Why a Cookbook?
Why a Cookbook?

Creating an Heirloom: Writing Your Family’s Cookbook is a book written with the hope of encouraging everyone to sit down and compile their own family cookbooks. But why should you? Here are eleven good reasons...

1. Compiling a family cookbook is a fun and very rewarding task. Compiling a family cookbook is more than just collecting recipes everyone loves. It’s a lot of fun to talk to family members and learn about the dishes they love and about them. It’s rewarding to know that once you’ve compiled your cookbook, you've preserved several generations of memories, and made them permanent.

2. You’re a family historian and this is just one more facet of your heritage. If you’re a family historian, like me, you know that history is everywhere, from the wars fought to the meals cooked. History may be full of the tales of men and their deeds, but their mothers and wives were also busy.

3. Family cookbooks make wonderful gifts. My first family cookbook was a Christmas gift. It was something I worked very hard on, and something everyone really appreciated. Your family will, too.

4. There are a lot of children in the family, and you want to compile a cookbook for the next generation. If you have a large family with a lot of youngsters, gather their grandparents and great-grandparents and preserve all their stories and memories now. Those kids probably won’t be all that interested in history today, but someday, it will be truly priceless. Don’t forget to ask the little ones what their favorite dishes are!

5. Your phone bill is getting outrageously high, constantly making long distance calls for someone’s recipes. I have an aunt who calls Mom often for the recipes she misplaces. I make long distance calls myself for cooking advice. It gets expensive!

6. You have wonderful cooks in your family, and you want to celebrate that. Having wonderful cooks in the family is a reason to rejoice on its own. You can celebrate every one of those cooks by adding their recipes to your heirloom.

7. Your family’s ethnic identity is becoming more and more absorbed into the American Melting Pot, and you’re afraid that it will disappear in another generation or two. So many of us have a rich ethnic heritage. But as we disperse and move away from home, that ethnicity becomes more and more diluted. Before another minute passes, record all those ethnic recipes and customs; preserve them for generations to come.

8. You have a family reunion coming up. This is a great time to invite family members to not only bring their favorite dish, but also their favorite recipes. Many family reunions feature the dishes that family members are famous for. Make sure you get those recipes, and bring your cookbook to the next reunion!

9. You or another family member has inherited a recipe collection that is getting very fragile with age. If you are very fortunate, you have acquired a collection of recipes from an older family member. They’re probably getting pretty fragile. Preserve them now, don’t wait until they’re unreadable... go, shoo!

10. Family and/or community cookbooks are a wonderful way to raise money for charity. Do you have a cause you believe in deeply? Perhaps you’d like to contribute to disaster relief. Many of the cookbook publishers are set up for fundraising, and have lots of advice to help you earn as much for your cause as you can.

11. But the very best reason of all is… According to the Saving Our Stories campaign, 1,500 American war veterans die every day, taking their stories with them. Their widows are dying, too. Our elders are not getting any younger, and now is the time to approach them before one more memory is lost forever. My grandparents have already been gone more than a decade. I missed out on a whole generation of people who lived through the Great Depression, and I never sat down with them to ask what it was like. There are fewer and fewer survivors of that era every day. If you have older relatives, talk to them now, while you still can. It’s vital that their memories live on, since they have so much to share. Talk to them; they’ve probably been waiting for someone to ask!

Coming from a large or small family is completely irrelevant. My own family is quite small. You can compile your family’s cookbook even if it’s only you, a spouse and a single child. All you need are recipes and love, and a passionate wish to preserve them for another generation.

Large or small, families are special. If you’re a family historian/genealogist, this is just one more facet of your history. Years from now, generations will sing your praises for the work you do here.

You will all have your own reasons for why this project is an important one for you. For me, I had already lost all my grandparents. My interest in family history blossomed too late to take advantage of an entire generation of my family. I was determined not to let that happen for my daughter, who was just a toddler at the time.

Although my husband doesn’t share my passion for family history, he does appreciate what I accomplished, and I know other members of our families do too. It meant a lot to me to give back something to his family, when they have helped so much with my family history research. It meant a lot to me when his aunt asked for extra copies for her almost-grown sons. It still means a great deal to me whenever I use the cookbook myself, or when Mom tells me she does.

At the time, it didn’t really seem like that big a deal. As time passes, I gain greater understanding of the value of a project that started out almost as a whim. It’s remarkable, really, that something so simple as a collection of recipes can have so much value beyond its humble contents.

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