Family recipe book

From Foodoirs to collections of recipes to books about the history of food, there are many types of food writing. But there is another genre of food writing which is less likely to be found on the well-stocked shelves of food, baking and cookery books in book shops. Namely, the family recipe book.

A family recipe book is not just a book of recipes. It is a recipe book which not only includes special family recipes and recipes that have been passed down through the generations, it also tells the stories, anecdotes and traditions behind each recipe. It is a book which will probably not reach a wider audience but that doesn’t matter. Food is an important ingredient in anybody’s family history because food can evoke such strong and personal memories. And, what better way of preserving these memories and recipes, than in a family recipe book.

How to get started? 

  • Do you have any recipes that have been in your family for generations?
  • Do you have any recipes that bring back memories of special times or events in your life?
  • Do you have any stories about the people who inspired or created the recipes
  • Have you created any recipes that you would like to share with family and friends and pass on to future generations?
  • Do any other members of your family have recipes that have a special meaning or significance for them?

Collect as much information as you can at this stage. You may decide not use everything but it is important to have plenty of ideas and sources to work with.

Adding the personal touch

Anyone using your family recipe book will want to know the essential details (the name and creator of the recipe, ingredients and quantities, preparation and cooking times etc.). However, it will be the family traditions, stories and anecdotes behind the recipes that will be the most memorable and enjoyable.

So, from your collection of recipes, are there any that stand out or have a special significance? Do you have any information or anecdotes about the family members that created them or, if they are your own recipes, do you have any special memories associated with them?

Include photos and other family memorabilia

Including photos of the completed recipes will make your family recipe book much more appealing. However, you could also add pictures or other mementos such as photos of the people who created the recipes, pictures of the events or occasions when the recipe was used, original hand-written recipes, heirlooms related to the recipe etc.. These will all reveal something very special about your family history. 

Scan or make photocopies of any original photos, pictures or hand-written recipes. Take you own photos of heirlooms and other memorabilia.

Assembling your family recipe book

Once you have decided which recipes you want to include, collect and organise all of the information you have about the creators and any associated stories or anecdotes. If a person is deceased see what you can find out from other family members. You can either write up the stories yourself or you can use the original words of the person who gave you the recipe.

If you have a lot of recipes, you could organise them by category (for example, starters, main courses, puddings, baking and cakes etc.) or you could organise them by specific family groups or by special occasions/holidays/seasons.

Make sure you present the recipes and ingredients clearly and consistently and that the instructions are easy to follow and understand (try making them yourself to check they are correct and that the end result is as good as you expect).

If there are some ingredients which are now not available make a suggestion for an alternative (and easily available) substitute. Similarly make sure that you use consistent ingredient weights/quantities. Older recipes may quote weights in pounds and ounces and cooking temperatures in fahrenheit and American recipes will often use spoon sizes. If you prefer to use metric weights and temperatures either include both measurements or provide a table or chart showing their equivalents. Check out delia online for tables of conversions.

Make each recipe the main focus on a page and fit your story and pictures around it. If you have a lot of text and/or a number of pictures, you could place them on a facing page.

Check that your recipes are accurate

Ask at least one other person to check each recipe for any missing ingredients, typos, inconsistencies etc. Better still, ask some fellow bakers or chefs to try making the recipes themselves.

Just another way of sharing a family’s history

A family recipe book is a great way of creating a very special family heirloom which combines treasured family recipes with memories of the people and events that inspired them.

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