Preserve Family Recipes with an Heirloom Cookbook

Making a family cookbook full of your family's favorite meals and food stories is a great gift and the perfect way to pass down your heritage.

by Dani Yokhna
 A cookbook full of family recipes and memories can be made at a reasonable price, and the homemade touch will allow your family members to savor your family’s heritage for years to come. Photo by Stephanie Staton (
Photo by Stephanie Staton
You might choose to publish your family cookbook scrapbook-style or utilize an online publishing service.

Whether you’re planning a wedding or hosting a family reunion, providing your guests with a meaningful party favor (emphasis on the meaningful) will not only help them remember the event but allow them to take away a piece of farm life. A cookbook full of family recipes and memories can be made at a reasonable price (as low as $4 to $5 each) and the homemade touch will allow your family members to savor your family’s heritage for years to come. Here’s how you can put one together yourself in four easy steps.

1. Make a plan.
Many variables go into creating a family cookbook, so lay out the details now and save yourself headaches later. Things you might want to consider:

  • Date of publication (i.e., What’s your deadline?)
  • Number of pages
  • Theme
  • Source of content (recipes, stories, photos, et cetera)

Belinda Hulin, author of The Keepsake Cookbook: Gathering Delicious Memories One Recipe at a Time (Lyons Press, 2011), recommends that whatever the angle, make the cookbookblueprint as specific as possible. Then allow enough time to get it done.

“Time from start to finish depends on so many things—how many recipes you want to include, how many stories and recipes must be collected from other people, how to elaborate your art and printing plan is,” Hulin says. “A simple holiday-themed or seasonal cookbook with 20 to 25 recipes, family photos that you have on hand, and short anecdotes or family sayings can come together in a month.” You might need to factor in more time, depending on your goals.

2. Gather recipes, anecdotes and art.
Remember to be specific when soliciting recipes and stories from your family and friends.

“Instead of saying ‘I’m looking for old family photos,’ ask ‘Do you have any pictures from those big family picnics we used to have at Audubon Park every summer?’” Hulin recommends. “Even if you’d be happy with any photos they come up with, being specific is more likely to get people looking through old albums to help you.”

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As recipes, stories and old photos start rolling in, it will be easy to get caught up in memories, so be sure to stick to your theme, whether it’s the history of your farm or a story about your family’s love of food.

3. Organize the cookbook.
When Hulin wrote her memoir cookbook Roux Memories: A Cajun-Creole Love Story with Recipes, she introduced each chapter with a story involving a family member, a memory and a particular type of food. You might choose to organize yours around farm traditions, the seasons, types of desserts or family milestones. There is no right answer here, so be creative!

4. Choose a publishing method.
If you’re only giving away a few cookbooks, you might want to assemble them like a scrapbook. However, if you’ve got a large group in mind, it might be easier to go through an online publishing company. Websites like and make creating simple books with text and photos easy, while companies like The Great Family Cookbook Project help you manage the entire cookbook-publication process. Do research online to find what will best suit your needs.


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