One Christmas, my mom made a family cookbook for each of her kids — featuring old family photos and favorite family recipes. It was a really cool gift idea. In the image below, you’ll see Grandma Maxine in her kitchen along with her amazing apple crisp recipe. Just seeing those ingredients makes me smell cinnamon and warm apples, and helping Grandma dish up bowls of it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. And now that it’s fall, it’s the perfect recipe to make for my kids! I love my family cookbook!
My family cookbook has recipes from my mom, grandmas, great-grandmas, aunts, great-aunts, and friends of the family. Mom found amazing vintage photos to bring each recipe maker to life. And best of all, she used plastic scrapbook covers and plastic page sleeves so I don’t have to worry about damaging it while cooking! So if we spill vanilla on Grandma Betty’s chocolate cake recipe page, we can just wash it clean!
Mom created four unique family cookbooks; each has the same recipes, but different photos, stickers, and page decorations. It’s a great project to share family history and preserve family photos, and also use up scrapbook papers, stickers, and supplies. Mom used 8 x 8-inch Creative Memories scrapbooks, but you could use any size or brand.
Mom was creating a small number of books that were all unique. But other families may want to create bigger family cookbook projects that can be printed for many family members, and that feature dozens of recipes. So, how do you start a bigger family cookbook project like that?
Q&A: Starting your family cookbook project
My friend Megan was the brainchild behind a huge family cookbook project. She collected recipes and photos from many family members, edited the recipes, paired up photos, and then designed a cookbook that could be printed by an online publisher for all her family members. I asked her to share some of her tips and insights for others who are starting a family cookbook project. Hope it inspires you to make your own!
Q: What sparked the idea for your family to collect recipes and photos and turn them into a cookbook?
I moved to California to be with my boyfriend (I went on to marry him). At the time I thought I was permanently moving to California and would be starting a family of my own. Cooking had always been a significant part of my family’s traditions. We sat down to eat together for every major/minor holiday and birthdays. Food was an essential element to bring our family together. There were specific dishes my grandmother, mom, and aunts would make for certain events year after year. Those recipes were scattered around in different cookbooks, on recipe cards, written on the back of envelopes — you name it. And each person had a different recipe. The recipes weren’t in a central location. So I wanted to have copies of the recipes to start my own family traditions in California.
Q: From start to finish, about how long did you spend on your family cookbook project?
10+ years … It became a family joke. I collected all the recipes when I first moved to California, but there was a large disagreement in how the recipes should be reproduced. My family wanted something simple — just photo copies. But I had a vision for creating something unique, a family heirloom.
Q: What was the hardest part about creating a family cookbook?
Tracking down the recipes that everyone could remember, but weren’t written down. One of those cases where the person just knew how to make it. The measurements all needed to be figured out to document the recipe.
Q: What did you enjoy most about this project?
It was really fun to go through all the old photos.
Q: How did people react when they finally saw the finished family cookbook?
It was overwhelming for some people. Their idea of what I wanted to create and what ended up to be were completely different.
Q: What were some of the most helpful resources and online tools you used to create your family cookbook?
Blurb.com — because the cookbook has so many pages, Blurb is the only photo book website I found at that time that I could print high-quality books in small quantity. The software was super easy to use. I’d used their platform for many other books along the way. The other system that I used was FotoBridge.com. They scanned hundreds and hundreds of our family photos, creating digital files. I’ve worked with them several times — very easy service to use.
Q: If you were going to create another family cookbook, what would you do differently this time?
Not take 10 years to do it. It would have been nice to have completed a copy before my grandmother passed away.
Q: Any other advice or tips you’d share with people who are thinking about creating a family cookbook?
If you’re going to use photos, think about future generations and take time to ID who is in the photos. This was a last-minute add-on to the project and I’m grateful in retrospect that I went back and entered them. Thankfully my mom was able to help identify all the people in the photos.
Q: Finally, can I post a link to your cookbook so readers can see the amazing final result?
Yes, absolutely. Click here to flip through Megan’s family cookbook and check out blurb.com.
Here are a few more places to help inspire and get you started on your family cookbook project:
Family Cookbook Project website: This company has the templates and resources to help you design and print a family cookbook.
Heritage Cookbook website: Another company that has templates and resources to help you create a family cookbook. Be sure to check out their examples and customer testimonials.
The Family Cookbook Company website: This is a beautiful site with a focus on preserving family food traditions. This company offers the services of a professional photographer to capture your cooking traditions, how cool is that!
I haven’t tried any of these companies, but if you create a family cookbook I’d love to hear about your experience. You can send me a message anytime on my Contact page. I’d love to hear from you!
Circa Legacy offers a custom Family Recipe Book where we’ll interview you or a family member about your favorite food traditions, memories, and recipes, and design a recipe book with treasured family stories, photos, and of course, your best recipes!