Create Your Own Cookbook

Write a Family Cookbook

Two of my most prized possessions are my mother's old cookbook and my grandmother's recipe box. I love thumbing through the tattered cards and reminiscing. I learned to cook, side by side, with my grandmother. Having the recipes in her handwriting makes them even more special. Since my girls began to cook, we have filled the margins of our cookbooks with handwritten notes about the occasion for which the recipe was prepared. Each is dated to commemorate the event.

Recipes often conjure up memories of holiday preparations or time spent with a special family member. Cooking provides a quiet time to pass on the wisdom of family lore.

By talking to family members about some of their favorite dishes and recollections, you can gather your family's treasured recipes into an heirloom cookbook.

There are a few key elements that make the process of creating a family cookbook easier.

  • It is probably a good idea to choose one family member to be the overall editor; however, it is less stressful if a couple of other people will also review the recipes and share in the decision making.
  • Decide whether the cookbook will be printed in hard copy or available only as an e-book. My preference is for a bound and printed book because there is more scope for photos and format variations; and because it has more permanence.
  • Choose an organizational structure for your cookbook. You could organize by category/course: Appetizers, Soup, Salad, Entrees, Desserts. Or, by food groups such as: Meat, Poultry, Seafood, Vegetables, Eggs and Cheese, Breads, etc. Other options include: by family or individual; or by celebration (Easter, Thanksgiving, etc.).
  • Have a template for people to use when submitting their recipes by email; this will make it easier for them and for the organizing and formatting process. Make sure you ask for relevant stories and photos as well.
  • There are some very useful resources on the internet to help you produce your family cookbook. A complete package includes different design templates to choose from; and printing options for as few as 25 copies. Visit the website for more information.

My daughters, when they were six and eight, wrote letters to all of their relatives asking them for their favorite recipe.

Along with the recipes were many handwritten notes. Their grandfather described the scarcity of flour and sugar during WWII rationing. Grandmothers, on both sides of the family, sent recipes for chicken soup. Coming from vastly different cultures, it was interesting to see the differences. Even their 4 year-old cousin sent in his favorite drink recipe.

I helped the girls compile and copy the recipes. We included all of the stories. The cookbook was bound together with a satin ribbon and presented as gifts to each family member-truly a gift of love. Ten years later, relatives still send in their favorite recipes to be added to the collection.

My daughter is now twenty and living in her first apartment. She loves to cook. I know she will always have a small piece of her family heritage with her in our cookbook. I still get 911 calls with questions about certain cooking techniques or a request to send her my Strawberry Shortcake recipe. It's a fun way for us to stay connected.

Your cookbook will become an heirloom for generations to come. Take time to enjoy the richness of your family's traditions.