How to Make a Family Cookbook (and Why You Should)

The food that families make is wonderful and ties the generations closer together in shared meals, traditions, experiences, and emotions. Preserving these recipes is an important part of your genealogy work and one that even the non-genealogists in your family can appreciate. Here is how to make a family cookbook, and why you should definitely make one.

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The traditional foods that families enjoy together tie one generation to the other. A favorite recipe you make at home may have been given to you by your mother, who got it from her mother, who got it from her mother, and so on. What you have, and love to make, may have originated generations ago, even centuries ago (even if it has been modernized a little over the decades). At the same time, recipes that always make their appearances at holiday gatherings with your extended family may also have ancient roots or maybe things you want to preserve so that future generations will enjoy them.

We cannot discount the value and love of food among people. One way to make sure your treasured family recipes are able to be enjoyed by future generations is to create and distribute a family cookbook. Not only will it save precious recipes from generations past for interested descendants, but it can also preserve your family cooking and holiday traditions, and it ties generations together in a way few other things can do.

So, now you know why you should make a family cookbook. The next step is actually doing it. Here is how.

1. Ask the Right People for Recipes

Go to the oldest people in your family, and ask for recipes for things they make that you like. Also, ask them if any of these recipes are ones that were handed down to them from previous generations. Finally, ask for recipes they received from their own parents and grandparents that they may have never cooked for you before.

2. Ask Current Family Members for Favorite Recipes

If you go to gatherings at the holidays with your extended family, there are probably some relatives who can be counted on year after year to always bring a delicious dish. Maybe it is their signature one. Either way, it is something you probably look forward to eating a few times a year. Ask these people for these recipes, and also ask for the origin of those recipes. Are they originals, or something the maker obtained from a member of an earlier generation?

3. Type Up the Recipes in an Organized Manner

Categorize the recipes like any cookbook would—by type of dish, and alphabetically within each category. You will have categories like Side Dishes, Main Dishes, Salads, Soups, Appetizers, Drinks, Desserts, and more. By sure to attribute each recipe to the earliest person you could find who made it (even if you never met that person, but were told they invented the recipe).

4. Take Photos

Make each recipe and take a photo of it for the finished cookbook.

5. Put an Attractive Cover on it and Get it Bound

You can use a photo of a dish from the cookbook, or any other appropriate artwork for the cover. Spiral-bound is best for binding cookbooks.

6. Distribute It

Give the cookbook as a gift to family members, and donate a copy to your local archives. This will ensure anyone researching your family can find these wonderful recipes.