Where are your family’s treasured recipes?
Where Do I Begin to Create a Family Recipe Book?
Begin by planning to research your family’s recipes and the favorite meals that have been handed down from generation to generation. Start with the recipes that you have in your possession. You are probably already cooking the meals that were your favorites when you were growing up. These recipes may not be written down, but instead, have been handed down from the previous generation simply by telling or showing how it was done. Preserving these tried and true, old family favorites by writing them down is an absolute must if you don’t want to lose them for the next generation to enjoy. Remember, someone may not preserve an old family favorite, so it is best to get it on paper. How well I remember trying to find “Aunt Babe’s” sour cream cake recipe. It was lost because it had not been written down and preserved. Along the way, someone had forgotten the ingredients.
You will be surprised to find some very unique recipes when you actually begin to write them down in a notebook. What you have watched at a mealtime setting for years will take on a whole new perspective. Some cooks have said, “I never use a recipe.” This may be true that you never look at a recipe, but even so, it is still a recipe that should be put on paper.
Locate all the recipes that you have in your possession and add these to the recipes that you are writing down from memory. You may find that you have enough for an entire book! Include any interesting facts you can remember about the recipe; who made it, where it came from and when it was served. Your own family will be very interested to hear about the details of a favorite family recipes. It is like a treasured heirloom! Along the way, you will learn some very interesting things about the family you came from! So…. what are you waiting for? Get your pen and paper and get started! Take your finds to your next family reunion.
Invest in several notebooks that you can divide into different categories or food groups. For instance, our family did not use appetizers, so we chose not to include this contemporary category in our family’s cookbook. Your own collection of recipes should reflect your family’s own unique use of recipes. There are no hard and fast rules when planning what to include in your collection. Make this project a reflection of your own family’s unique character. Make it personal and don’t forget to add the humor. You might want to toss in a few skeletons from, “your own closet.”
Once you begin this nostalgic journey, you will find that you have opened a door to a world that you may have forgotten. In my journey through the recipe files, I have shed some tears as I held my grandmothers stained and yellowed recipe, still bearing the mark of butter and smelling of cinnamon. I have also had a few laughs and been surprised by the reality of what must have been “hard times,” when a very few ingredients went into making “sugar cream pie.”
The preparation of food was well marked by the prosperity or the poverty of the day in which it was prepared. From those yellowed and stained papers, we not only find a recipe, but we find a family history, an ingenuity and “make do” mind-set of a by gone day. This journey will leave you reflecting on your priorities and cherishing the love of, home, family, and heirloom recipes.
Ruth Carmichael Ellinger