Whether it’s a special holiday meal, or a casual summer picnic, food brings family members together. These gatherings also lead to family stories. “Do you remember when Aunt Ethel dropped the casserole?” “Those were the best steaks we’ve ever had!” “I love this. Would you give me the recipe?”
You may have shared recipes with family members, who prepare them as written, or “tweak” them a bit. Future generations can enjoy these recipes only if they are saved. Compiling a family cookbook gives you the chance to preserve recipes, document family lore, and share photos all at the same time. A family cookbook is an historical document.
When it comes to creating a cookbook you have three options. One, contact a cookbook company and have it do the work for you. While these companies produce professional-looking books, they tend to look the same. Another option is to self-publish via one of the many companies that do this. For more information look on the Internet using the words “self-publish.”
Or you may take the easy route, which I did, and put the recipes in a three-ring binder. Personally, I think this is the easiest route, one that allows you to add more recipes easily. To shield the recipes from drips, I put each page in a plastic protector. So how to you get started on a project like this?
Find the recipes. My sister-in-law and I sorted through our mother-in-law’s recipe boxes and chose the recipes that family members liked most. Gathering recipes can turn into a treasure hunt. You may find recipes tucked inside cookbooks, for example, or hand-written notes beside recipes. I wrote a one-page introduction to the cookbook.
Be accurate. The fun of a family cookbook is reading about family members. My mother-in-laws handwritten recipes contained notes such as, “Recipe from Tuttie.” Include any instructions that you may find. At the end of a fudge recipe my mother-in-law wrote, “Cut, enjoy. Save some for mother and dad. Be a good scout and clean up the kitchen afterwards.”
Be as consistent as possible. It’s best to list the ingredients in the order they are used. This helps the person gather ingredients and get an idea of the steps involved. These days many cookbooks number the recipe steps and I recommend this.
Include extra facts. Historical notes will add to the personal value of the cookbook and make it an enjoyable read. For example, you may add, “This recipe was served at the 10th family reunion at the farm.” You may also add notes about who is related to whom, such as “Louise is Aunt Ethel’s daughter.”
Add family photos. Photos are excellent documentation of heritage. Be sure to add names and dates if you have them. Other family members may be willing to contribute photos to the cookbook. Offer to reproduce photos for family members.
Think about your family tree. By all means, include your family tree if you have one. Before you do this, make sure names and relationships are accurate. Include a contact email or phone number for the family tree.
Although creating a family cookbook involves lots of detail work, family members will appreciate your efforts. Events—and recipes—bind family members together.