Start A Family Cookbook

Tire of using the same old cookbook? Organize your relatives' recipes for some great new ideas and to preserve family traditions.

If Aunt Sarah is getting tired of your calling every year for her famous Lemon Pound cake recipe, it's time to write it down and add it to a collection of family favorites. While this task will take a little bit of work initially, your effort will be rewarded when you complete a cookbook of family recipes that can be handed down to generation after generation for posterity.

Start by rummaging through your kitchen drawers, cupboards, cookbooks, and other areas to find stray recipes hurriedly written while on the phone or in transit. Collect them in one place for organization. Then start soliciting others from family members near and far. You can either set aside a few days during a lull in your schedule or make a note on your calendar to email or telephone everyone in the clan and have them send their favorite concoctions. Expect to spend a few months or even more than a year just getting recipes together.

Ask for dishes that the relatives have created or their variations on standard fare. For example, butter beans are an old staple, but Grandma Emma's version with bacon and brown sugar can't be beat. Uncle Joe's famous fruit punch at New Year's is a recipe that needs to be handed down to later generations. If the folks can't decide which recipe to send have them forward more than one. Then you can decide which will be more widely appreciated or perhaps decide to include two or three. Try to get a balanced assortment of appetizers, entrees, side dishes, desserts, beverages, and holiday dishes.

To gather enough material for a simple stapled booklet, you may want to create categories for additional information with sections like these:

Favorite ingredients

Preferred seasonings or spices

Hardest food to cook

Best meal memory

Details like these can fill up the backside of each person's page, which is especially helpful if you use several recipes for each relative and end up with some blank space.

Each page can be headed with the name of the recipe associated with a relative's name:

Crazy Carol's Lobster Bisque

Old Jim's Gumbo

Uncle Harry's Favorite Pumpkin Pie

Look through family photographs for images of relatives who are cooking or eating their specialties. Even generic dining photos will help to set the mood if included in your family cookbook.

Check prices with a local printer to see how much it would cost for spiral binding; sometimes you can get it for a couple of dollars per copy. Each family member may want to pay for his or her own copy, or you can buy a batch to give as holiday gifts. You might be able to sell a few copies through local novelty shops or bookstores, if the book is edited well, nicely formatted, and printed attractively. Ask the manager if he or she is willing to stock a few copies on speculation. The local library may be interested in a copy or two as a sample of local folk history or family craft ideas.

A family cookbook preserves those wonderful anecdotes and recipe traditions that all too often get lost over the years. Start collecting and protecting yours now so your children can enjoy them tomorrow.

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