In this day and age, it’s not unusual to wake up to huevos rancheros for breakfast, pick up a Hawaiian poké bowl for lunch and come home to a steaming bowl of Vietnamese pho for dinner. As the world becomes ever more connected, the culinary journey we’re able to embark on grows each and every year.
Even though we love expanding our palates by trying new exotic dishes, there’s something about chowing down on Dad’s potato skins or remaking Grandma’s chocolate fudge brownies that’s just so special. It ignites childhood nostalgia, turning an ordinary meal into a sentimental moment. Just the aromas escaping the kitchen can transport us back to a time and place from years gone by.
The thing about food is that it passes from one generation to the next, acting as a family tree of sorts; a line that can be traced for decades, helping us gain an understanding of who our family is and where we came from. Cooking traditional family recipes – or experimenting, adding a flair of your own – brings a sense of togetherness between generations both living and dead. As we chop, dice, peel, stir and bake, we keep our loved ones alive while giving younger generations a window to peek into how their parents grew up.
Food is a universal need, which is why family meals have become symbolic for sharing, nurturing, and loving one another. When we sit down to eat with our loved ones, we feed our souls as well as our physical beings, and keeping family recipes alive gives us immediate access to sweet emotions and memories any time we feel like we need a little extra love around us.
So while food and family are intimately connected, modern families are always rushing around trying to keep up with the pace of latter-day life, meaning it can be a battle keeping those ties as strong as they once were. But even if we struggle to find the time to do it like Grandma used to, (cooking multiple dishes with her loving hands to make sure everyone got a bite of their favorite) there are plenty of new and innovative ways to honor family traditions, preserve the culinary knowledge that’s been passed down for generations, and keep the family recipes known while you continue making memories in the kitchen.
A great way to honor and immortalize family recipes is to build a family cookbook. A place to record all the thoughts, ideas, and processes you’ve inherited or developed and to put down on paper the wisdom and advice from generations past – the type of things you’d never find in a store-bought cookbook. As time goes by, continue to collect recipes. It's a way to record parts of your life with reflection of what is happening in the world around us at that time. And when you are creating new recipes of your own, gain inspiration from your ancestors, taking what your family has given you, and inject your own meaning. Maybe one day your children, grandchildren, or even great-grandchildren will add to it themselves, honoring your heritage while putting their own stamp on things. It’s a beautiful way to bridge the gap between generations, learning about who we are even after we’ve passed.
I imagine you’re wondering where to even begin?! Well, it’s as easy as pie! And with modern-day technology, it's never been simpler to do than right now. Follow these steps to get started…
The first step is to gather your most memorable recipes – ones for cozy days, ones for hot summer nights, ones for big Sunday lunches, ones for when you're not feeling your best, ones you know will go down a treat at a BBQ…
Start by going through your family's favorite recipes that you make regularly and think about those that will make a good addition to your family story – the kinds of meals you just know you’ve perfected, maybe one you tried on holiday that’s become a staple at home too or ones your kids will be asking after for years to come!
Then get in touch with your loved ones. Ask them to send over their family favorites. You may want to limit these to one side of the family, or you might want to extend the invitation and get every relative involved – this is your family cookbook, so you make the rules! And remember, your family legacy is always evolving, so these recipes don’t have to be final!
Once you’ve got a healthy stack of recipes, it's time to begin your recipe book. Start by creating lists for ingredients, adding any optional extras, and of course, any special tips and tricks that make it all the more yummy.
Under each individual dish cite the source of the recipe (i.e. Grandad John or Auntie Helen). This book is all about leaving a legacy so make sure each family member gets the recognition they deserve.
Then, organize your recipes into how you’ll want them to appear in the family cookbook. The most common way to do this is to divide them up into appetizers, soups and salads, entrees, condiments and sides, and desserts. Or you can simply follow whichever order makes the most sense to you, whether that’s chronological, by holiday/season, or the recipe source.
Now it’s time to get crafty and create your family recipe book. There are a number of ways you can build your cookbook, so think about what kind of book will work best for you and reflect the charm of your family.
A few options are:
If you want it to be as authentic as possible, piece together recipe cards and handwritten instructions. You can add relevant family photos, notes, and any other decorative bits and bobs to make it extra special.
If you have the original, handwritten recipe cards, memorialize these by keeping a photo album dedicated to the culinary hands.
If you want it to look like a published cookbook, there are plenty of templates or drag-and-drop features you can find online. They’ll professionally print it and it will look like you’ve just picked it up in-store – talk about impressing your dinner guests!
If you want to keep your family cookbook as collaborative as possible, create your own blog or website. It may sound technical, but it could be as simple as listing all your family’s recipes in a digital space. You can even make it accessible to the whole family so they can add to it whenever a new favorite pops up in their home. Who knows who’ll stumble across it?
You may have an even better idea for your family recipe book, and of course, you can make it as simple or as complex as you like. You can add photos of the cooks, step-by-step visuals, tributes to the creators of the dish, or a heart-warming family photo around the dinner table of everyone tucking in.
This is your family’s cookbook so the more personal it is the better. Think about adding quotes, sayings, stories, jokes, or even the failed attempts at a family classic! Think of how great this will be to look back on in years to come, or for younger generations to inherit and learn about their older family members.
Look at you, you’ve created a cookbook! They say don’t judge a book by its cover but you’ve got full creative control of how you want it to look – fun! You might want to add a family photo, crest, or collage to the front so each time you look at it, you’re reminded of the love that’s enveloped inside those pages.
It’s also time to pick your title. Many say finding the title is the hardest part, so remember this will most likely only be shared between family members so don’t put too much pressure on yourself! You might want to keep it simple with ‘Smith Family Recipes’ or you might want to get creative like ‘Sit Down With The Smiths’. There are no rules here, just whatever suits your family best.
Last but certainly not least, share your completed book with your loved ones. You can save it and gift it to your loved ones at a special time, or share it straight away so they can be just as proud as you of what you’ve created. Regardless of how and who you share it with, it’s built with love so it’s bound to be cherished for years to come!
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