By T. Paajanen
Your collection of family history can always use a new way to be presented and enjoyed, and a cookbook of treasured family recipes can be the perfect way to do it. Not only can you record and preserve all those unique dishes, but also keep a journal of the great stories that go along with them.
Let’s face it, most family gatherings revolve around food so this is a perfect fit for a genealogy project. All those tastes and smells get tied up in the family history, and they deserve to be recorded together. So how do you put it together?
Gather the Recipes
This can be a bit frustrating but it really depends how close you are to your existing (and still living) family. Start asking around and see who wants to contribute recipes, usually starting with the older relatives first. Those are the most “historic” ones that will make your book such a treasure. Just make sure you are clear that you want authentic family recipes, and not just what someone can scrape up from the back of a package.
Getting a Bit More
This is where the family history comes into play a bit more. You don’t just want the recipes themselves, but also any stories or memories that go with each dish. Any interesting history behind a recipe, or specific events that everyone remembers that food for? Does anyone have any family photos that feature that dish? Gather all of this extra detail to really make your family cookbook come alive with memories.
Make the Book
Once you have a stack of recipes, stories and family photos, the real work can begin. Thankfully, it’s not that hard to format a decent book with all the modern software out there to choose from. Even something as simple as Microsoft Word will do. You’ll want a table of contents and lots of great food photos, and do your best to get everything organized so that it’s a usable cookbook rather than just a family history book. If you’re really serious about putting together a professional looking book, try software like Cooks Palate which is designed to help format personal cookbooks.
Get it Published
If you’re just gathering up a few recipes and hoping to share with a handful of relatives, you can probably make up some booklets yourself with a good printer or access to a copy shop. But small-run publishing options are pretty big these days and you have a few good choices for self-publishing to create a really nice book.
Createspace is a good option, and it allows you to actually sell your book through Amazon. You only pay per-book sold so your investment is minimal and it would allow relatives from all over the place to get a copy through Amazon instead of you having to deal with distribution. Lulu is another good pay-as-you-go self publisher for print books. If you just want an eBook format, there are free Kindle services at Amazon or you could try Smashwords.
Sharing Your Family Cookbook
Most people who share their recipes with you are going to want a finished copy of the book, so take note of everyone’s names. Make sure you are clear at the outset what your plans are. People might be a little shocked when you tell them the pricetag if they are expecting a freebie. Even if you have to pay for the production yourself, these free books will be much appreciated and it will be remembered later when you’re pestering your relatives for more genealogy information later.
Even if you only get one single copy of your family cookbook printed up, it will make a fantastic heirloom for you to hand down to your own children some day.