Friday, April 3, 2009
As the older generation gives way to the younger, childhood memories of picnics, potlucks and family dinners can be tantalizing. Get the recipes together before they are gone forever.
Purchase a blank book to write your recipes in. You can choose from an abundance of different styles. Be sure to get the lined ones; and for a cookbook, it's really nice if you can find one that's spiral bound, so it can lay flat on a counter or remain open without a special holder. Be sure the book is of good quality - it's going to be a treasure to your family. Ask the older folks for their recipes. Don't be shy - they'll be thrilled. These gems could be lost forever if you wait until the old folks pass away, so go as soon as possible and gather the recipes for Aunt Margie's devilled egg recipe, Great Grandma's lemon cake, Mom's baked beans, Grandma's pea salad, your brother's barbecue sauce, your own applesauce. Read them and if you want, test them before transferring them to your family book to make sure they make sense and are correct. You should also ask your relatives for photos and memories surrounding each recipe. Write the recipes in your own handwriting. Unless your penmanship is so horrible nobody can read it but you (and even you have trouble), your family will appreciate your longhand recipes. Check the Tips below for some guidelines with recipe formatting. Use a good quality pen that leaves a dark impression. Cheap pens with blue ink, for example, often fade. Use blue only if the pen is very good quality and the words are strong in color. Black is better, otherwise. Oddly, pencil can be a great choice, too, because it will never fade - the only caveat there is to spray a little hairspray (a workable fixative is available at most craft stores, but hairspray works fine, too) over the page once you're satisfied, to keep the graphite from smudging when you touch it. Compose a foreword. Leave a message in the first pages for your family members. This book is meant to be handed down, and decades from now, your words will remind your family of you.
Sketch or doodle in the pages. If you feel like it, do it! Give an impression of how the dish should look if you feel inclined. Don't limit your book to recipes. Add helpful kitchen tips, your opinions, your ideas for variations on these well-loved recipes. Add anecdotes that will be amusing for those who remember you, and for those who don't, which give a picture of your personality for those who follow after. Put some pictures in it. Pictures of your family eating these dishes can really add to this book - take a picture, for example, of your family members gathering around the table, which has been laid with all your holiday dishes; or at a back yard gathering where one of the dishes in the book is being served. Printing them out on paper will make it easy to use a spray adhesive or glue stick to mount the photos in the book.
Organize the recipes like a real cookbook. The order they appear in is not as important as the way each recipe is written down. When setting up each recipe, it's important to give:
o A little description of the dish
+ "Aunt Margie makes the best devilled eggs - there's just a hint of horseradish in them, which makes them so special."
o An ingredient list
+ 1 Corned Beef brisket, flat cut
+ 1 Head of cabbage
+ 1 t dill
+ 1 T peppercorns
+ 1 clove garlic
+ Salt and pepper to taste
o The instructions for preparation.
+ Preheat the oven to .....
o An estimate of how many servings are included.
o Serves 4 as main portions, or 8 as a side dish
o Whether or not it can be successfully doubled, halved, etc.
o Finish with serving suggestions ("serve with red wine, crusty bread, etc.")
Don't let anybody have it until you're gone unless you plan to make this a collaboration with all of your family - keep adding to it. If you loan it out, you probably won't get it back.