My husband Tom and I got married 33 years ago, and to this day, I treasure one of the gifts we received at our wedding.
This gift was a recipe book – compiled by my sister, in her beautiful handwriting – that includes recipes of favorite dishes from both sides of our family. This book contains everything from appetizers to holiday meals, and it’s become one of my go-to reference books during our 3+ decades of marriage.
My sister called it “The Keepsake Recipe Collection,” and it is one of my most special (and most treasured) possessions.
Back in 1983, the year we got married, recipes were primarily shared using recipe cards, which were kept in a little box with index tabs marking each category: Appetizers, Breads, Salads, Soups, etc.. Knowing my need for uniformity and order (no big surprise there), she found a small binder especially designed for this purpose, and used it to house this special recipe card collection.
Over the years, I have added new recipes that have become favorites, too – so our “favorite recipes” book has grown and expanded over time.
Recipes are a special and completely unique part of our family heritage, and for many of us, the thought of losing them is heartbreaking. If you’ve ever watched the show “Friends,” you’ll know how tedious (and in Monica’s case, funny) it can be to try recreate an old family recipe from memory.
But I’ve got a simple solution for you, to make sure you never lose your favorite recipes: You can gather, restore, and protect those family favorites by creating a simple, sharable recipe book.
Here are a few simple steps for creating your very own keepsake recipe collection.
How to Create Your Own Family Recipe Book
Step One: Decide on whether or you want to do original or re-created recipes.
First up, you need to decide if you want to use the original recipe cards, or recreate the recipes in your own text (whether handwritten or typed).
There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods. There is something wonderfully nostalgic about seeing a relative’s handwriting and their older recipe cards, if you decide to use the originals – but sometimes it can be a little hard to make out certain ingredients or instructions, if the cards were written quickly or in a shorthand script you no longer recognize. It’s completely up to you, and you may need to do a little mix of both.
If you do choose to type out some (or all) of the recipes, you might want to choose an old-fashioned or vintage font, to lend your recipe book a little extra character.
Step Two: Request the cards from your family members.
Get in touch with your family and friends, and ask them to send their recipes to you for your special project. You will make digital copies of the cards or cookbooks for your book later, so make sure to tell people they don’t have to give up their written recipes for good – you just need to borrow them for a little while, and then they’ll be returned.
If your relatives and friends are tech savvy, you can ask them to digitize their cards or cookbook pages by scanning them and send them to you via email or Dropbox.
Since the holidays are coming up, you can ask the friends and relatives you’ll be seeing in person to bring their cards to family dinners or other gathering, and you can do a quick scan of the cards or cookbooks, and give them right back – this can save you time and postage!
Step Three: Re-create or gather the recipes.
Once you’ve made your requests, make a copy (or get an original) of every recipe you want to include in your book.
You’ll likely need to use a variety of methods to acquire your recipes (scanning, recreating, etc.) – just make sure you keep a checklist of everything you want to include and make sure you acquire each recipe on the list.
If the keeper of the recipes isn’t interested in sharing his or her originals, for instance, you can easily recreate the recipe by simply typing the ingredients and instructions yourself.
Once you’ve got all the recipes on your list, gather them all in one place.
Step Four: Create your book.
Once you’ve got all your recipes, compile them all into a recipe book.
To personalize your book and include special memories, you could include:
- The original source of the recipe, if you have one. It’s fun to see how certain recipes are passed along! I have some from my mom’s bridge club friends, and just seeing their names reminds me of when I’d come home from school and see the whole group sitting at card tables, scattered all over our house, each table holding a candy dish. Fond memories.
- Photos of the cooks next to their recipes. This is great way to honor the chef, and it’s particularly poignant if the original cook has passed away.
- Visual examples of the process by including step-by-step photos – especially if the recipe is being prepared by a super-capable cook!
- Funny failed attempts (try before and after photos, just to keep it real!
- Favorite family sayings, or stories of gatherings where these recipes were a staple.
Step Six: Make copies of your final book.
However you decide to compile your book, consider making copies of the end result.
Your recipe book is a family keepsake that a lot of your family members will want, and you can digitize your copy to share it with members of many different generations. This can make a terrific gift idea!
You can share physical photocopies of your book, stapled or bound together in a nice way, or share your book via an online sharing site like Pinterest or Dropbox. Online sharing isn’t quite as personal, but it’s a useful and fast way to distribute your book, especially if you are trying to get this completed in time for the holidays.
Hint: You can also use online sites and tools like these as a way of collaborating if you’re making your book a group project!
It’s your turn!
However you decide to gather and compile your recipes, creating a family recipe book is a great way to protect and save your family’s culinary memories.
Have fun with this process – and make sure to actually cook some of your wonderful recipes, too!