Keepsakes From the Kitchen

Keepsakes From the Kitchen

Keepsakes From the Kitchen

by Kathy Stelego

A keepsake is an object of any size, color, or shape that is kept as a memento. ItÂ’s something that instantly summons the warm fuzzy feeling of a happy memory: your babyÂ’s first shoes, GrandfatherÂ’s gold watch, a shell you found on the beach while on your honeymoon. Or a cookbook. A cookbook? ThatÂ’s right. When you think about it, so many of our fondest memories are related to food. The warmth of GramÂ’s kitchen, filled with wonderful aromas, MomÂ’s macaroni-and-cheese, everyday meals around the table, and family traditions on special occasions. Most people consider a recipe as a list of ingredients and instructions for preparing a particular food or dish. But, recipes can be much more.

Your treasured recipes are the stuff memories are made of, bringing back the tastes and smells of happy family traditions, special occasions , memorable vacations, or the simple comfort of everyday meals. Pulling a loaf of freshly-baked bread from the oven recalls childhood lunches in a sunny kitchen. The recipe for a crispy grilled fish captures the unforgettable memories of annual trips to the seashore. Frosting batches of Christmas cookies with your children reminds you of your first baking lessons (and spoon-licking) with Grandma.

Document these treasured recipes and the special memories you have about them, and you create the most unique cookbook in your kitchen: a keepsake of your culinary heritage that provides an important connection between past and future generations. Recipes are the heart of your cookbook; your memories and stories about the recipes are its soul. Whether your family tasts run to hot dogs or caviar, recording your recipes preserves an important piece of your heritage that can be passed from one generation to the next.

Culinary Traditions

Because so many of our family traditions imvolve food, recipes serve as important historical and cultural documentation. All too often, we pass these recipes and memories from one generation to the next by word of mouth, a process that is well-meaning, but often loses more and more detail with each successive generation. When these family classics are not recorded, our unique foods and related traditions grow dimmer and dimmer with each generation until they are lost altogether, simply because we failed to record them. Preserve your culinary traditions, and you create a lasting record that can be passed from one generation to the next. Think how wonderful it would be if you had your great-grandmotherÂ’s (or grandfatherÂ’s) recipe book, with all her notes and thoughts about family meals and special events. Why wouldnÂ’t your own great-grandchildren be thrilled with your collection of family recipes?

Your Culinary Heritage

Recipes make up just one part of your culinary heritage. Adding your memories, notes, stories, and anecdotes transforms your collection of recipes into a cherished keepsake. Your recipes produce foods that nourish, comfort, and delight. Your stories about the recipes will do the same. Write a few lines, a couple of paragraphs, or a full page. Capture the special memories that surface whenever your remake a favorite recipe. Write about how you always laugh when you recall the time Aunt Sophia burned the casserole and told you it was black potato chips. Explain the origin of the familyÂ’s traditional holiday fruitcake. Include the recipes and traditions you remember from your childhood: the entire family around the dinner table, DadÂ’s Sunday morning pancakes, or toasting marshmallows under the stars. Alongside Uncle HugoÂ’s recipe for the familyÂ’s traditional Thanksgiving stuffing, record your recollections of past holiday get-togethers, when the extra leaf was put into the dining room table, the special linen and china made rare appearances, and the soft light of the "good" candles filled the room.

DonÂ’t worry that youÂ’re not John Grisham; just write. Get your kids into the act. Creating a keepsake cookbook is a great family project. Ask everyone to contribute their favorite recipes and thoughts. DonÂ’t forget the kids! Encourage them to talk about or write their own versions of their favorite recipes. Ask them to list or tell you about their favorite foods, and how they hilarious! Adorn the pages of your keepsake cookbook with their drawings and doodles. While your little ones are still little, keep a pad of paper handy and make a collection of all the unusual and hilarious things they say about food, eating, and family mealtime. Write their observations down, along with the particular recipe. As they grow, encourage your children to add materials to "their" cookbook. This is also a great way to encourage reading, writing, and organization skills. Then when your kids go away to school or move out on their own, they can take with them their own insights and recipes for their favorite childhood foods. Hopefully, you will start a new family tradition, one your children will enjoy, maintain, and repeat with your grandchildren.

Recipe for a Keepsake Cookbook:

Start with a generous helping of your favorite recipes

Spice with memories, anecdotes, and stories

Fold in photos, drawings, or doodles

Pepper with dashes of humor and nostalgia to taste

Combine all and blend well. Serve up to yourself, family, and friends.

About the author

Kathy Steligo is author of Meals and Memories: How To Create Keepsake Cookbooks. We are offering her book at Seeds of Knowledge. Please click here to read about her wonderful book.

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