his native Swabia. Pfitzauf are a lot like popovers, sturdy, yet airy puffs of dough made with lots of eggs and a little flour, milk and shortening, and baked in a ceramic mold similar to a muffin pan. I’ve always loved popovers, but I’d never had them for dessert. I clearly remember that Joachim showed us how to split them open and fill them with the whipped cream and stewed cherries he had simmered on top of the stove. I fell in love with the dessert right then, and on subsequent visits Joachim would always make them for me, sometimes stewing apricots instead of cherries, or cooking down fresh pears to make a pear sauce.

When Joachim left to take a teaching position in Cologne, I decided to make him a personalized cookbook. I ransacked my brain and my trove of recipes and painstakingly copied into a notebook my tarte tatin, Odile’s chicken in wine sauce and the recipe for jelly doughnuts he said tasted like German berliners.

When Joachim and Tricia came for their goodbye drink, I gave him the cookbook. His eyes widened as he exclaimed, “You did this for me?” I nodded yes.

Then he reached for the bag with my present. Curled like a scroll on top of the wrapped present was the recipe for pfitzauf, and underneath the blue wrapping paper was an orange ceramic pfitzauf pan.

“You had your mother send a pan all the way from Germany?” I asked in amazement.

“No,” Joachim said. “It’s mine. I want you to have it.” And to my utter embarrassment, I burst into tears as only a good recipe and a good friend can make you do.

In the two years since Joachim left, I haven’t made the dessert. It’s not that the recipe is difficult or time-consuming. It’s that somewhere inside I know I don’t really want to make pfitzauf without Joachim. And that makes me think that some recipes are meant to be made, and others are meant only to savor.

Pumpkin Muffins

Odile’s Wine-Baked Chicken Breasts

7-Up Cake

Ray’s Lasagna

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