Food

How Do You Preserve Family Recipes?

When I got married, my mother-in-law sent me about a dozen family recipes, handwritten on index cards. The recipes were as old-school as the gesture: Beef Stew, Chicken Cacciatore, Meatloaf, a fruit cobbler that called for margarine…

Even though I rarely cook that kind of food anymore, I think of those index cards as the sort of things I’ll give to my daughters someday, on some happy-teary milestone occasion. The only problem? I’m not 100% sure where they are. Maybe they’re shoved inside that spiral notebook I made in the 90s, or spilling out of an accordion file with category tabs, or in one of the two or three binders I used to organize recipes in the prehistoric pre-Pinterest days. Thus, “Find and Preserve Those Index Cards” has been on my Forever To-Do List since 2005.

How do you make sure hand-written family recipes are preserved? Or, relatedly, how do you make sure, say, your grandmother’s legendary minestrone, the one she makes with a little bit of this, a little bit of that — no recipe in sight — is recorded for posterity? When Hawa Hassan and Julia Turshen were collecting recipes for their cookbook, In Bibi’s Kitchenthey describe how the book’s photographers often had to first video the grandmothers (all from eastern African countries) cooking their dishes, and only then would Hassan and Turshen watch the footage and do their best to get the recipe down on paper. It made me think I should do the same with my own mother and mother-in-law.

When my husband’s grandmother died over ten years ago, our Uncle Earl made the most beautiful tribute album that included many of her signature recipes alongside old photos of her. He had to scan each photo and recipe clipping, so it took him a while, but the result is stunningly personal and heirloom-worthy. (He used Apple, which has since stopped printing books, but Shutterfly has similarly elegant layouts.) On the other hand, it might require less time than rekeying the recipes yourself, which you’d likely have to do if you went the digital cookbook route. Many photo websites, like Blurb, offer layouts specifically designed for recipes. Shutterfly has a recipe book option in their customized design offerings, which I played around with and feels very user friendly.

If you’re looking for ways to preserve single recipes, you can find hundreds of artists on Etsy who use fine-tipped paint brushes to trace and paint original handwriting onto a plate or a pie dish. (This is one is from Art Smith Studios.) I love this idea, and think it would make such a beautiful gift.

And over a decade ago, back when magazines had budgets, the magazine I worked for commissioned the wonderful artist Gina Triplett to illustrate special family recipes inside my cabinet door — something both sentimental and practical, since I was always taping recipes to my cabinets when I cooked them. I’m in search of a local artist or an high school AP art student do another one for me. Only issue: I wouldn’t ever move out of my house.

I’d love to hear creative ways you’ve preserved family recipes, please share!

P.S. Nine exciting cookbooks and secret family recipes.

(Top and bottom photo by Chelsea Cavanaugh.)

  1. Becky E says...

    I have a question. I’m retired and about two years ago I went through my mom’s, grandma and my recipes. I have about 5 recipe boxes sorted by casseroles, salads, desserts etc for each one. There are probably at least 100 recipes in each box. 70 percent I’ve never made. I’m sentimental since my mom and grandma have both passed. Should I pitch the ones I haven’t made?

    • Poorva says...

      If you have the time/desire/spoons, making the recipes you haven’t yet would make for a lovely project!

    • Aly says...

      My advice? Find a way to “share” both the food and the recipes. Maybe start a hashtag on Instagram, or a photo album on facebooks. “A picture is worth 1000 words”, as the saying goes. Even just taking a photo of the food you make, next to the recipe, is a sweet reminder to yourself and the loved ones you (still) share with your mother/grandmother. Remember: it doesn’t need to be a “big project” for you to start saving the recipes and memories.

    • Aly says...

      Haha basically: Poova’s advice. I’m not sure what you mean by “pitch” the recipes you don’t/haven’t made. But if I were you, I’d save them/keep them separate from the ones you know/love. Even if you’ll never make ‘em (hello 1950s Jello-molded food haha) they might surprise you by the little joys you might get looking back at them one day.

  2. Teresa says...

    I copied and framed recipes from both my mother and mother in law – they hang in my kitchen – wish I would have thought to get handwritten recipes from my grandmothers :(

  3. one of my favorite gifts I have ever received was a cookbook handwritten by my family with everyone’s favorite recipes. I got it my first Christmas after I moved into my first house. I’ve added to it over the years and i hope to pass it on to my kids when they’re old enough.

  4. Jenna says...

    I recently made, for my mother, a photo book of her mother’s recipes. I scanned in the physical cards, and also typed the recipes, so they would be really clear. And included family photos. She LOVED it! My cousins joined in and ordered copies for their parents as well. I used Mixbook. It was so easy!

  5. Anne Rüsing says...

    Last year I made my teenage kids an advent calendar: One tried-and-true recipe per day, printed and laminated, plus a book to stick them in on the 24th. My daughter then requested a fully-year recipe calendar for her birthday … not sure I can manage :-)

  6. noodle says...

    I’ve seen a Spoonflower tutorial where you upload photos of the handwritten recipes to be printed onto fabric – for teatowels! I love the idea, and hope to do it one day… such a great family christmas gift idea.

    • Yvonne says...

      I’ve done that and it turned out great!

  7. Yvette Michael says...

    For Granny’s 90th birthday in 2016, my mum asked all her 8 children and 16 grandkids to write a short note about a favorite food she made. We are a family scattered all over the world, with granny holding down the fort in Malaysia. Someone is always visiting, so she has always been busy making ‘special treats’ for visitors.
    My Mum, her eldest daughter, turned the collection of short snippets, along with recipes into a glorious book. Her 90th birthday was also the last time we were ALL home together with her.
    This pandemic year has had none of us traveling to Malaysia. She will be 95 in October, and we stay in touch via Facetime. The saving grace, has been this recipe book. We have made as many recipes as we can, calling her for advise and sharing our baking success and fails. This book has been magic – but I won’t lie, I miss my grandmother immensely.

  8. A says...

    Every Thanksgiving and Christmas my grandma makes… *the rolls* Yeasty, fluffy, tiny rolls that take about 5 hours to make and are essentially butter held together with a little flour. The cousins used to have contests to see who could eat the most, but now that we’re closer to 40 than 15, we politely eat 3.. or 4…… A couple of years ago my grandma tripped and broke her wrist, so my sister and I were tasked with the making of *the rolls* – which turned out to be a really good thing, because our test batch turned into several test batches and about 5 calls to Grandma. Despite her assurances that she followed the recipe (photocopied out of a magazine however many years ago) exactly, it turned out that there were quite a few tweaks she’d incorporated over the years! Thank God she’s alive and well, turning 94 this summer and her biggest complaint is pandemic boredom, missing her busy social calendar… but I’ll always be thankful we didn’t wait until it was too late to fill the photocopied page with her notes so we can make those rolls the right way, forever.

  9. Jenn says...

    I recently did an Instagram Story sharing my dad’s Czech pancake recipe but mostly wanted a visual record of it as it’s been a childhood favourite of mine but I never remember how to make them. It seemed to bring a lot of people joy so I’m thinking of continuing a series of my dad going step-by-step sharing family recipes! The video element also helps because he doesn’t measure anything and just *~*feeeeels*~* it out.

    • Zoe says...

      Did he make palačinky?? Would love to see that!

  10. Erika Hanna says...

    For my wedding, I made a custom cookbook as a favor for all my guests. I asked each of the people invited to the wedding to send us favorite recipes, and I included all of the classic dishes I wanted to pass on to any future kids. Since then, as I add new favorites to my repertoire, I write them into the blank spaces that were left throughout the book. I also saved about 15 of them, so I can pass them on to folks who weren’t at the wedding. I was so touched this year when my nephew, who was my ringbearer, asked for a copy as his high school graduation present this year. One of the best projects I’ve ever done.

  11. About 10 years ago I converted my fat file of collected recipes into a binder using page protectors. Included are recipes my mom wrote down, menus from past parties, the bean soup I made all the time in college and recipes written down for us when we were married. I use this binder weekly, and my kids reference it often. Best of all, if I find a favorite recipe on the internet, I can print it and save it for later use.

  12. M says...

    Random aside but the cabinet in the last photo looks EXACTLY like mine: the tall shelf for the vinegars and oils, then short shelf for the baking powder and vanilla extract, then medium shelf for the honey and medium baking things. Even the sugar, etc. in the leftover jam jar or whatever. (I’m sure this is the same as like 70% of people, probably, but the familiarity struck me.)

  13. Alyssa says...

    Thank you so much for this post! I inherited all of my Grandmother’s recipes when she passed way: a collection of cookbooks and a tin of her index cards (typed on a typewriter or handwritten). I was only 15 at the time, and in the decade-plus since; my appreciation for how valuable this knowledge is has only grown. It is not only a snapshot of the work of my Norwegian-American grandmother over the course of her life. It isn’t simply fond memories. She gave me, through her recipes, a snapshot in time of what life was like for her in America. I have her signed 1948 cookbook from her time at cooking school in Chicago. Food shaped by jello molds were all the rage. *So fancy* then. I have her “Pioneer Cook Book”, with its recipes collected from predominately Scandinavian settlers, and with the Scandinavian recipes these “Pioneers” brought with them when they moved here en masse in the 1840s-1880s. I’ve learned to appreciate the knowledge passed down to us through written recipes.

    My favorite quote from her “Pioneer Cookbook”: “The women, too, helped each other. The Norwegian women took gifts of rommegrot to new mothers, regardless of nationality. They exchanged recipes as we do today… Cooking truly unites all nationalities”. I couldn’t agree more.

    • Lori says...

      I love your insights into the value of your grandmother’s culinary knowledge and skill. The quote is beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Lisa says...

    For my cousin’s 40th birthday, I collected recipes from family members (including some the our shared grandmother used to make) and made a recipe book for her (I think I used blurb). It was so much fun to do, and I made a copy for myself which was a great move – I use it all the time for cake recipes. It turns out our family is really into making cake. I would love to do the same for my husband’s side of the family. His grandmothers were AMAZING cooks and bakers. One used to borrow the oven from the bakery downstairs when she made all her pastries for Purim and she used to hand make couscous every Friday night for her children.

  15. Lynn says...

    I was not expecting to cry so much reading these comments. Thank you, everyone, for the inspiration to better codify my favorite hobby and the courage to ask my elders to share their wisdom. And thank you, Jenny, for creating the space. xo

  16. natacha says...

    I would like to share a French project with you that I find beautiful and moving (probably even more so now). The idea is to film her grandparent making her childhood’s favorite recipe. Everything is collected on this website: http://grandmasproject.org/fr/

  17. Alex H. says...

    One of the best Christmas gifts I received : my mother collected recipes from her family (mandatory handwritten) and then in a photo album with stacked horizontal photos : each page was a photo of the family member with their recipe in the sleeve below. I cried. Its the most amazing way to carry their favorite recipes with me forever.

  18. Jana says...

    Not charming but intensely practical: I store all my recipes on Trello. You can create boards by theme (dinner parties, tried and true favorites, things I want to try) and then type in the recipe or add a link.

  19. Alison D says...

    I’m so lucky that my mom was the chair of her Junior League Cook Book Committee and she snuck all of my grandmother’s favorite family recipes into the book, so I now have them all in one place.

  20. Lo says...

    My mom was never an avid cook but she had some staples that were tasty and memorable. She has Alzheimer’s now and it never occurred to me during the loss of her memory to gather them for safe keeping. Well, during quarantine I found her very old Betty Crocker cookbook -tattered, stained etc. and discovered some of her treasures of my childhood in there. It’s been such a joy and comfort. My new favorite cookbook.

    • Lory says...

      I have my mom’s old cookbook with drops of vanilla and cocoa on the page where the Fudge Cuts recipe is. That is one thing I requested from my brother after she died. It’s now on my shelf with other things that bring back memories of my mom.

  21. Rosa says...

    My mom was pretty sheltered growing up and didn’t learn how to cook from her mother. Her mother passed away when she was just in her teens. So, when she married my dad she didn’t know how to boil water. Over the years my paternal grandmother taught her to cook pretty much everything that my mother knows how to cook now. She’s an amazing cook who will whip up 10 apple pies and 10 meat pies out of the blue. When she made homemade bread growing up she didn’t make 1-2 loaves, it was more like 15-20. I’ve always understood the value in learning from her so I know how to make her pies, her turkey stuffing, and certain family meals. The men in my family are good cooks as well and my dad taught me how to clean fish and cook different fish dishes, how to make traditional Mi’kmaq bread (Luskinigan) and d’oh boys for stews. This year I sat down with my mother to talk with her and write down her most special recipes. Then I printed copies and put them in blank cook books which I gave to each of my siblings for Christmas. I like to try cooking different things so anything I make from the internet I print out and put a copy in my spice cupboard to use again.

  22. Laura says...

    When my mother passed away I edited a book with all the recipes she liked (hers but also from family and friends). She made the work easier because she had prepared a document called “La cocina de Mama”. A graphic designer did the editing and we added lots of pictures of her. I added a subtitle “From paella to guefilte fish”. Because her recipes where her life; a mix of Ashkenazi roots, Argentinean childhood and emigration to Europe. My aim was for her grandchildren to know who she was through her cooking and I think it worked.

  23. jdp says...

    my dad was a high school english teacher, and for every senior class he would have his students carefully research a favorite family recipe, write it up, include a brief essay on why it was special, and then he would collect them all into a book as a final class project. he had some international students, so the process became a trade in culture as well as recipes. the students would then cook and share their prepared foods with the class at the end of year. best project ever, and i still have and use one of those laminated little cookbooks.

    i also still have my dad’s own recipes (he loved to cook), type-written for me in his voice, a voice i can hear when i cook from them. to add to his sauce: “use wine that’s just ok, but not so terrible that you wouldn’t want to drink it.” etc. treasures.

    • Ileana says...

      wow, your dad is a treasure!!

  24. Maddy says...

    My mom passed away from cancer almost two years ago. She was a wonderful baker and cook! Long after leaving the house I would call her with questions about cooking and baking for my family. While she had been fighting cancer I had the thought to make a cookbook of all her recipes for my family, at first I wanted it to be a surprise for her, but I soon realized I would need her input. When I asked her she was in hospice and I worried she would be too tired, but she perked up and loved the idea. I’m so glad I asked her! I learned a lot about her recipes, history, how she changed a recipe from the original, little anecdotes and she added a lot of recipes that I wouldn’t have remembered to add myself. She actually passed away 3 days later, it was out last project together. It is a treasure! And know when I can’t call her to get her help with a recipe, I can look in my cookbook and feel her with me in the kitchen. I added pics of mom and her recipes and stories, I love it. (I used heritage cookbook to print the books)

  25. Natasha says...

    When my cousin married, I had one of our grandmother’s handwritten recipes printed on a kitchen towel for her.

  26. SarahN says...

    This sort of post reminds me, I want to print my blog I started in 2013, which is into 9 sections, each book between 60 & 160 pages! I’m not in love with it staying on the internet, but I do want to capture the memories and photos! I’ve done the first step (downloading), but where to print them is stumping me. Any ideas? (I’m in Australia, which likely impacts things!)

    • Rusty says...

      Kmart! Of all places, Kmart!!!
      My best friend travels a LOT, well pre-Covid, and turns ger photos into books…through Kmart.
      You can either sort it on your home PC, if you’re handy eith kayout OR go in-store for a little gelp.
      Also, Snap Print is great, and help much, much more than Kmart.
      Even Officeworks has this service!!!
      GO FORTH AND DO IT!

    • SarahN says...

      Thank you Rusty! You are my saviour – I’d not considered Kmart!

  27. Rina says...

    A few words of advice, don’t let too much time pass you by. Every day is a gift and there are no guarantees. We loved my mother in law and her Italian cooking: the amazing aromas, the mouthwatering flavours and the soul satisfying taste. She passed three years ago and even through her brief illness and in knowing we didn’t have much time with her, we were hesitant to ask for her recipes. As if we were admitting we knew she’d be gone soon and that hurt more than we could bear. As my husband was sitting at her hospital bedside he found the courage to ask what the secret to her sugo was. For that brief time, she perked up as if she had a mission and happily recited her recipes for several of her dishes over the next few days as my husband recorded the conversations on his phone. The medications made her forgetful and the long pauses of “I’m thinking” made us smile. She passed shortly after but we have her familiar voice guiding us through our Sunday dinner prep. I’ve since transcribed her words and printed them in a binder for our son. I’ve added my family recipes from my mother and will continue to do so with mine. I’m hoping he will cherish them (whether or not he actually tries his hand in the kitchen some day). Few things in life bring back memories like food.

    • Nicole says...

      I love this. I’m the cook of the family and I can definitely see that reciting my recipes to a loved one would be an honor and a fun thing for me to do on my deathbed. What a funny realization to have! I would love to think of my family enjoying my recipes after I’m gone. Kind of like I could still take care of them. I’m sure your mother-in-law was thrilled that her son was interested. (Giving my son side eye right now.)

  28. Laurel says...

    Feel compelled to comment for the first time after years! I grew up in an American family overseas without access to convenience foods or “shortcut” ingredients. We cooked a lot. As a high school graduation gift to myself before moving to the US alone for college, I photocopied all of the recipes that I wanted to be able to make on my own and organized them in a binder. I still remember lining them up carefully- layering handwritten ones on cookbook pages to make the most of paper space. My eating habits fluctuated over the following years- vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free- but when I wasn’t eating much there were still things I could make that tasted like home, and when I returned to eating in a way that was more in-tune with my body’s needs, there were more recipes were still there for me.

  29. Amanda says...

    My mother-in-law had a “famous” spice cake in which she used a specific tea cup to measure with. She had a set of the tea cups and gave them to people as they joined the family. Being the newest member to marry in (10 years ago) I got the last cup <3 I am terrified it may break someday. Try making a recipe using “the cup” not “A cup”… not to mention that she now has altimeters and can’t remember the cake at all let alone how to make it…. <3

    • Sally says...

      I would weigh out the contents of “the cup”, so even if the worst happens, you know that “the cup” is the same as (for example) 5 oz.

  30. lk says...

    when my son went off to his first apartment during college I made him a book of all of the recipes that we loved to cook together at home. Every few pages I would tuck a $20 bill in- for when the new cook had an epic fail and needed to order pizza- because we all are new cooks at one point in our lives- It was the best gift he got during those 4 years- and this thanksgiving, he made a lot of the food and it was great! food is a love language- and even though he is a distance away- when we talk cooking, we are together in the kitchen and in my heart.

    • My mom did this for me too!! When I left the South and headed to LA, she filled half a blank journal with beloved family recipes- most have little notes and stories about the person who claims the recipe or the occasion when the family would make it. I remember being like “ugh, okay mom I’ll never use this”, but I started using it in my 30s and it’s one of my most treasured items. I bring it home with me and she adds to it. I’ve encouraged friends to do this for their kids, it’s such a special thing- I feel like I have my mom in the kitchen with me.

      (and I didn’t get the $20s, but would have definitely taken those all out from the start 😂)

  31. Sarah says...

    Six years ago I made kitchen towels with a cherished recipe from each of the important women in my life and gave my mom a set. One of the recipes is my Memaw’s Cornbread Dressing and every year on Thanksgiving my dad searches through the cabinets for the recipe and every year I just hold up the towel that’s usually right next to him lol. Oh and I also frame them with a photo of the woman who passed it down and it’s fun to “cook with my grandmothers.”

    • Emma says...

      That is so *priceless* , Thank you for sharing that with us here.

  32. Sharon B. says...

    Before she got married, my mom spent a few days (weeks?) in the kitchen with her grandma sticking her hand under every pinch and measuring out then transcribing all the family recipes into a notebook. When I was growing up, my mom would pull that notebook out over and over, eventually adding her own mom’s recipes and some of her own. When I got engaged, and knew she wasn’t ready to part with the now fading notebook, I asked to borrow the notebook and spent countless hours transcribing the whole thing into a OneNote digital notebook. I categorized items by dish type and even translated many of the recipes from Spanish to English. I pull up that OneNote on my phone all the time when I’m cooking.

  33. Jennifer says...

    I have to admit I went extremely above and beyond here… but I’m a designer so it was a very “me” move. Last year for Christmas, I finally went through and cataloged my favorite family recipes, with a couple more face quarantine cooking selections, made illustrations or found pictures I had for each one, and designed a 60 page book I had printed for family and close friends. The reactions (and tears!) made it worth all the hard work.

    • Jen says...

      That’s amazing!

  34. Juliette says...

    The Christmas I was 8, I gave my grandma a notebook that I decorated with a kitchen towel (!) and a sticker with “Grandma’s recipes” on it. I told her to start writing her recipies in there. I don’t really remember anything about it after that. When she passed away when I was 24, the notebook was saved for me, she had made a note that it was mine (we are a lot of cousins!) Inside were all my favorite recipes of hers, in her beautiful hand-writing. There were some magazine recipes glued to it with notes (“Not so great, not worth it”, or “use half the sugar” and such). The kitchen towel is stained and starts to come off, and it’s my most cherished heirloom.

  35. Cynthia Miller says...

    My sister got tea towels printed with handwritten recipes that each of my grandmothers was famous for in the family. It’s lovely to have the recipe, but even more to have it in their handwriting.

  36. Emma says...

    One of the best gifts I’ve ever thought of (if I do say so myself) was for my sisters wedding. I had a box engraved with their wedding logo and reached out to all the family and friends I could think of to send me recipe cards for it. I got so many recipes from all parts of their lives. It was so cool to see all the recipes and save them, many with special notes, for the future.

    • For my cousin’s kitchen tea a few years everyone was asked to bring a recipe along with a piece of kitchen equipment or ingredient that went along with that recipe (so a recipe for cinnamon scrolls and a jar of cinnamon).

  37. Michele White says...

    I’ve preserved all our family’s treasured recipes in a Plum Print recipe book and I love it!

  38. Elizabeth says...

    I have my mother’s recipe book, an organizational mess, but if I rearranged anything I would never find it. It takes forever to find what I’m looking for but I love the process of searching. It’s like a diary of her married life, documenting various bridge clubs, garden clubs, friends of her mother’s who lived in her small farming community, and recipes sent to her from her mother. The most treasured piece of paper is a note my brother wrote at about age 6: “Mom, I hav gon to scool. You no wi I hav gon to scool. You WIL NOT go faster.” “I guess he was mad about something,” my mom always said but she could never recall what.

    About 20 years ago I started writing down menus of meals my mother made. “Pork chops, succotash, baked potato.” “Stir-fry chicken, peas, rice, green salad.” I knew I would never remember the simple but nutritious and tasty combinations she fed her family. I wish I’d written more but I’m grateful for what I have and they’ve come in handy. Despite our current trend of purging items and digitizing everything, I think it’s a gift to our future selves to save written documents — recipes, lists, instructions, letters — from the people we love.

    • Lauren says...

      Yes, I’ll bet future generations will think we were out of our mind with some of the things we threw out during the early 21st-century minimalism craze!

  39. AMK says...

    “I think of those index cards as the sort of things I’ll give to my daughters someday, on some happy-teary milestone occasion.” If anyone has sons, please include them in these rituals and milestones. Cooking is such a beautiful, magic and CRITICAL life skill for all humans (it is non-gender specific). It is important that ALL kids are taught these skills. I work at a university and many students don’t know how to cook for themselves. But most importantly, men can also learn (and are very capable of learning) how to express their love for their family through cooking.

    • Brandy Taylor says...

      Took the words right out of my mouth, thank you!

    • Ali says...

      I do not disagree , but this is a personal story, and she has daughters. Can’t imagine the wording was meant to be exclusionary. She is simply sharing her feelings and desire to pass on her family’s recipes/heritage/history to her children.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh yes, Jenny doesn’t have sons! :) I’m sure she would pass down recipes to boys if she had them.

    • AMK says...

      Oh sorry, this was more of a message in general for those who have sons (in addition to daughters). Cooking is so important for all humans so it was a general PSA but wanted to highlight that piece of the article. Family traditions are incredibly personal and wonderful opportunities for all members of a family to be involved 💕

  40. When I was a senior in college, I decided I needed to learn how to cook. My grandma had recently had a hip replacement and was stuck in her apartment, which I knew was hard for her because she was always running around doing things in her community. So I started calling her on my way to class/whenever I was walking somewhere to keep her company, and one day I asked her to send me recipes to make so I could practice cooking. My grandma used to own a cafe and was always in the kitchen. Suddenly I was receiving letters and letters full of old, yellow note cards with her recipes on them. They were SO midwestern circa 1950. I had to look up was Crisco was because I had never heard of it before! I decided to do something special for her 90th birthday, so over the course of the semester I made several of her recipes and took pictures of myself making them and the final products. I didn’t change a single ingredient, so I used a LOT of butter (which it turns out makes everything taste good). It was way too much food for me to eat (meatballs, lasagna, numerous hot-dishes and layer bars, brownies, cinnamon roles) so I invited my friends over all the time to eat and they got to experience a little bit of my grandma too. One time I came home from the library after midnight and half of the boy’s lacrosse team was in my kitchen eating her homemade kit-kat bars! I put everything together (recipes and pictures) into a book called Cooking with my Grandma and decorated the cover with pictures of her. My grandma wasn’t a very expressive woman, so when I gave it to her on her birthday she said, “Well that’s nice.” But I knew she loved it because I caught her reading it several times that day and my relatives said it was all she talked about for weeks. We were working on a holiday edition when she died. To this day I think about it, and I’m so glad it was something we got to share with each other. And now I have a recipe book for the next time I’m missing her and want to eat her coffee-cake-pull-apart bread or apple jelly meatballs.

    • Katie says...

      This is so so sweet, so kind of you to do that for your Grandma and so cool you now have all these recipes and memories.

  41. Jessi says...

    This is so beautiful! I absolutely love the album and the cabinet interior door.

    Years ago, we found a vintage recipe box at a huge antique market that was completely stuffed with handwritten recipes and clippings from magazines and news papers. There was a note on the inside of the recipe box that said the name of the woman it belonged to, Laverne. When we bought it we wondered who she was and which ones were her favorites. I guess it felt like in some way we were keeping this strangers memories alive so all of her family secrets weren’t forgotten. We’ve made a few recipes from the box in her honor. She has a ton of dessert recipes so I think we would have gotten along splendidly.

    • Jess says...

      What a find!
      On the rare chance that I see an estate sale and have time to stop (around here they always seem to be on a Friday when I am working), I always look for recipe boxes and well-used cookbooks. They are amazing. I like taking time to imagine all the love and work that went into making them, asking friends and family for something they made that was delicious, clipping something that sounds good from a magazine and tucking it in for making someday, scribbling notes about what should be changed next time around. Like a mini treasure chest.

  42. Erin says...

    When my daughter was born, I started writing down the recipes we frequently make into a notebook (and indexing them), as well as some special recipes (like her birthday cake each year or the Christmas cookies we make). I plan to give it to her when she sets up her own home. I adore the recipe box with index cards that I inherited from mother, but it’s not easy to sort through and find what you’re looking for!

  43. Melissa says...

    For Christmas, my mother put together a custom cookbook with all of her original family recipes. Next to Aunt Janet’s recipe, was a photo of Aunt Janet in her kitchen. Next to my grandmother’s amazing gravy recipe was a picture of us all of at that Thanksgiving table a few years back.
    My mother printed six copies and gave us each a copy. I will treasure it for always.
    She mailed all the recipes to Plum Print and they photographed the recipes and designed the whole book for her. She said it was super easy.

  44. Jenn says...

    When my grandma died 15 years ago, I inherited her beloved recipe book. It’s lovely collection of recipes that she collected over many years from friends and family and is the source of all our family recipes. It was also, unfortunately, mostly handwritten by her in pencil. I noticed a couple years ago that it was getting increasingly hard to read and I was so nervous about losing this piece of our family history. To preserve it, I scanned all the pages of the book and turned it into a beautiful hardcover cookbook through Blurb. I printed two: one for my mom and one for her sister. They both loved it – my mom read the entire book cover to cover more than once and loved to reminisce about her favorite memories around each recipe – and around the person who had given the recipe to my grandma. I wanted to give it to my mom for her birthday in December, two years ago. It was so much work and I almost put off printing it for another six months to a year. Luckily I didn’t put it off, because my mom unexpectedly passed away a couple months after she received it. I’m so grateful that she had the time with it and that she had the opportunity to reflect on all the good memories that were associated with her mom and growing up. It’s amazing how so many memories are tied to food and the love that went into preparing that food. I’m also grateful that these books are in our family and that my grandma’s memory – and her jello and carrot salad -will continue to live on.

    • Gay Dahl says...

      I have all my grandmother’s and mother’s handwritten recipes in a cookbook binder in my cupboard. Many are stained and tattered from use and some are incomplete as I can only imagine that when they were cooking, a drop of cream or something yummy must have washed away the ink. Some were on recipe cards but most were on a scrap of paper they found near. Next to them in my binder, are hand written notes they gave me throughout the years. When I get the recipes out, I put on my grandmother’s apron and read those notes before I cook or am waiting for something to bake and it’s as if they are right there with me. It’s super sweet (much like their homemade cinnamon rolls ) and a little bit of heaven right there in my small kitchen. Blessed beyond measure.💕

  45. Emily says...

    Thank you for this post – we lost my dad on November 29 and it’s been hard on my mom. My dad loved to cook, but towards the end of his life had only one real recipe that he made regularly; Vietnamese ground pork, which the three of us loved. My mom’s birthday is in March and a plate like the one shown would be a beautiful gift for her provided I can find his recipe!

  46. Catherine says...

    When we got married, someone close to us gifted a homemade wooden recipe box. A number of friends and family had then given us a few recipes to start off our collection. I have continued to fill it with my own favorites. I will forever have not only what they shared, but in their own handwriting.

  47. G says...

    As an archivist, I would absolutely not recommend digitisation as a way of preserving a physical item. It absolutely might make it easy to access, so that would be a good reason, but if you’re digitising to ensure that it’s preserved long-term you really need to think about potential issues. Where will you store it? Will you back it up in multiple places? Will you copy it across to new hard-drives every couple of years? What if the file format becomes obsolete? What if it just randomly degrades? Preserving digital files is way more complicated than preserving paper!

    • Jen says...

      I agree. I saved many projects from art school on zip files. Enough said.

    • Twyla says...

      Two words: floppy disk.

    • Laurie says...

      I completely agree! This would be a good topic to address in a CoJ post, especially since they seem to know some skilled photographers who may shed insight into this. How to manage your thousands of digital photos with the future in mind? Printing the best ones out? Most services use cheap ink that will fade… Are there good companies that provide archival products?

      I have photos from the 1920s that are holding strong and I worry that my future grandkids won’t get to look at any of our pictures in 2120! (Although they may concerned by how skinny all our pants were. Ha!).

    • Lauren says...

      LOVE this comment. Digital copies are way safer and more permanent–not to mention convenient–than paper copies. . . until they aren’t!

    • Jen says...

      I second Laurie’s request for suggestions for managing/printing digital photos. I have a 6 and 4yo and never even completed baby albums…and now I have millions of photos that just sit in my phone and computer. Please help!

    • miche says...

      The other thing to remember about digital copies is to add information about the document/scan/photo to the metadata so that someone in the future will be able to identify people, places, items when you are not around to help them.

    • M says...

      chiming in to say yes please on a post regarding this

    • Jeannie says...

      I recently took a course by Miss Freddy – professional photo organizer. It might be a good resource for Joanna/CoJ

  48. Maggie says...

    I have acquired a few new cookbooks in the last year as I have recently got into cooking. While I am still years away from starting my own family, I have begun to annotate my cookbooks to turn them into heirlooms that I hope to pass on. I bought a stamp to punch on the date that I made something and often also write notes next to it on what to change or additions I made. I hope to look back on the recipes and tell stories of when I first made them in quarantine in my 20s.

  49. Stephanie says...

    My grandmother’s recipes were handwritten in pencil on index cards and shoved haphazardly into boxes. She had hundreds of them for cookies, cakes, punches, appetizers and more, all things she whipped up for large gatherings of my grandfather’s university students in their New York City apartment in the 50s and 60s.

    The boxes sat largely untouched for years, until about two years ago when my mom and I decided to organize, digitize and test the recipes. I could not for the life of me read my grandmother’s handwriting, so my mom translated as I typed. It was an arduous yet delightful process as we discovered all my grandmother’s little quirks.

    She was lax on details yet always gave credit to the friends and family members that shared their recipes. Some cards have little notes at the top, such as “delicious!” or “wonderful!” Others have ingredients and instructions crossed out and amended after trial and error. And she held on to so many duplicates — each recipe only slightly different!

    Though the handwritten cards will live on, we’re now able to use the recipes more regularly in a 63-page (!) PDF. The effort has paid off with all the pandemic baking I’ve done. We only scratched the surface of her collection when COVID-19 hit, and I’m looking forward to the day my mom and I can continue the project.

    • Hanna says...

      Wow, that is soincredible (and so much work!). Great job!!

  50. Lu says...

    Neither my husband nor I have “family recipes.” In fact neither of us spent much time in the kitchen growing up (he wasn’t allowed in and I come from a family who celebrated holiday meals at restaurants). But now we both love to cook (and draw) and a few years ago wrote and illustrated our own cookbook as a holiday gift for friends and family. There’s something about feeding people that is so fulfilling. I’m glad I’m getting to appreciate it in my adult life.

  51. When my mother died 5 years ago, I discovered that the things that were most dear to me were things with her handwriting on them. About 15 years ago she hand wrote a recipe book for me. It had space to add my own recipes, so now it’s a mixture of old and new, but it never fails to make me feel so close to her when I hold it in my hands and cook from it.

  52. Lora says...

    My husband’s aunt once asked her Grandma, “Can you give me your roast recipe? It’s always perfect!!” Sweet Great-grandma: “Make sure you choose a good roast. Stick your hand in your oven to make sure it’s the right temperature. Pay attention to the smell and pull it out as soon as it’s done.” No need for written recipes when you cultivate skillz for decades! She also cracked wheat for breakfast and went on a multi-mile every morning, up until the day she died at 102 years. Total inspiration.

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      That’s amazing. She sounds like a true legend.

  53. Blythe says...

    Jenny, this is such a helpful post! I have been “planning” on making a family cookbook for the last three Christmases, but… it hasn’t happened. I love all the ideas I’ve gotten from the comments. Thank you!

  54. Simone says...

    I don’t have any family recipes passed down to me due to unfortunate childhood circumstances. But I’ve made it my goal to find a couple of recipes that are special to my husband and boys and preserve them in handwritten copies, even when it’s so much easier to just print out or email. I’ve had to make a lot of my own happy memories, and I hope one day my children cherish the hand-written copies!

    • Lisa says...

      Simone, bravo to you. I feel the same. My family’s memories will start with me, but I love the idea of my boys recreating the recipes and passing them down. Weirdly my 8 year old who has just started cooking one family meal each week in 2021 asked if we could make a recipe book with ‘mum’s chicken soup, the family chicken curry, dad’s secret taco recipe and dad’s beef in red wine”. I’m sure he’ll have one of his own to add by the end of the year.

  55. Sara says...

    When I asked my Mom to teach me how to make my great-grandmother’s fudge recipe, she so kindly gave me a walk through the process and then put together a small photo album showing how everything should look at each step along the way. I cherish those pictures and the handwritten notes on the sides of the album.

    • Kari says...

      My mom made me a set of tea towels with family recipes on them and it really is the sweetest gift! I’m now afraid of using them because I don’t want them to wear but they are so special. :)

  56. Sadie says...

    My friend hosted a Great Quarentine Bake Off. We all swapped cookies and judged them by taste, appearance, and over-all. I’m not much of a baker so I turned to my Grandma’s Raspberry Jam Thumb Print Cookies. I placed in each category and I felt so connected to her that day.

  57. My mom put together a book of recipes that my family loves to make as well as my grandma’s cherished recipes into a three ring binder. She put pictures of my siblings and I in the kitchen growing up along with pictures of my kids baking. My mom even has pictures of her as a kid in the kitchen in the book. She continues to add pages to it. It’s one of my most cherished gifts.

  58. Anna says...

    For Christmas, my mother in law had kitchen towels printed with a recipe in my late father in law’s handwriting. So sweet! We’re using one (er, wrecking one, because it’s white) and I plan to frame the other one and hang it in our next kitchen or pantry.

  59. Caitlin says...

    This is so timely and I’m loving the comments!! My mom has never been a real cook or enjoyed cooking,but lately I have been wanting to document some of her recipes. There are some things she makes that are just HER and will always evoke her love and comfort (cottage cheese stuffed shells! Choc chip cheesecake! Blue cheese bites…funny how childhood regulars seem insignificant at the time and then give us so much later on). Thank you!!

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      Well said, Caitlin. I feel like I’ve built a whole food writing career on the last sentence. :)

  60. Rachael says...

    I’ve got to try the cabinet meatball recipe! My mom passed away around 20 years ago and she was a fantastic cook who always did things by taste. She made the best spaghetti sauce ever and even though I’ve gotten written versions of it mine is never the same.

  61. Andrea says...

    this thread reminds me of a weird but marvelous illustrated cookbook, _A Russian Jew Cooks in Peru_, by Violeta Autumn. I wish I could post images of its pages here. Really worth seeking out. Great haimish Jewish recipes, and of course Peruvian food is one of the marvels of the world, but all the recipes are this kind of jotted-down-while-watching-your-mom-in-the-kitchen style.

  62. Althea says...

    While not the cutest, we have put everything in Google drive. My grandma is an amazing cook but doesn’t write anything down, or measure anything. We also filmed her, then tried to transcribe it best we could. Also, a lot of the ingredients are Chinese and we don’t always know the direct English translations so we have photos of them attached to the recipes.

    The advantage of having it stored digitally is that it is easy to share across all our family members! We all add notes with tips like substitutions that have worked, measurements (since she notoriously never measures anything) and so forth as we cook through the recipes. It’s really helpful to share tips and I love the idea that these recipes continue to evolve through the generations!

    • Bee says...

      This is brilliant – so helpful to have those vital little tips from every direction, AND the photo!

  63. Stacey says...

    A few years ago I collected all my sibling’s favorite recipes – the ones they’ve started making regularly and their childhood favorites. I reached out to my Mom and Dad for their recipes and then spent the year cooking, baking, and photographing them so I could make a cookbook. It was a lot of work, but the gifts were well received and now everyone has a piece of home readily available in their own kitchens wherever they are.

    • Bee says...

      I love this idea.

  64. There are so many beautiful ideas here!

    My mom hosted a wedding shower for me and my then-fiance. She bought a recipe box with cards and gave the cards to all the aunts/uncles and cousins she’d invited. They all wrote recipes for me! I still have those recipe cards filed in the box and have added more cards over the years when a recipe from anywhere makes the cut and goes into regular rotation.

    • RS says...

      Someone did this for me at my shower too – everyone in attendance filled out recipe cards and I went home with a beautiful box full of them with lots of blank cards for expansion. I’ve kept it up and it’s now filled with our favorite home recipes. It’s such a joy to come across those original ones now and again, the handwriting makes me smile even if we don’t always make the gifted recipe.

  65. AR says...

    A few years ago, my husband’s grandma passed away a couple of months before Christmas. I wanted to honor her- to show him that I saw and understood his grief. I took a copy of one of her handwritten recipes (Easter bun, which my husband loves), blew it up and had it framed. My husband is a man of few words and generally non-emotional but choked up at the gift. He now proudly displays it in his otherwise austere office.

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      That is incredible. What a beautiful gesture.

  66. Hannah says...

    Ever since I’ve known him, my husband has been raving about the family recipe for pie crust and his mom’s amazing pumpkin pie. His great grandmother had a storied special technique, and she was so particular about it that she didn’t think her two daughters were worthy and skipped a generation to pass it on to my mother-in-law. In fact, my husband always said that she was excited about my MIL joining the family because she could make her pie.

    Fast forward many years, we get married and start hosting Thanksgiving, and it becomes my responsibility to make the pie. My MIL came over with the family secrets: a Betty Crocker cookbook from the 1950s for the crust and a can of Libby’s Pumpkin Pie mix! Apparently, their “secret recipe” was to make life easy on themselves and enjoy a cup of coffee before the big meal. So now I keep that Betty Crocker cookbook hidden in the back of a cabinet and keep their wonderful life lesson in my heart….

    • sienna says...

      That Betty Crocker cookbook rocks! I grew up on those recipes. The original is still in my mothers cupboard; missing one cover, held together with elastic, a multitude of post-it’s and scraps of paper sticking out all over.

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      That made me laugh. Once, I asked my grandmother-in-law’s best friend what the secret to her angel food cake was and she said she’d mail a copy to me. A week later, an index card arrived with instructions. It began “Start with one box of Betty Crocker angel food cake mix…”
      I think that generation was on to something!

    • Essa says...

      This was also my great grandmothers secret pumpkin pie recipe. I make it every year in her honor, and my fathers, who finally got the secret from her, and delighted in sharing the story and the tradition.

  67. We are expecting our first child in a couple of weeks. This past Christmas, my sweet husband, knowing how much I cherish the recipes that my mom has passed on to me, bought me this book: https://www.amazon.ca/Moleskine-Passion-Recipe-Journal-Large/dp/B079ZV792M/ref=sr_1_12?dchild=1&keywords=recipe+notebook&qid=1611770548&sr=8-12
    I have slowly started filling it out with some of my childhood favourites, plus favourites that have been staples through the early years of our marriage. I plan to continue to fill it with our soon-to-be-born daughter’s favourites as she grows, and give it to her when she leaves the nest (my heart!). If we have more babies, I’ll do the same for them, copying the “early years” recipes and including their special favourites.
    I use a little Sprocket printer (https://www.amazon.ca/HP-Sprocket-Portable-Photo-Printer/dp/B07JM42QDX/ref=sr_1_2?crid=2096XBTXBB29D&dchild=1&keywords=sprocket&qid=1611770766&sprefix=sprocket%2Caps%2C234&sr=8-2) for printing cell phone photos easily and paste those in as well. I have photos of the food itself, but also of us enjoying it- including one of our beloved golden retriever slurping up spaghetti! (Definitely get a dog, Joanna!)

  68. Eliza says...

    A few years ago, I took a couple of my grandmother’s recipes that were always family favorites (and that my mom loves to replicate) and I designed two recipe cards using PicMonkey. I then framed them together and gave them to my mom for Mother’s Day. She has them hanging in her kitchen. :-)

  69. V says...

    One Christmas (I think before my husband and I were engaged), my MIL painstakingly put together a large book full of family recipes (albeit, my husband’s family – not my genetic one) for each of her three kids; households – two sons and a daughter. The book has become my go-to for stashing all sorts of important recipes, including and especially my mom’s, who is an unbelievable (and intuitive) cook. While we alternate Thanksgiving and Christmas between his family and mine, my husband’s mom, his sister, and my SIL never fail to exchange recipe cards at Christmas. Almost ten years in, it’s a lovely reminder of whatever it is that we perfected that year – thinking of this, I will definitely pull out my SIL’s coconut chicken soup tonight!

  70. BeckyB says...

    For Christmas this year, my husband bought me this:
    https://us.moleskine.com/passion-journal-recipe/p1321

    I have this fear that if I unexpectedly die, no one will know the recipes to our family’s “Dipping Pancakes” or any of the other dozens of things that I make that give our family its “culinary signature.” The recipes all live in different places on the internet or in my cookbook collection, and no one else knows where they are. My husband encouraged me not to be too precious in my writing, and so I feel pretty free to record it all with my voice and recipe notes. It’s a fun ongoing project, and I hope it will be a resource and a memory book for my kids someday!

    • Meagan says...

      I have the same fear. I have all my moms/family recipes in a book she wrote me when I went to college but my children don’t have access to the recipes that make our family special. What if those Pinterest links suddenly don’t work? Motivated to write them out. 2021 goals that I can probably accomplish.

  71. Jen says...

    Love this post. I’ve been a long time reader of DALS and Jenny’s books. Inspired by her cabinets I ordered a print for my wife’s birthday of a family recipe that always causes controversy. I did some sleuthing, made sure I had her preferred version, and now we are safe from one possible family fight on holidays. I did a lot of hunting for artists. So much talent out there but the price points can get really intense. I used Prince Designs based in D.C. and LOVE LOVE LOVE her work. https://www.etsy.com/shop/DPrinceDesigns?ref=simple-shop-header-name&listing_id=815967226

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      This made me so happy!!!!

  72. Kim says...

    This Christmas I bought a blank recipe book for my 3-year-old son. I am having my mother, mother-in-law, and aunts write our family recipes in it for him alongside the recipes my husband and I are including. I want him to have the recipes that we all share, but it is also important to me that he have their handwriting in the book–I have old cards from my grandmothers and I treasure having something in their handwriting.

    My own recipe book is crammed with sloppily copied recipes from when I had my mom dictate them over the phone and torn pages from magazines. It’s a little messy, but it looks loved!

    • Julia says...

      This is such a great idea! Definitely copying it!!!

  73. When my grandmama passed away I wanted a way to bring some happiness to everyone who traveled for her celebration of life (I flat refused to call it a funeral). Mama and I spent hours going through her old cookbooks and picked out 2 of her most-used recipes. My husband did some design magic and worked them up in a pretty typographic layout and then we printed them as “take aways”. It’s been 8 years and I’ve seen them in family every kitchen we’ve visited since.

    • Maria says...

      wow that´s beautiful!

  74. Emily says...

    My mom loved to bake cookies with her kids/grandkids for occasions – she would bake at least 20 kinds of Christmas cookies for us to all share with friends every holiday. She died in February, and we were able to hold her memorial pre-lockdown. My sister designed a memorial card the size of a recipe card with Mom’s photo on the front and her favorite cookie recipe (in Mom’s handwriting) on the back. It was such a wonderful, personal touch, and I’ve had friends reach out to tell me they have baked the Cherry Winks in Mom’s honor.

  75. Erin says...

    My dad’s mom was well known for her top-notch pie crusts. When I was in my early 20s, I started making pie and got her to give me all her advice for how to get the pie crust to turn out right. She was very precise about everything she cooked or baked, and had a lot of extremely specific instructions: “put two pieces of ice in the water,” “if it ever looks wrong, just stick the whole thing in the freezer for 10 minutes,” and so on.

    A few years later, after she had passed away, one of my younger cousins sent me an email that said “My mom says you have Grandma’s pie tips.” So I wrote this VERY LONG, like CRAZY long, message that included all of our grandmother’s advice plus some other things that had helped me figure out pie crust . I almost didn’t send the email, it was so long, but then I put a note at the the top that said “You know how detail-oriented Grandma was, and you’re also related to her so I’m assuming you are genetically able to be every bit as nitpicky about this process as she was and I am.”

    My cousin said her pie was delicious. :)

  76. Mary says...

    When my parents got married in 1951 my mom’s step-father (who had a wooden box factory) made her an index card file for recipe cards. He illustrated a title (HOW TO BOIL AND EGG AND OTHER RECIPES) and put it under glass on the lid. And he filled the box with recipes for family favorites and with recipes he and my grandmother had cooked from when they’d owned a seaside restaurant. This past year one of my cousins took his “famous” fish chowder recipe…had it illustrated and hand lettered and made into two posters. My cousins and i now have this very special recipe decorating our kitchen walls. And my mom still treasures her box of recipes..which have all been xeroxed and put into binders for the rest of us! Each recipe is also annotated with all of the tips and tricks needed to get them just right!

  77. Amanda says...

    Three years ago, my parents and I visited my grandmother and took a video of her making a recipe she used to make every Christmas. She passed away in July, and while it was difficult to watch that video this Christmas, I felt so lucky to have it, and felt so close to her while making that recipe.

  78. b says...

    I have my paternal grandmother’s sugar cookie recipe on an index card that I keep in the plastic box with the notecards, stamps, address labels, and other miscellany I don’t use often. Sadly, that’s the only family recipe we have. My maternal grandmother isn’t famous for any recipes and my mom hates to cook.

  79. Nicole says...

    After years of keeping hand written (or printed) recipes from family members and various websites in binders (or more appropriately pages spilling out of binders) my husband found the Paprika recipe manager (https://www.paprikaapp.com/). It has been a GAME CHANGER. You can search directly through the app for recipes online and then with one click (yes literally one click) download the recipe. Paprika allows you to easily scale recipes and use tags to easily find things. I manually type in my family recipes to make sure they never get lost.

    • Rachel says...

      We LOVE Paprika so much in this household. Its ability to extract recipes directly from web pages has changed my life.

    • Marie says...

      Yes to Paprika! I love that you can add your own photo to each recipe. The grocery list feature has really helped us cut down on food waste too. I export all my recipes occasionally so I have back ups saved offline as well (and can easily print if needed).

  80. Joana says...

    A few years ago my mom gave my sister and I an amazing present:
    She pulled apart my grandma’s recipe book (all written by hand and illustrated with pictures from magazines <3), scanned each page, asked an amazing guy to sew/bind it back together, leaving it exactly as it was, and do the same for ours. So now we each have an exact replica of my grandma's recipe book, in which my grandma wrote, on the cover, "Recipes" (like on her own). It was one of the best gifts I have ever received!

  81. Mullica says...

    I love these ideas! I have a bunch of clippings from magazines or recipes from blogs. I have a weird fear that all the blogs I like will one day disappear so I need to figure out a way to preserve my favorite recipes and these options look so much prettier than a binder and plastic sleeves.

  82. Kari T. says...

    I’ve had my mom write some out for me herself and then I’ve also printed off pictures she’s taken of hers and my grandma’s recipes. They are all not so neatly stored in a binder.

    Jenny, I love that cabinet recipe idea and was thinking maybe you could have your recipe printed on a decal that you could remove if you move or replace your cabinets :)

  83. MK says...

    My grandmother was never taught how to cook because of a combination of post-war poverty in Korea and because her single mother had to raise 5 other children during an incredibly tumultuous time. But my grandmother eventually figured it out. Then, when she moved to America in her 30s, she relearned how to cook with a limited command of English and sparse ingredients. In her 80s now, she is an incredibly flexible and skilled cook. She knows how to make literally any traditional Korean dish and most Japanese ones.

    Since I was a kid, my mom has recorded my grandmother’s cooking painstakingly on yellow legal notepads while watching her cook. It’s very difficult because the entries conflict with each other. Every time we cook mandu (dumplings, essentially), for example, my grandmother completely changes the recipe. She waffles on whether or not the onions need to be cooked, whether red wine is good for the taste or adds to much moisture, how to fold the mandu wrapping properly. Her fluctuations used to annoy me – I wanted something consistent I could record and remake. But then I realized that she was doing exactly what cooking is supposed to do – she was sharing her life, a mixture of Japanese, Korean, and American identities that, like her cooking, never quite fell into identifiable, repeatable patterns. She never had consistent access to ingredients so she made due with what she could find, so while her recipes were never the same, they were always consistent, and always nourished her family.

    All that to say I don’t have an answer to your question. I am still a bit envious of the families that have recipes passed down throughout generations with only minor adjustments, but that’s not my family’s story. I’m going to continue cooking my grandmother’s recipes the way she did – a rough sketch of the “right” ingredients and a few surprises thrown in to nourish my family where they are right now.

    • MK says...

      I realize after commenting that was more than anyone wanted to know. Your post struck a chord with me and got me reminiscing. It was a surprising and welcome bit of reflection for my morning!

    • Rick says...

      Thank you for sharing the story about your grandmother and mother. I know you said you felt like you shared too much, but I very much enjoyed reading your post. Your grandma sounds like a resilient and persistent person.

    • LN says...

      I think this is a lovely comment and enjoyed all the detail :)

    • Andrea says...

      this is so true for so many immigrant and migrant families — that trait that’s indecision or flexibility or creativity or some mixture of all three! I loved this comment. Thank you for the image, and for making me think.

    • Nadine says...

      Thank you for sharing MK. Loved to read about your family and K love the approach to cooking.

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      MK – I loved this story. And BTW even if your grandmother HAD made her food in a very exacting way, I’m guessing you still would’ve adjusted it. That’s just the way cooking is, especially with handed down recipes. I’ve never made my Great Grandma Turano’s meatballs the same way twice.

  84. Rachel M. says...

    My mom was famous for her cheesecake, my dad said it sealed the deal when she and him were dating! She died when I was 11, my sister was 7. For Christmas one year, I found a company on Etsy that burnt (lasered…is that the word?) her hand written recipe onto a beautiful wooden cheese board. I just scanned the recipe card and they took it from there! The recipe, and her sacred handwriting is preserved, on display in my sister and my kitchens. Now my kids help me make that recipe, and can recognize my mom’s handwriting!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is so beautiful, Rachel!

  85. Paige says...

    “I promise this is the last time I’ll ask…can you send me the beef minestrone recipe again? I promise I’ll save it this time.”

    -an email I write to my Mom, every January

    • Joslyn says...

      Haha, this resonated with me. For me it’s a text message to my aunt for her wine cake recipe. Happens at least twice a year… :)

    • patty says...

      I just call my sister Mary.

  86. Maria says...

    My mom passed away in 2015 and I kept two notebooks where she’s handwritten recipes. She wasn’t much of a cook, but for some reason she had those. I haven’t opened them ever since and don’t know what’s keeping me from doing it.

  87. Ellie says...

    My dad’s side of the family has a 150+ page PDF of recipes from my grandma (some I actually associate with her or are hand written and some are just scans from cookbooks I’m not sure she made with any regularity haha). I particularly love the hamantaschen recipe that’s been scanned and printed so many times that the quantity of eggs looks like 1 when it’s really 4 (I had to call my dad to clarify because the dough definitely looked wrong). I’ve been meaning to turn it into a real book for everyone for a solid 10 years…maybe this is the kick I needed to really work on it! My dad has a 4″ thick binder that’s an absolute mess but if we’re ever looking for anything, it’s somewhere in The Binder.

    As an aside, I have been admiring this custom cutting or serving board. Just need to figure out a recipe that is worthy! https://www.shopwaitingonmartha.com/products/personalized-recipe-board

  88. Mrs. Vandertramp says...

    Took a photo of a recipe and had it printed on linen-cotton at Spoon flower and hemmed in into tea towels.

  89. Sarah says...

    About 10 Christmases ago, one of the gifts my mom gave me and my sisters were handmade “cookbooks” that included about 40 family recipes that she had handwritten (with her legendary, impeccable handwriting) onto index cards for us (mainly b/c we were all constantly calling her requesting said recipes). She passed away from cancer 3 years ago, so today I couldn’t be more grateful for this gift, not only for the recipes themselves, but also for this little piece of her, something she had lovingly put together with her very own hands.

    • Emily says...

      My mom did this for us as well! We baked cookies this Christmas for the first year without her, and it was so wonderful to have this book.

    • A says...

      What a beautiful gift, and something to cherish. This is the reason I write recipes out by hand and put them in our recipe folder, and also the reason that I sew: so that when I pass away my kids will have things I put together with my own hands. Provided they want them, ha! My aunt passed away a year ago at a fairly young age and for the reception at their home after the funeral my uncle and cousin had laid out all the things that she had hand-made over the years: quilts, embroidery, paintings, poems written out in her handwriting, stained glass, etc. It was like she was there with us, with all those pieces of her right there.

  90. Sarah S says...

    When my great-grandmother turned 100 (she lived to be 105), my mom and I asked our extended family to send in favorite recipes of hers. She was an amazing, old school home cook who still lived in her San Francisco home at 100! She outlived her husband by 40+ years. Almost all of the “salad” recipes we received had either mayonnaise or gelatin, which was hilarious to my middle-school self. We compiled the recipes into very unfussy Word documents and had a simple binded cookbook printed at Kinkos (this was the early 2000s). I was very proud of this project at the time! We distributed copies to the family and it’s one of my favorite mementos.

  91. K says...

    This is so precious.

  92. Betsy says...

    I love the recipe book idea in their handwriting. I so wish my grandmother had written down her recipes. They were all in her head. She had 7 children, so no time for recipe writing. I can still taste her delicious green rice, chicken in cream, chili, and so many other recipes. She has been gone 17 years. I can duplicate many of her recipes, but I cannot find a green rice recipe. Some day, hopefully.

  93. MaryB in Richmond says...

    Jenny, you can totally take the cabinet doors with you!

  94. Omaya says...

    I have a similar issue but with organizing family photos. I’d love to see a story on here with others’ tricks in doing so. I am inheriting my grandmother’s pictures so I will have an influx in prints at some point in my life, and I am forever trying to come up with a system for my digital photos that grow exponentially. Help!

    • Samantha says...

      I bought a digital photo scanner a few years ago and borrowed some old family photo albums from my parents and scanned photos over a few months, then gave them a digital photo frame with all the files. (This was pre-smart home hubs)

      Now, I’ve added all those files to a Google Photos album to display on my Google Home hubs throughout the house so we get to see them all the time!
      I got the idea from The Minimalists. https://www.theminimalists.com/scanning/

    • Claire Coffey says...

      Omaya, you should check out Miss Freddy. She is on Instagram, but she has a website also. She is a photo organizer, and she offers classes on how to organize all your photos, including prints. I took her Backup Bootcamp class as well as a few others.

    • Omaya says...

      Thank you both so much!

  95. SB says...

    I’m from a French-Canadian family and my memere (grandma) made the BEST baked beans. The problem was – there was no recipe! She learned from her mother (who probably learned from her mother…) and that was that!

    When my brother was getting married over ten years ago now, my mother was putting together a cookbook for him and his new wife of our family’s recipes – and he requested memere’s beans! So my mother asked her to write down her recipe as she went so that we could have a copy of it.

    It is. hands down. the BEST recipe heirloom I could imagine. She basically wrote a narration of it – adding a bit more water because of the weather, but if the weather was xyz, then you’d do this; when I make them for just me and your pepere (grandpa), I do this cause that’s how he likes them, but when we have company I do that. It is so personal and you can HEAR her as you read it….it’s like she’s right there with you, guiding you through every step.

    Mum made many copies and I think most of us grandkids (and aunts and uncles!) have copies now. I love it.

    • Ellie says...

      This comment feels like a big hug. What a special recipe!!

  96. Kristen says...

    I love that!

    There are a few splatter covered index cards my mom has that I plan to frame someday; however, most of my childhood favorites are in my mom’s head. When I ask for them the response I typically receive are “well it’s more of a method” or “well, you add a *glug glug* of this and a *shake shake shake* of that”. To which my response is usually something like “so is a glug like a tbsp?” And then her response is “No you just eyeball it and you’ll know when it’s good” Lol

  97. Blythe says...

    Uncle Earl’s book! Oh my goodness, my heart! I think a part of the magic of family recipes is the handwriting! I loved looking at recipe cards as a kid. Seeing my grandmother/great-grandmother/great aunt’s handwriting was magical to me. I imagined what they were doing the day they decided to write it out. What was the catalyst to finally putting pen to paper? Their handwritten recipes deepened my connection to them and their delicious food.

  98. Deanne says...

    Decades ago when I was to broke to buy gifts for all my friends getting married right out of college, recipe books were my go to gift. I wrote the family and friends of the bride and groom and asked for their best recipes (favorite Thanksgiving side, easy meals for last minute guests, one to make for when a special guest comes to dinner, comfort food, favorite dessert). I typed them on index cards and put them in photo albums. When I think now of the time it took, I can’t imagine being able to do it now. Many of my friends have remarked recently that this is till one of their favorite gifts and they are still using it 20 years later.

    • Blythe says...

      This is a fantastic idea! I love it!!

  99. celeste says...

    I keep all of mine in a photo album with index card-sized squares. My grandfather was a typist and one week before he retired, he typed my grandmother’s recipes in a booklet. I don’t make red cabbage or some of the things, but stuffed shells and a good chocolate cake recipe never go out of style.

  100. Plum Print takes all of your family recipes and designs them into your very own cookbook for you! So they can be preserved in Grandma’s handwriting forever, to be passed on to future generations. (Yes, originals are returned to you.)
    Take a look: http://www.plumprint.com/giada
    We’d LOVE to tell you more.
    xoxo
    Samantha

    • b says...

      This is amazing! It’s like Storyworth, but for recipes!

  101. Emilie says...

    When I was engaged we asked each bridal shower guest to bring a recipe to the party, and my family assembled the recipe cards in a binder for me. I ended up with family recipes even my own mother coveted – great Aunt Marie’s yule log, Grandmom’s chocolate oatmeal cookies, Aunt Susie’s Florentines (we’re a family of bakers). I also received recipes from my new Italian family, my husband’s family! It was such a nice way to blend our families and one of my favorite gifts. I still get excited to see the hand-written cards whenever I make those dishes.

  102. Rick says...

    I’ve been looking to do a similar project for my grandmother’s recipe – and think a cookbook would make a great gift for my aunts and uncles. The two services you suggested look great! I’m curious if Blurb is worth the extra cost/if their UX is better – their examples look really good.

  103. Ashley says...

    This is such a cool thing to think about – we’re about to welcome our first baby and I’ve been thinking of my legacy more and more.

  104. Jessica Camerata says...

    What fun ways to cherish family recipes! My mom has a massive cookbook and I desperately want to go through it with her to get it more organized and maybe digitalized too. So many family recipes from past generations and of course, 80s favorites too.

    xo Jessica

  105. Alissa says...

    I’ve given tea towels (from Etsy) with recipes on them as gifts. This allows you to include the original handwriting, which is a special remembrance of the person, as well as put it on something practical that folks will use! This year, for Christmas, I used a handwritten recipe for special cookies from my mother-in-law. It is in Polish, so I can’t understand it, but we all know what the cookies are. I’d love for my children to have this as a reminder one day.

    • Caroline L says...

      I’ve done the same thing! I gave them to my Mom, aunt, and sister and made some for myself too. I love seeing my grandma and Mom’s handwriting in the kitchen. A nice way to remember them.

  106. Sara says...

    Currently I write notes in my cookbooks, including how everyone liked a certain dish. When my kids leave for college, I plan to make them each a beautiful bound cookbook with all their favorite recipes (by scanning the actual page from the cookbooks for some of them).
    This post has given me the idea to video my grandmother and my dad when they make some of my favorite dishes.

  107. Katie says...

    I keep all recipes, old and new, hand written index cards and printed folded pages, tucked into a photo album with slots for 5×7″ photos. I used post-its to mark sections. It was an early quarantine project and I am thrilled with it. Nice too that I can add to it and change the order over time.

  108. I made a book using Blurb for my sister’s wedding gift. I typed up all the recipes so she could actually read them and then included the scanned recipes in whoever’s handwriting as a photo along with photos of our family over the years. It turned out so beautiful but then again she’s a little afraid to cook out of it (inevitable sauce slopping on the pages).

    • Katie says...

      For her birthday you should order a second one (easy once it has been made since it should still be saved in your account, and they sometimes have sales for buying your own books) so she can have a clean one and a cooking one!

    • Cynthia says...

      Heather, that’s how you know a cookbook is loved! I wouldn’t dream of replacing my 1970s Moosewood Cookbook with the battered and tomato stained pages or my Marian Cunningham breakfast cookbook with the spine broken open to yeast-raised waffles!

    • Kari T. says...

      I remember reading a funny little story (maybe from Reader’s Digest ha) where a child is helping their parent cook from the family recipe book, which is inevitably splattered and encrusted with little food bits and the child is absolutely delighted by this, remarking “Look, the recipes come with samples!”