Friday, February 09, 2007

Some Day...

Here is something I'd like to do (in that perfect world where I actually complete projects): create a family cookbook of special recipes. The birthday cake recipe that Mother made and the date roll she used to make each Christmas. My grandmother's pound cake recipe and her marvelous tea cakes -- neither of which were ever written down, and so, lost many years ago. Lists of those dishes or meals that were loved by various members of the family, and the ones they hated.

I'm not much of a cook (not like Rian, who is always making mouth-watering stuff), but there are recipes that were standard when our girls were small that I'd like to include because of the memories associated with them.

My mother-in-law was a wonderful cook and cooked for an army every time. One of the recipes she made that I loved was a white fruitcake that differed from that "other" fruitcake in every way. That cake was always a Christmas event for me, although she never made anything that wasn't delicious. Her cooking was country cooking, not gourmet, and had me staggering from the table after every meal with her.

My husband is a great cook, but his recipes aren't written down either. Still, I might could persuade him to try to record some of them.

The idea of a cookbook like this is to include not just the recipes, but the personal details. I've seen examples that I've fallen in love with over the years, cookbooks that are completely individual to the family itself. This link gives some ideas on the subject, not that I will ever devote the time and energy to create one.

Have any of you done this?


  1. I haven't done it yet...but I have been thinking about it! My kids are both out of the house and they have asked for some of the recipes that they loved growing up...So, one of these days, I shall type up all the recipes...if I started now, I might have it done for Christmas!
    I am a 'random' cook getting the right amounts may be tricky!

  2. Jen, this strikes a cord. I feel terribly guilty I haven't done this yet or at least organized the 3 x 5 cards I inherited from my mother, in which she did make some rudimentary attempt to organize the family "receipts". I just put them aside in an ugly plastic file box that came partially filed with recipes as a come-on trial offer through the mail.

    My son begged me to keep the packet and the big ugly box (he was four or five at the time) I don't cook with recipes unless I'm baking. So far, that's been my basic excuse not to organize the cache from my mom. I have one oatmeal cookie recipe from my French Canadian godmother that I love and have managed to lose. I also have a shoo fly pie recipe from my great grandmother that was ripped in half along a care-worn crease and I have misplaced one of two halves! These two things paralyze me with me guilt whenever I let myself think about it too long.

    I think it would be fun to put together a book of kitchen/basic cooking tips & observations for my son's behalf. His Dad doesn't cook with recipes, either, so I could organize some basic instructions for making some of his favorite dishes. I tell myself I could just create a page or two at a time - at my leisure "whenever" but so far it hasn't gotten off the uber list. Maybe your post will tweak me past the inertia.

  3. What a wonderful idea. You're already doing a memory journal--can you make it an extension of that? The recipes I treasure the most are the ones that are handwritten. How many times do we have a scrap of our loved ones' handwriting after they're gone? I do make notes on my cards like, "Lee Ann's favorite" or whatever applies. A personal cookbook--something more to think about ... except that my girls won't cook. Maybe a grandchild someday?

  4. I haven't done it either. But I have my grandma's recipes in a big ugly box, so I could.

    I have a precious cookbook made by my friend Margaret in Alaska that contains recipes from her mother, friends, etc. that she has collected over the years, and what I love the most about the little word-processed and Xeroxed booklet are the comments she makes and the stories behind the recipes. She is a fantastic hostess and gives it as a gift to everyone who visits her house.

    I definitely think this would be a very cool endeavor, and if you do, be sure to write some anecdotes to make each recipe personal. And you could put some pictures of quilts (and your lovely nature photos) in there, too.

    Jen, it's a great idea--GO FOR IT!

  5. Suze- Maybe that would work--setting a date as a goal. It would make a great Christmas gift!

    ACey-- I had a bad habit of sticking recipes in pages of cookbooks, not realizing how important they would be later. I know of at least one that has disappeared so I understand your guilt. Yes, those tips (that most cookbooks seem to assume everyone knows) would be great to include!

    Jane Ann-- The memory journal has stalled, but I plan to get back to it soon. And the idea of having a copy of the loved one's handwriting makes it even more valuable! In some ways, it is less a matter of the recipes than of the associations.

    Rian-- You could do one just on menues and pictures from your parties! I think your friend's idea of giving a Xeroxed booklet is terrific.

  6. Our family put one together titled, "Kissin Don't Last, Cookin Do".

    Every member was solicited for a favorite recipe(s) and encouraged to add a personal note. This was done after our matriarch was no longer with us, but many of her recipes ended up in this wonderful family collection of "comfort food".

  7. What a great idea. My first recipe would be my grandmother's bread pudding. She had no recipe and made it directly in her blender, with ingredients going into it in a specific order because that's how you knew how much to add. When she died, ALL the girls in the family wanted the blender so they could make the bread pudding. I'm the one who wound up with it and one of my sisters and I tried to get correct measurements one day, but we never did get it right without just dumping stuff in "up to that line" on the blender.

  8. no, not yet, but i am planning a recipe quilt for my son and i will be putting some recipes for soup on the front of the quilt that is in process. recipes are great family heirlooms!

  9. Nellie - Love the title! Getting favorite recipes from all family members makes it even better...especially with the personal notes.

    Delta - :) How funny! The blender becomes a magic touchstone for bread pudding. A photo of the blender would have to be included!

    Jude - Oh, I can't wait for that one! A recipe quilt for your son should be quite a fun process. I'll be watching the Walter's quilt,and not just because I love soups! Yes, family recipes are heirlooms to be treasured.

  10. Jenclair, you have been tagged. See my blog for details.

  11. This is a really good link Jen. I have all of my mom's recipes and her old recipe book. Shutterfly has a great bookmaking system that I'm thinking of using to make gift books for my brother, sister, son and daughter. These were recipes my mom used all the time and I think they would really treasure having them.

  12. Our family got together about 15 years ago, & we all typed out our favorite recipies, & sent them to my sister Em, who put them on a computer disc, & has printed new copies each time another grandchild gets married.

    We were talking just recently about setting up a family blog to do the same thing on line, & update the book.

  13. I guess the short answer is "Yes" - I keep our recipes on Master Cook 6. My daughters (21 & 18) have demanded their favorite recipes - especially my husband's Sunday morning pancakes or Challah French toast!

  14. Rian - Ooops.

    Annie - Thanks for the Shutterfly suggestion. I'm sure your family would appreciate having a book with your mom's recipes!

    Deb H. - Oh, good idea about putting them on disk and being able to add to well as being able to print them out as needed.

    Kim - Does your husband make the pancakes? I love any kind of French toast!

  15. I've been trying - whenever I meet with my Mom, I ask her for the recipe for whatever it is that she has cooked. And I write it down. take it home, and type it up on a word processing software. If I have a camera with me, I can photograph the dish. I've also asked my siblings for their recipes, but they haven't gotten around to giving me any yet. It is a very slow process.

    Eventually, I will print it up fancy, and get copies for everybody, but for now, at least I am documenting the ones I have so far.

    I also tried to create a blog about family memories - in which I was planning on including recipes, but so far, haven't had any support from other members.

  16. My large family made one of these in conjunction with a reunion several years ago. It's an interesting collection of modern recipes, old recipes, family folklore, etc. My children have often laughed at it and questioned ingredients like "oleo." I didn't realize that that name for (oleo)margarine had completely disappeared. Another one that produced hilarity was a recipe for "joints", meaning pork joints (related to cured ham, I think); you can easily imagine how that was interpreted.

  17. Shelina - I like the idea of photographing the dish! But not just the dish, pics of family at the table enjoying the meal would be good, too.

    I understand about the lack of support; often these are the very ones who offer "maybe you should have" advice later. :)

    Kay - The "family folklore" is exactly what I'm talking about! And it isn't it funny how quickly the language can change?


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