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.
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.
About the Authors: Rondi Hillstrom Davis and Janell Sewall Oakes are the co-authors of the award-winning book Together: Creating Family Traditions. To check out their website that's jam packed with family ideas, visit TogetherParenting.com