Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Preserving Your Food Heritage

Gena Philibert-Ortega's new book
My friend, Gena Philibert-Ortega, has written a book on food and heritage.  When I heard that she was writing and collecting for the book, I thought of all the recipes in my family that have been passed down.  Maybe we all need to preserve them for our descendants.  Do you have a treasure trove of family recipes?

Are you one of the lucky genealogists?  Are you  the one person  who inherited the family heirlooms? Maybe you have the family recipe cards, community cookbooks or even the silverware and table linen.  How can you preserve the stories behind these items so that future generations will understand their significance? 
The following are just a few ideas for preserving the stories and names of the owners of these items so they can be enjoyed by all family members.

One way to gather and share in a family’s heritage is through a scrapbook that includes recipes and photos of your family in the kitchen, eating meals, and celebrating. You can create a paper scrapbook that includes copies of photos and recipes along with notes. 
An alternative to a physical scrapbook is a digital scrapbook. Several websites exist for helping you create a digital scrapbook or you can create one using a scrapbook or design software program.

A Family History Book
Consider creating a short family history that includes only a generation or two, complete with narratives telling the story of your female ancestors. In addition to the dates and places important to their lives, add stories of your family and their food traditions. You can also add interest by including photos of you re-creating the dishes with step-by-step instructions. 
Once you create the family history you can print it or provide a digital copy to share with family members. Most office supply and photocopy stores can print out copies of your book and provide various binding options. Family history books don’t need to be complex or costly. There are options available for a variety of family history books. If you are looking to create a book that will be professionally published, look towards a printer that specializes in family history books. Another printing option is to use a print on demand publisher who will only print copies when they are ordered by you or your family. This saves money over traditional publishing methods.

A Family Cookbook
Buttermilk Soup from the Collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega.
What better way to share family recipes and traditions than by creating a family cookbook that combines recipes passed down from earlier generations with the recipes of present-day family members? You can print the book using a cookbook printing company or you can create the book on your own and take it down to your local printer to be duplicated. The benefit of using a specialized cookbook printing company is that they can assist you with the formatting including adding sections, formatting recipes, adding recipes, uploading content online and other considerations. 
Family cookbooks don’t need to be limited to recipes alone. Include the name and photos of the recipe’s contributors, stories about the recipe and other relevant family history photos. Also consider including a pedigree chart or family group sheets as part of the book. If the cookbook is presented in some type of three-ring binder, recipes can be added to the volume at a later date, allowing for additions as they are discovered or written down. 
Technology has provided us with great ways to share information with others. Many family historians use a website to post their research and their family trees. Another way to share family food history is by writing a blog. Within a matter of minutes, you can start a blog that shares family food memories, photos of family kitchens, dishes, linens, and other food related items. Want to invite others to contribute to your blog? No problem, you can invite other relatives to be co-authors of your blog and share what they have found. One benefit of a blog is that if the blog is made public, rather than private, search engines will include your blog in their hit results, making it easier for other family members to find you and share what they have as well. 

Family Food History Archive
Catalog and preserve cookbooks, recipe cards, kitchen tools, linens, aprons, china, and silver to create a family food history archive. This archive can include photographs and written observations that document food traditions and food-related heirloom and artifacts. Prepare a page for each item that includes the following information: 
  • The name of the item 
  • A physical description of the item (size, weight, color, markings, condition)
  • Where it came from  (any story related to how it was obtained)
  • The chain of ownership (who originally owned it, other owners, who owns it now)
  • Any special stories attached to the item (how it was/is used)
  • Where the item is located now (whose home it is stored in, how it is displayed)
  • Any condition concerns (holes, damage)
  • Photograph of the item
The final product can be in the form of a scrapbook (digital or physical), notebook, album, or electronic document sent to other family members. Include heirlooms that you own but also ask to collect information on heirlooms owned by other family members. The final product will provide a nice history for family members as well as a practical guide to what family heirlooms exist and descriptions should a disaster occur.

These are just a few ideas for preserving the stories behind your family’s food history. For more ideas check out Gena's new book From the Family Kitchen.  You can also find the book on Google Books and look at some of the pages.  Be sure to check out Gena's food blog, Food.Family.Ephemera and her Virtual Book Tour
How have you preserved your family’s food history?

1 comment:

Lindsay said...

I hadn't thought about recipes as a resource
I'm going to have to track down my grandma's!