Why It’s Important to Preserve Family Recipes

Noe Dewitt

Recipes can be magical, triggering childhood memories just through taste. Maybe your great-grandmother’s lasagna recipe, brought over from the old country and passed down to you, always reminds you of Sunday dinners with the family. Or perhaps it’s your mother’s next-level turkey stuffing, a throwback to family Thanksgivings, that makes you nostalgic for your youth. While these recipes represent a thread in the fabric of a family legacy, securing every nuance is challenging. So, how can you make sure that family recipes get passed down to the next generation, to cherish for years to come? 

Related: Family Recipes from Big Martha, Martha Stewart’s Mother

Practical Ways to Save Family Recipes

There are scores of ways to hold on to the treasure trove of family recipes, some right at your fingertips. For starters, you can video your culinary kin cooking up revered dishes and share the love (and recipes) with your nearest and dearest. Or interview family members to uncover treasured recipes, then add them to a custom-printed family cookbook that every relative will want to get their hands on. If you’re feeling crafty, safeguard handwritten recipes in a more informal book, held together with baker’s twine. And even if you have your late grandma’s recipe memorized, you can preserve it for posterity by laminating her yellowing handwritten recipe card—or why not a stack—tied with ribbon, and gifted, for any occasion? Speaking of unique keepsakes, you can also have favorite recipes custom-printed on tea towels—one for you, one for mom—through specialty sites like Spoonflower.

Whichever route you take, remember that conversation with family members can also reap rich recipe rewards. “We’ve all seen those cookbooks stained with olive oil and tomato sauce—those are the recipes that someone made over and over again. They’re part of family history. You pass the mantle, maybe with cookbooks or the pots and pans.” says Aimee Lee Ball, co-founder of the storytelling website Eat Darling Eat which explores the mother/daughter relationship through the global language of food.

A Recipe for the Generations

Eat Darling Eat provides a platform for sharing personal photos, intergenerational anecdotes, and, of course, conserving beloved family recipes, like yours. “It’s not about perfect recipes. The stories run from sweet to sour. Some are heartbreaking, some heartwarming, some hilarious,” explains Ball. There’s the account of a woman with an Eastern-European Jewish background whose family wouldn’t give her a challah recipe (and meat grinder) until she was married. And the one about the woman whose mother sold chocolate meringues as a girl during the Depression and never ate them again. The daughter now bakes them. 

It’s stories like these that become part of family lore, and may even yield recipes that achieve heirloom status. Why take a chance that they’ll be lost to time? Whether you record your family matriarch’s secret recipe, add it to your own custom cookbook, or share it with Eat Darling Eat, make that prized recipe a part of your family’s heritage, for descendants to come.

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