Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Preserving Your Recipes For Today and For The Future


*A reader wrote in asking how I keep track of my recipes and it got me thinking about the richness of a woman's cookbook. This is my response.

Food is a connecting fiber woven throughout the story of our lives. The smells and tastes can bring back memories that transport us to another time and place. It was a part of my childhood as Grandma and Mom sat at the kitchen table and taught me how to peel the apples for grandma’s delicious apple pie in an unbroken ring of skin. It was a part of my special time with dad as we got up early on Saturday mornings and launched our boat in Lake Shasta to catch fresh trout for dinner and again when he walked me through our garden pointing out each vegetable that was going to show up on our dinner plate while we planted the fish heads into the garden soil. Food was a part of the tradition of my marriage as Chris and I sliced into our wedding cake and then shared it with our closest friends and family. And with each family Christmas as our older members pass on and our newer members are added, special dishes come out full of foods passed down from generation to generation. And it’s those generational recipes that stir up memories that we pass on to the younger family members in a continuous thread of history.

If you were to check in the cupboards of women across America you’d probably find that, tucked away in their recipe cupboards, is a small box or book full of great grandma’s recipes. Most have personal notations from women long gone and some have greasy fingerprints from the hands that held them before. But whatever condition they are in their value is priceless. And as our own children grow into adulthood, our recipes will become the ones handed down and talked about long after we’re gone.

In the day and age of computer technology, the art of the handwritten cookbook is nearly lost. Most of the time I read my recipe directly from my laptop. Other times I manage to take the time to print it out, only to toss it in the garbage later. But as my kids are starting to take over some of the cooking and my days with them living in my house are numbered, I’m starting to see the relevance in getting my recipes organized and making them personal. So here are some simple tips to get your food history ready to pass down to your own children and grandchildren some day.

  • To keep it simple, start with a three ring binder, dividers according to course (main dish, dessert, breads, etc.) and some plastic page protectors. When I’ve tried a recipe that I like I either print it out or photocopy it so I have a hard copy.
  • Next I make notations on the recipe. Note whether you altered ingredients, how much everyone liked it, if you served it for a special occasion and include the date. All the extra details make it even more memorable for future family members. It’s almost like a diary of sorts.
  • Then slip it into a waterproof sleeve and file it under the correct divider. Next time you use the recipe your plastic sheet will protect it from splashes or spills.

Every time you add a recipe you’ll be building a legacy for the future and a reminder of the great memories you cooked up for your family.

For more ideas go see WFMW.

9 comments:

Susan said...

oh it makes me sad to think about handwritten recipes being lost. There are certainly some drawbacks to the computer age. I was trying to think about recipes I use. Sometimes i do print them from the computer. I had a ton from magazines. Cooking LIght was how I learned to cook when I was first married. I don't use most of those recipes any longer. I mostly cook out of cookbooks. I don't know many people who do that. But when I need an idea I look through my cookbooks. I have started writing in them though, what we liked, a rating, what I changed etc. Maybe my cookbooks with my handwriting in them will be passed down. Have you ever heard the story about a girl asking her mother why they cut the ends of the roast off before cooking it. The mom said she didn't know, it was just the way her mom always did it. So she asked her mom and she said because she didn't have a pan big enough! My kids are funny because when I try to take short cute (ie not cook from scratch) they say I am cheating. I think they are a bit spoiled!

Adminswife said...

When my children get married, my gift to them is a recipe box full of the recipes we all have enjoyed over the years. One of my children didn't even get a cookbook from her wedding gifts. She sure appreciated my box of recipes.

Bitterroot Mama said...

I use a 3-ring binder with page protectors too! (Of course, I have an entire one just for desserts.) I've always wanted to give them as a gift, but I didn't know if other people (i.e. my sister-in-law) would have the same tastes. I think it's a great idea and hope to pass my favorite recipes along to my daughter someday.

JeannaMO said...

This past Christmas, as gifts for my daughters (ages 21 and 17), I compiled recipes for their favorite dishes from our family. I included the recipe for Parmesan Chicken I have always made for our wedding anniversary (along with a wedding picture of us), their paternal family's favorite Christmas cookie recipe, their maternal family's favorite Christmas cookie recipe, and other recipes they like now and grew up eating along with little notes, memories, and stories about the dishes. I included many seasonal pictures to go with each recipe; included a picture of their high school sports team (tennis for us) with the recipe they like to take for team snacking (people chow) and prepared a recipe book with the help of Shutterfly, decorating each page, etc. I waited until the last minute to do it, and got buy one get one free on the books. Each of my girls say that it was their favorite gift from last Christmas and they are already asking for Volume II. Its a priceless gift - to me and to them and a great way to pass along your family's favorite recipes and pictures!

You could probably even scan in the recipe cards if you want the hand written versions and upload as for pictures.

Jeanna

Roxie700 said...

One of the things I treasure most are the cook books that belonged to my beloved grandmother. She was a wonderful cook. She made many notes in her cook books. She also has many recipes clipped from the Houston newspaper. My mother (her only child) never cared to cook and honestly never learned much..I spent lots of time watching her cook and bake..I also have her Sunbeam mixer in my kitchen. She brought it in the 1940's and I have the recipt for the mixer and the little book that came with it. They are treasure to me.

cnuland said...

At one of my bridal showers, the hosts sent recipe cards to everyone asking them to return them with a couple of their favorite recipes. The hosts compiled them (during the shower?) into a photo album that had labels on the pages for Breads, Desserts, etc. The recipe cards fit perfectly in the photo slots. Some of those hand-written recipe cards are priceless to me as many of the writers have since passed away...

Greg and Renee Rouse said...

I have some of my grandmothers old cookbooks. Even though I may not use them as much as I use my computer, they are still treasures. I love looking through the pages of her old red & white checked "Better Homes and Gardens" cookbook. It must be from the 50's and has lots of great information on table settings and entertaining.

Anonymous said...

When my Mother died my father asked us what we would like of hers. I said someday I would like her recipes. Not now as he would need them,.. but later. He said he would not be using her recipes. The ones he liked he already knew by heart. He gave me her recipe box that very day. He said if I haden't mentioned it he would probaably have given them to someone else outside of the family.!! I was so glad I asked. Through the years my other siblings have asked me to search the box for their favorite recipes and knowing they were hand written by her is such a treasure to have. I usually print out the recipe card so they too can see her writing. They are all glad these recipes are still in the family. Sarah

Anonymous said...

My daughter gathered all her mother-in-laws recipes in secret one at a time one year and made her a recipe book. She designed it and printed out each recipe. Before that the recipes were in cookbooks and pieces of paper scattered about and always being lost. Now her Mother-in-laws Mother's recipes and all the rest are all in one pretty notebook..any hand written ones were printed and copied to retain the hand writing. This is a very personal and much appreciated present to give. Sarah