My Great Idea: The Family Cookbook

A week before Thanksgiving a few years ago, I found myself scrambling around making a dozen phone calls, trying to track down the family recipes I used every year. I realized this had become a pattern, yet as the busyness of the holiday would pass, I would lose track of the recipes once again, only to perpetuate the vicious cycle the following year. Even in between holidays, I found myself searching for recipes like Grandma Lee's homemade raspberry jam and Grandpa Skidmore's bread. Finally I decided enough was enough; I needed to develop a better system for holding onto the treasured recipes.

Over time, my family's accumulation of recipes grew large enough that we decided to organize them into a family cookbook. Our first family cookbook was fairly simple. We typed the recipes on our computer, printed them out, placed them in sheet protectors, and loaded them into three-ring binders. Almost immediately they became a priceless addition to our family history, along with our blogs, journals, and other genealogy work. We even began giving them to extended family as gifts.

Ours were simple binders, but many self-publishing sites exist online where, usually for a fee, you can upload recipes, add pictures, and create professional-looking paperback or hard-cover copies of your family cookbook.

We gave recipes personalized titles, such as "Grandma's Sunday Orange Rolls." We further customized our cookbook by including a header beneath each recipe's title explaining where the recipe originated and why it was important to us. For example, "Sunday dinner was always a special treat at Grandma Hatch's with her warm and delicious orange rolls."

For our cookbook, we took pictures of our young children following the recipes while wearing aprons and chef hats and also included some of their hand-drawn pictures of specific recipes, all of which have become priceless to us. We have decided that for our next edition we will use pictures of family gatherings where the item was served or pictures of the person we associate with the recipe.

When creating your own family cookbook, involve as many family members as you can. Include recipes that have been passed down for generations, as well as new family favorites.

A family cookbook can be so much more than just recipes; if you have stories that go along with certain dishes, include them on the same page! What if someone brought a dish to a reunion that was a total flop and has become a running joke in the family? Include it, of course!

For us, our family cookbook was a fun project that brought our family together and has certainly become something we use often and will treasure for years to come.

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