My husband’s extended family has a reunion every summer. It’s held at an aunt and uncle’s cottage on a lake with water sports galore and people as nice as they come. We have attended every year we could, coming from a variety of directions around the country as we lived in different places through the years. It is among our children’s fondest memories and is a great time that we look forward to. You never know what the Wisconsin weather will be, but whether its raining or cold or perfect lake conditions, there are hugs and there is laughter and there is joy and food. Lots of food.
Some years there is a theme. One year it was “Christmas in July” complete with a tree, lights, Santa and gifts. Another year it was a German theme.
Last year, one of the aunts asked if I had any suggestions for a theme. I shared that for many years, I had been thinking it would be great to have a family cookbook and, with that, I was given the task. My message was this:
“…..I’ve always thought it would be great to have a family cookbook. What do we do when we’re together?…EAT! The sights and smells of food always brings memories. From the
breakfast casserole that Carol made for my Brunch Wedding Shower to your tasty pastry to Sandy’s BBQ she made for one of the kids’ graduation parties, each recipe/food connects me to a person. Grandma’s Czech kolaches and her cherry torte (a recipe she gave me at my bridal shower), auntie’s caramels, the ham we ate at the reunion, the way each
person makes regional dishes – they are history.”
Her answer: “Sounds like a great idea…. And I am glad you volunteered to be the organizer.”
I started thinking through the process and searching around the internet for ideas. I didn’t think it would be big enough to send it to a company for printing, nor did I want it to look like every other cookbook on a shelf, so I laid out a plan in my head. I put together a questionnaire and a letter asking for favorite recipes. Answers and recipes started arriving by email and snail mail. I copied and pasted, typed out answers and recipes and did the same most days for a chunk of time. I scanned the old handwritten recipes that belonged to Grandma and the ones I had collected from those good cooks through the years. I made sure there was consistency in font and measurement titles, and I proofed and double proofed, triple proofed, and asked other people to proof for me.
The questionnaire looked like this:
What is your favorite food?
What is/was your favorite meal growing up?
Do you have a memory of a particular food a relative made/makes?
What food do you usually bring to share at the reunion?
What do you look forward to eating at the reunion?
Do you have a favorite reunion memory?
Does your family have an original recipe?
Does your family have a traditional food for certain occasions?
Somewhere along the line, I decided to put photos next to individual’s answers. It was also fun to add symbols/pictures with the recipes. I thought it added something to put food quotes at the bottom of pages where they fit. It was time consuming, but fun.
It ended up that the cookbook was half family information and half recipes, and the parts were divided by two pages of table prayers. I called it Family Treasury of Memories and Recipes. Here’s the Table of Contents:
I made collages of activities we’ve done through the years such as the horseshoe tournament, skiing, water balloon toss, etc. and placed them on pages that had enough room. They looked like this:
Family pages ended up looking like this:
and recipe pages looked like this:
Lots of hours spent over a few months and great participation from family resulted in 80 pages printed, bound and ready to share. To add ease of use, especially since it was already on the computer, we made disks of the cookbook, also including family history information and some family movies on them. We presented and passed out the books by walking the family through a recipe for making a family cookbook including the necessary ingredients and step-by-step directions in an entertaining way. Of course there were awards and prizes given out for the most recipes contributed, funniest answer on the questionnaire, etc.
It’s my hope that it will be used, enjoyed, added to and loved.