Like many of us, I have a whole shelf in my kitchen loaded with big, beautiful cookbooks. But the one book that people ask me about the most is the tiniest one on the shelf.
That book — handmade and so obviously a stand-out among the large books on the shelf — is full of photos and recipes that define my life, lives of relatives before me, and now the lives of my own children. I was so fortunate to have inherited stacks and stacks of my grandmother and great grandmother’s recipe cards. Some are handwritten, some were written by typewriter. Almost every one of them is faded, stained and spilled upon. They contain some of the family’s favorite recipes along with others that I’d never even heard of.
I love looking through them and seeing the old, beautiful ink handwriting. You can tell which recipes were favorites just based on how dirty they are, and the little notes my grandmother left on the card show you the process she went through to perfect them.
This project began as a way to celebrate my grandmother’s life after she passed. I made one of the books for every member of our family, along with a jar of her signature chocolate sauce, to ensure that everyone had a little piece of her + her favorite things after she was gone.
Creating this recipe and photo book is a unique way of celebrating family traditions and is so much fun to put together. You often hear the stories of family recipes like these, but seeing the recipe side by side with photos of the family member who perfected it makes for a special experience and a meaningful connection. I love thinking that my own kids will inherit this book one day, and hopefully add their own stories, recipes and photos to it.
This project makes a great gift around the holidays, or for a special occasion like a wedding (or a funeral!) when words just aren’t enough. Although it may seem like an undertaking to create and compile, it’s an undertaking that I loved doing and learning from.
One tip: I recommend doing this “early” in the sense that it’s important to talk to your grandparents or parents when they are around to tell you the stories, share the recipes and their memories of them, and write them in their own handwriting. This is especially essential if a recipe doesn’t already exist in writing. Let them sift through their old photos with you so that they can connect the dots between the people, the stories and the recipes. Hearing their tips and tricks for making the recipe is a crucial part of the process as well, and it truly allows these heirlooms to live on as you’ll be able to recreate the dishes exactly as you remember them.
I recommend this project to anyone looking to explore and preserve their family traditions + stories. My book sits neatly next to my cookbooks and my recipe card box in the pantry and brings a smile to my face every time it catches my eye.
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heirloomed is a lifestyle brand with a mission of “keeping heirlooms around for another generation.” Our blog features stories about family recipes, creating traditions with your family, interior design and entertaining by mixing new and vintage pieces, classic style, and small town + historic travel. Our shop features a collection of “goods inspired by the past, for generations to enjoy” with an array of products and meaningful gifts including linen aprons, tabletop linens, art, ceramics and beyond. Learn more at www.heirloomedcollection.com.