By: Amanda Formaro
What would Thanksgiving be without your aunt’s famous pumpkin pie? If Grandpa doesn't bring his special chocolate swirled fudge to holiday get-togethers, chances are a family riot might break out! (Well, not really, but you get the idea.)
Recipes are quite often handed down from generation to generation, handwritten on food-stained index cards or scrawled onto lined paper tattered over time.
Now imagine collecting some of those favorite family recipes and compiling them into a cherished cookbook everyone can enjoy. You'll need a little time for this project and we all have busy lives, but, with a little perseverance and a lot of love, you can put together a wonderful family heirloom that will be cherished for years to come.
Making a list
First, make a list of all the recipes you would like to include in your book. Try to keep it manageable and don't shoot for too big of a book to start with. Try maybe 15 or 20 recipes as a springboard and work from there. If you aren’t sure which to include, start contacting family members for their favorite recipes and ask them to contribute. Be sure to list the names of the family members you'll need to contact for each recipe.
Collecting the recipes is the hardest part
Remember, everyone is busy. It's quite possible that one of the recipes is only used once a year. Asking a cousin to find that recipe between her son's soccer practices, her daughter's dance class, work and making dinner might not seem like a big deal to you, but it's probably not on the top of her priority list. Try to make it easy for people to submit by creating a written recipe template they can fill out, offer to let them email it to you or let them dictate it to you over the phone.
Decide on the contents
If you’re feeling especially ambitious, photographs and quotes from the recipe’s creators can make nice additions to your cookbook. If you are pressed for time, however, you may want to consider keeping the book design simple, or just using a few clip art images instead. Remember: Collecting the recipes will take time — as will collecting photographs and gathering quotes. Keep all of this in mind when planning what will go in to your book.
If your deadline isn't looming, here are a few ideas for personalizing your family cookbook:
- Family interviews - Try asking questions about the recipes to be included. How many generations has the recipe been handed down? Who started the tradition? What special memories are associated with this particular recipe?
- Photos and other art - Include family photographs of holiday gatherings, vintage photos of descendants or even hand-drawn artwork from the young members of the family.
- Handwritten recipes - Make use of original hand written recipes — even those on aging recipe cards. Scan the recipe and use it as a photo in the book. This adds nostalgia and authenticity to your collection.
- Collection of memories - Ask family members for their favorite memories about certain recipes and the relative that usually prepares it.
- Quotes – Did your grandma always say 'A pinch of pepper goes a long way,' or do you remember her uncanny ability to never waste a thing? Quips and quotes add personal touches to the pages.
- Food photos - If you're feeling ambitious and you have extra time, make a few of the submitted recipes and take pictures! They will make a wonderful addition to your cookbook.
Choosing a publication method
In its simplest form your cookbook could be created in a word processing document then printed out and bound together by hand. If you prefer something a little sturdier, however, several companies offer private publication.
Prices for these services vary depending on the size of your book as well as the number of pages needed. There are also options for soft and hardcovers, and even hardcover with 'lay flat' pages. Research the different options each company offers to find the best option for you.
Whether you decide to print the pages yourself, take them to an office printer or use online software, your results will be heartfelt and appreciated. Family cookbooks preserve wonderful memories and will be cherished by all that receive them.
Amanda is a mother of four, craft designer and recipe developer who also runs several sites including Crafts by Amanda, Cooking with Amanda and the Secret Recipe Club. Her work has appeared on SheKnows.com and Family.com as well as in Parents, Redbook and Mixing Bowl magazines among others.