Family Cookbook: Preserving Memories Through Recipes

Passing family knowledge down seems to mean very little to most of us until we have children. Suddenly, with the promise of a future, the things that is special to your family – your parents and grandparents – holds an entire new depth of meaning.

One of the most common and overlooked heirlooms in our families are old family recipes. Special dishes tell an entire story about our origins, what regions our families have lived in, and the religions our families celebrate.

Here, we’re going to take a look at how to gather your family’s recipes, organize them in a book, and get copies of the cookbook to share with everyone who contributed. This is a great project to share with kids – while you’re sitting with great-grandma copying down a recipe she’s cooked for years, ask her how she came to learn that recipe. Why is it special to her that she’s cherished it so long? The memories you make while creating the book are beyond price.

Preparing Materials

This can be a big project if you make it one. Try to keep your work down to make the experience more enjoyable. Here are the materials you’ll want to gather and the steps to take before you get going:

1.Gather Materials – Get some film in your camera so that you can take pictures of the family members who created a recipe, and photographs of family members cooking and sharing meals. This makes a beautiful touch to your final cookbook. Then, purchase or print recipe cards. There are dozens of places online that offer printable recipe cards that make things easy – and a lot less expensive. Some good places to look for printable recipe cards online are:

Optionally, you could take all the recipes you gather down in a regular notebook and use a recipe card generator like the one below at Alenka’s Printables. This way, you don’t have to even worry about your handwriting – everything is typed out and printed onto one card.

2.Create a list of family members you would like to ask for recipes from. You’ll find that most of these family members live nearby, and it really is a special touch to come in person to sit down and learn the recipes from them. This way, you can also put your camera into use and add nice photographs to your cookbook once you compile it. If there are family members who live far away, though, don’t think you shouldn’t ask them. Go ahead and mail a nice letter, requesting a recipe or two. Ask them to include information like the name of the recipe, the name of the contributor, the history of the recipe, the ingredients needed, cooking directions, amount of prep time and cooking time. If they have photographs they are willing to share, promise to make copies and send the originals back.

Make sure that you explain what you plan to do – create an heirloom cookbook – and that every participant will receive a copy. Definitely give deadlines. Usually a month is about right, and if you need to go ahead and send a short postcard to remind them as the deadline draws near.

Lay the Cookbook Out

Once all of your recipes are in and you have printed them out if you’ve decided to type them out in an online generator, it’s time to get moving. Laying the cookbook out into a nice design can be a lot of fun – I usually have more fun with this step than any other part of making heirloom cookbooks.

Using something like Microsoft Word or by hand in the same way you would make a scrapbook, design a cover for your cookbook. Place photographs of your family on the cover, or pictures of some of the foods that are inside. Definitely place your family name on the cover in a nice fancy text.

Then, you’ll want to start arranging your recipes and photographs. If you’re doing this on your computer, you can just copy-paste things into place. You can also do this step by hand, though, just using rubber cement or a thin layer of stick glue. Arrange the recipes and photographs on a regular piece of printer/copier paper.

Take some time to make sure that everything goes in an order that makes sense to you (from soups to dessert, or sectioned by contributor, for example).

Leave all of the pages loose – don’t staple them or place them in a 3-hole punch binder.

Once you have everything arranged the way that you like, you have a couple of options. If you have created the cookbook on your computer and have a color printer, you can just print out enough copies to make the number of books you want. This can cost a lot in ink, though. What I recommend, regardless of whether you created the cookbook on your computer or by hand, is to take the loose sheets of your book to your local copy shop. Make color copies – photographs will copy well too – of all your pages.

Ask the copy shop about binding options. Some types of binding don’t cost much at all – things like spiral binding, for example, and glued bindings won’t hurt your pocketbook. If you are only making a few cookbooks, you might be able to spring for more professional bindings. Another cost-cutting option is to reduce the size of your pages when you make the color copies, so that you end up with a smaller format cookbook.

Get cost estimates and then order as many cookbook copies as you need. Nice!

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