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If you’re alive you belong to a family and you eat regularly. That’s all the credentials you need to create your own family heritage cookbook. Think back to your growing up years and the things you loved to eat. Grandma probably had some mouth-watering recipes you enjoyed at holiday times and Aunt Lydia made those wonderful cookies that melted in the mouth. Maybe you were lucky enough to have a male member of the family who enjoyed cooking up a batch of chili or some mean barbecue. Get the family organised and put together a family heirloom cookbook.

Great gifts and fond memories

Family recipe books make great gift items. They are relatively inexpensive to produce, but they do require some organisation and planning. If you come from a large family, all the better because there will be many people to contribute to the finished product. If your family is smaller you might want to include in-law’s favorites as well or go back into your family history to resurrect some recipes from former days. Give the books for wedding shower or wedding gifts. Give them out to family members at a 50th anniversary celebration or at the next family reunion. You can even use them as a fundraiser for a family cause.

Family heirloom recipe books are more than just a cookbook. They are also a wealth of family photos and memories. Fill each page with the basic recipe, ingredient list and directions, but don’t forget to add the anecdotes of Uncle Charlie and his fishing trip that lead up to the recipe for Salmon Almondine. Current photos of Grandma and the grandkids baking up a cake are also welcome additions to the heirloom book. Remember that these cherished items will be around for future generations.

Getting started

Decide who is in charge of the project and the overall vision. Make a list of family members to be included and decide how far back into family history you may want to go. Perhaps you have classic family recipes from generations ago that would be fun to include. Do you have old pickle recipes or cakes from scratch or how to butcher the hog and render lard? If so, you may not want to actually bring the recipe to life, but it will be fun to remember the olden days and be thankful for modern conveniences.

Create or choose a template for the recipes you will request. Decide on the format you want for an ingredient list, cooking directions and perhaps a photo or anecdote space to accompany each recipe. Give the family members an idea of the divisions of the cookbook. Will you organise by family, by category, or by holiday? There are many software packages now that help you choose a clear format for your cookbook and make the actual publishing a breeze, one of my favourites is This is Your Cookbook.

Putting it all together

Choose a look for your heirloom cookbook that reflects your family. Create a clear and easily used table of contents and index and select a format that allows plenty of room for those family stories and pictures that will make the book a unique part of your family history. Some families choose to include a family tree and some genealogical information as an introduction to the recipe section.

Send out your request letter and sample format via e-mail if possible and by snail mail if necessary. Request that the recipes be returned by a certain date and be ready to follow up with reminders. Once you have gathered a fair number of recipes you will have a better idea of how to organise them and whether you may need to put out a call for a few more dessert or salad recipes. Print with a home color printer or use a professional printer to print and bind the pages together with a nice-looking cover and you’re done. A Family Heirloom Cookbook is a wonderful way to preserve family history, capture memories and ensure that family ties stay strong for many generations to come.