One of my favorite family activities is cooking. It brings everyone together to share a variety of tasks. Someone can be the reader of the recipe, another family member collects items needed, and so on. While preparing a recipe or meal is enjoyable, I think we can all agree eating the result is the best part.

I grew up with a lot of amazing family recipe. I knew if I was going home to my grandparent’s house for a holiday I could expect certain foods always to be in the fridge and certain foods always to be passed around the table. It wouldn’t feel like an authentic visit home if homestyle green beans and green bean sauce weren’t served!

When I moved in with my grandmother after my grandfather died one of the most exciting things for us to enjoy together was her recipes. My grandmother had the most fantastic, detailed and organized recipe collection you could imagine. I was so happy as I went through them all to find and flag the most memorable from my childhood.

My mother also searched through for recipes that were special to her as well. She would pull out a recipe card from its protective sleeve and exclaim, “This was something we used to eat when company came!” or “This was something your grandfather would make us!”

I decided to create a family cookbook for the extended family. I sat down with my grandmother and we pulled out the recipes she remembered were the most popular. We also called family members to ask them what some of their favorite family meals had been and I searched for those recipes.

I organized the cookbook by holidays and occasions. There was a birthday section and every family member had a personalized list of recipes my grandmother frequently made for each year’s birthday celebration. This also included favorite cakes or desserts. There was a summer section filled with recipes my grandmother loved to make for picnics or BBQ’s. There was an entire section on iced-tea, of course.

The holiday sections were divided by courses and had notations indicating who loved each dish. Not EVERYONE loved green bean sauce as much as I did.

I created the cookbook by scanning a copy of my grandmother’s original recipe – because I loved seeing her handwriting and notes. Then I typed up the recipe below it and made any modernizing updates, and then we printed out a complete set for each planned recipient.

Our cookbook was about thirty pages, on fifteen pages front and back, so we were able to staple the collection together neatly. If it had been any larger I would have taken it to a print shop and had it fastened together with their much larger staples.

My grandmother and I gave the cookbooks as gifts for Christmas that year, and it was fun to see everyone’s delighted reaction. A family’s collection of favorite recipes is so personal and special. Creating this one of a kind gift is a wonderful family activity to do with and for your loved ones.

There are powerful memories around food and meals – being able to pass on traditions with a personal cookbook is a unique living legacy.

Dresden Shumaker is a writer, advocate, and former full-time live in caregiver to her grandmother. She chronicles her adventures in single parenting on CreatingMotherhood.

How to Create a Family Cookbook