How to Make a Family Cookbook with your old Family Recipes

Follow this recipe for a unique family gift in three easy steps!


Family, Happiness

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When Genie Milgrom moved her mom to a memory care facility and cleaned out her mom’s apartment, she was shocked to discover a cache of hidden recipes that her mother had kept in her house, some dating back to the time of the Spanish Inquisition.

“The recipes were hidden away and Mom never gave them to me,” Milgrom told Goodnet. “I wrote a recipe book with family history attached to each recipe and had test cooks bring them up to date” regarding ingredients and measurements. The book, Recipes of My 15 Grandmothers: Unique Recipes and Stories from the Times of the Crypto-Jews during the Spanish Inquisition, came out in 2019.

Milgrom is one of the hundreds of individuals who have gathered and published family recipes to tell a story and preserve the memories handed down to us by our families. But family recipe books don’t need a publisher or even a large audience to fulfill their goal: these special cookbooks can be “classic homemade gifts,” according to familytree, a genealogy magazine, and all you need to make your own are three simple steps.

Step 1: Collect your recipes
What are the foods that you eat at family gatherings? Do you always hanker after Uncle Stan’s potato salad or Mom’s pot roast? Deciding what recipes to include in your book can take time, according to America’s Test Kitchen, but doing that work first will make the cookbook easier to collate. And you don’t have to decide on your own. Ask your grandparents and other family elders what recipes they think should be included.

You might realize right away that the recipes you’ve chosen fall into categories or themes: birthday parties, main dishes, appetizers, desserts, or family holidays (think Christmas!). And don’t forget to write down any stories that are associated with each recipe. For example, that spice cake that Aunt Thelma always makes was supposed to have rum in it, but when, in desperation, she used Kahlua instead, everyone preferred it that way.

Step 2: Choose photos and design your book
Whether you create your cookbook as a project using a preexisting scrapbook or an online photobook service, you’ll want to collect photos and illustrations and think about color schemes. If this is a gift for Grandma Rose, go with her favorite color. You might also want to give thought to how many books you’ll be printing and how much it will cost. According to The Washington Post, a quick Internet search will lead you to a myriad of templates and services available that allow you to upload information easily into a book format, and they will do the printing and binding for you.

This is also the time to decide what to call your cookbook. When Milgrom assembled her recipes, she wanted her book title to include not only a reference to the historical nature of this family treasure but also to the struggles of her Crypto-Jewish ancestors. If your cookbook is a compilation of recipes to help Dad cope in the kitchen, maybe you’ll call it, “Dad’s Emergency Cookbook.”

Step 3: Celebrate and share!
Once you’ve finished your book or received your copies back from the online photo book service, you’ll want to share your creation with everyone involved. We recommend that you throw a party and invite your family, especially if your book is a gift to someone special. As the family tree website suggests, “Celebrate the culmination of your hard work by hosting a family dinner party or book launch. Now all that’s left to do is savor your family’s history.”

We heartily agree. And pass Cousin Sadie’s apple strudel!

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