You may have seen my a blog about writing a foodoir (a genre which combines memoir writing with recipes or food-related experiences). So, to continue with the food theme, I thought I would mention another type of food writing – a family recipe book. And by that I don’t mean just a book of recipes. I am talking about a recipe book which not only includes special family recipes and recipes that have been passed down through the generations, but also something about the people, anecdotes and stories behind each recipe.
- 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?
- 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?
- Are there any recipes that your family has always made at certain times of the year?
- Did a family member teach you how to make certain dishes?
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.), but 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 recipe will make your family recipe book much more appealing but if you 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., you will reveal something very special about your family history. Depending on how you plan to present your family recipe book, scan or make photocopies of any original photos and items.
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 the 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.
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.