Preserving Memories: Kitchen Notebooks and Family Cookbooks

published Apr 8, 2008
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When you give a beloved recipe to a friend, do you ever think about how you will preserve your recipes for the next generation? Or perhaps how you’ll remember to hold onto great recipes, in spite of aging and declining memory?

We were lucky enough to inherit these three cookbooks, created by our great-grandmother, and filled with five generations of family recipes and 1960s newspaper clippings.

Our great-grandmother, “Granny,” recorded parties she gave, with guest lists and menus, starring certain ones as “particularly successful.” In the front, she wrote lists of pantry staples you should always have on hand, and ideas on stretching food on a budget. While many of the recipes now sound old-fashioned, they’re still a useful reference, and occasionally the source of an unexpected and treasured new dish.

When a recipe was particularly beloved, she wrote **** MY FAVORITE! On others she wrote, simply “I like Nanny’s recipe better.” She drew pictures to remind herself how a dish should be plated, and scribbled in the margins tips such as individually freezing egg whites, or knowing when meat is done.

Does this all sound familiar? Like perhaps the old-fashioned equivalent of a blog? We love Lucy’s Kitchen Notebook in part because her inclusions of drawings and handwriting make it a bit more personal, and old-fashioned. Other foodblogs also make references to kitchen notebooks, which they use in addition to their blogs.

We’ve lost a good recipe this week. Of course, it will probably turn up eventually, when we remember which cookbook or blog it came from, or find it in an email sent to a friend. But in the meantime, it has us thinking about starting a kitchen notebook of our own. Something written down, offline, where we can have the space to dream up menus for the week, record successes, and analyze failures. Like our great-grandmother, we’ll paste in clippings of recipes, but perhaps this time, they’ll be printed from the web.

How do you hold onto your recipes and ideas?