Digging Into The Past

By Diane Haddad Premium

Collecting family recipes from your relatives and assembling them in a scrapbook can be a time-consuming task — but it’s an important one, says Kathy Steligo, author of Meals and Memories: How to Create Keepsake Cookbooks (Carlo Press). We asked Steligo why we should collect family recipes and how to make the job easier:

Q. What is it about food that’s so nostalgic?

A. It’s the profound sense memories evoked by particular foods. Culinary traditions are some of the most powerful sense memories we have. It often takes just a whiff of a particular food to send us back to an earlier time in our lives.

Q. What usually inspires someone to start collecting family recipes?

A. We pass along traditional family recipes to future generations to keep a family’s history alive. Food is a member of the family. It’s always with us during our happiest and saddest events. So, often, the realization that our family recipes and traditions are precious and unique spurs individuals to create albums to preserve the recipes for future generations.

Q. What are common obstacles to putting together a family recipe book?

A. One is not knowing where to get started. Start by deciding how involved you want this project to be. Do you want to create a simple collection of recipes, an elaborate album including artwork or photos, or something in-between? Decide whether you’re going to undertake this project by yourself or enlist other family members. If it’s the latter, assign tasks to each member; that will make the huge project easier on everyone.

Another is not knowing how to organize. Know how you’re going to proceed before you start gluing things down. Will you use a computer or hand-write in your album? First collect and organize all your recipes. Then collect any other information you’ll use to accompany each recipe — a history of the recipe, a photo, poem, journaling, etc. Make separate piles of these items for each page of your album. Then you can work on individual pages at a time. It helps to have a common theme and tone throughout the book.

Q. What other quick tips can you offer?

A. One thing I encourage people to do is to record family stories or memories alongside the recipes. Take a look at different cookbooks to see what type of recipe format you like the best, then use it for all the recipes. Wouldn’t it be nice if all the children had their own copy of the family cookbook when they went out on their own?


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From the April 2002 issue of Family Tree Magazine