Editor’s note: This is the second blog in a series on preserving family recipes. Next week we will discuss options for producing family cookbooks.
By Mary V. Danielsen of Documented Legacy
Nothing resonates of home like the sight of a buffet table simmering in familiar dishes at a family gathering. We long for the welcoming choices, the second helpings, the full belly and the laughter of good conversation that rolls on long past the day. It is a time honored ritual that tightens the bond of family. Preserving your family recipes has never been easier, more affordable and with so many creative options. Getting organized, however, to keep those memories full by sharing them with extended family in cookbook project takes some doing.
This week, discuss with family members how you would like to organize a family cookbook project. Decide whether you want to simply share recipes, duplicate a given list of specific dishes, or take it further by combining those recipes, family history and photos to create a professionally-printed heirloom cookbook. If you are a civic or community group looking to preserve the recipes of a neighborhood or create a fundraising project this works the same way.
No matter how you decide to produce the cookbook, someone needs to organize it. It can be loads of work, yet it can also become the most rewarding work you’ve ever done with your family, a project they’ll be talking about for years.
As the organizer, think of yourself as an air traffic controller. Information is coming to you from different directions in the family. Everyone wants to arrive smoothly and on time, but sometimes the forces of nature or bad timing prevent it from happening. It takes a determined editor to patiently bring everyone in, getting them to their destination of having a body of work that preserve family recipes.
Before you begin, consider some great advice we received from professionals at The Great Family Cookbook Project and Morris Cookbooks.
Establish an editor, the person who is responsible for getting things started and defining the project in terms of contributors, recipes, cover and design options, and how to reproduce the final project. Every project needs an air traffic controller to get things done.
Cooks in the Kitchen
Determine who is going to contribute recipes. Make certain you invite everyone in the family to participate in the project, says Chip Lowell, publisher of the Great Family Cookbook Project. People will let you know if they feel over committed and want out. The people you assume may not be interested may, in turn, become your greatest partners in soliciting and compiling recipes and content. Finish the project and leave someone out, however, and you will never stop hearing about it.
Each contributor needs to be responsible for their recipes and ensuring the details, names and measurements are accurate. This will smooth the editing process.
“Just like when a family comes to dinner around a table and stories are shared, family involvement is what makes a cookbook project a success,” said Tamara Omtvedt, Director of Marketing for Morris Cookbooks and Simply Cookbooks. “Unless Grandma had 300 recipes that everyone tended to copy, borrow, improvise and reproduce and that’s the sole content for a book, you’ll want as many family contributors as possible. You don’t want the family cookbook to be only about one or two people’s recipes.”
When & What Are We Serving
Determine the size of the project and set deadlines weeks ahead. Program reminders to follow-up with each contributor. Don’t wait until the last day or two to push for response. It’s too stressful. If you’re interested in producing a printed cookbook you need to determine the number of recipes you want submitted from each person. Ask for specific recipes by a specific date – say a month or two in the future. Avoid starting too late on the project or not giving family enough time to respond. This way everyone stays motivated and the stories begin to roll. Your weekly reminders will get them off the dime, too.
Where Are We Eating
Decide how you want to recipe the recipes. Do you want people to snail mail or email you recipes? Are you going to compile them into subfolders on your computer, based on topics such as main dishes or breads, or are you asking using shared cloud-based storage to collect everything. Remember to back up all your work using the 3-2-1 method of archiving.
If you have boxes of hand written recipe cards, magazine and newspaper cut outs or folders filled with everything you printed offline, now is the time to scan them and reorganize the digitized recipes. Perhaps you altered an original and made notes. Use your Flip-Pal Sketch Kit to record additional notes while you’re scanning. It will simplify the process when you are typing up recipes. Adjust times and temperatures for modern appliances. Use the scanned recipe cards as artwork.
Decide whether to include images of family members, heirlooms, such as a favorite dish or old linens, in your project. If you don’t have a photograph of those heirlooms being used by the family members who once owned them, now is the time to take photos. Remember, even if you decide to preserve family recipes in a form that doesn’t allow for many photos or extensive content, you can use this information in other creative ways. Think gift giving.
Prep Your Station
As the organizer, lead editor and air traffic controller, make certain you compile your own favorite recipes first. Set the example that others will follow by being first.
As recipes come in share them and the tidbits of stories surrounding them with other contributors as a way to open the dialogue about family favorites. You may have forgotten a key recipe.
The Love in Every Spoonful
Recipes are cool. What makes them often retold treasures of family folklore, however, are the stories and history behind the dishes. Who made it a classic? What’s their story? How has this recipe changed over the years? What are the tips and techniques behind those dishes? Any funny stories behind them? On what occasion was a particular dish usually made? Stories make the meal. Keep writing.
The Family Throw Down
Bring on the fun! Test your recipes to ensure you have all the right ingredients and instructions. (Each contributor is responsible for their own recipes.) You can create a fun family event – even miles away – where everyone tests a recipe on a given day or weekend and compares notes. If yours is a fundraising project, imagine the advance buss you could create through social media.
Start Using the Recipes
It in the sharing of recipes that you’ll create energy for the project as a whole.
The Old Curmudgeon Grammarian
Enlist the help of a team of proofreaders to read and reread your family recipes and content for errors, omissions and typos. One of the biggest mistakes often made in printed projects are family names. This is where it’s helpful to have someone in the ranks, who will proudly wear the title as the family’s old curmudgeon grammarian. There is nothing worse than finishing a project or publishing a book and then finding typos. Your goal is perfection. Get as close to goal as possible.
Stirred to Perfection
We mentioned this earlier. Meals happen every day. Habits change. We try new things. Our dishes are a little bit of who we are in each generation. As such, it’s hard to make one final perfect family cookbook, because we continue to evolve as a family. Don’t beat yourself up. Plan second editions and updates.
At some point you’ll know it’s time to close the gate and finish this body of work. If you’re publishing, you need to focus on the next steps in the publishing process, including layout and design. If you’re creating a do-it-yourself project or printing on demand, you still need to begin the publishing process by freezing the content. Add nothing more. You can always save other content for future updates. Think first edition and second edition.
Decide the number of finished copies of your project you’ll need. This will also help determine the investment required and the type of product you produce: quick copy center book; print-on-demand book; photo book; recipe card exchange; family history book; website; blog or published heirloom cookbook. Most cookbook publishers require you to buy a minimum number of cookbooks, some starting as low as 10. Print-on-demand books give you the option of producing one at a time, but the cost per serving is higher. While there are numerous publishing options – many more affordable than ever – the costs can run from several hundred dollars to thousands, depending on the number of recipes, photos, content and design. Do it yourself projects can be costly depending on the score of your project and materials used. Compare your costs before starting.
Anticipate that you’ll want extras for gift giving, children, grand children, and thank you and hostess gifts. Embrace your creative side with those extra photos and scans by making homemade recipe cards and notes.
The Holidays Are Coming
Share your recipes with family and friends. Donate a family recipe basket to a local charity auction, complete with advice on starting their own project. Try something new. Now that you’ve preserved family recipes, the idea of preserving your own unique favorites seems easy.
As Chip Lowell of Family Cookbook Project says, “Here’s to good eating!”
Check out these crafty gift ideas on Pinterest.
The logistics of scanning. Consider adding another Flip-Pal mobile scanner to your extended family of cooks. It can easily be repackaged in its original container and shipped. This way you can continue scan together while sharing hand-written recipes, even states away.
Read our blog on picking a soundtrack for your family history project.