Shades Of The Departed

March 1

A Monthly - Weekend With Shades - Column

In my family most of our major events - birthdays, holidays, weddings, funerals and more - involve food. Treasured recipes are passed down from generation to generation and we consider ourselves blessed if we possess a dog-eared cookbook full of notes and clippings that has been passed down from mother to daughter. It's not unusual to hear a discussion of a previous family affair include mention of an interesting dish served at the event. One coconut cake is still fondly remembered almost 15 years later.

Often food and holiday traditions related to food are one of the few ways today's family members show active interest in their heritage.

To that end, family cookbooks are a popular way to share family recipes. Thanks to today's technology and some superb publishing services, we can not only collect and share both heritage recipes and current favorites but we can also include photos, family stories and other memorabilia. The result is a family history your family will devour.

Our first family cookbook was typed up in the DOS version of WordPerfect and taken to a copy center to "publish". There were about 40 recipes, text only and printed in black and white except for a beige card stock cover. The logistics of organizing the printed recipes for copying so the result would be in the appropriate order was a time-consuming challenge. I produced 25 copies at a cost of about $12.00 each. This rather amateurish attempt was a big hit with the family.

More than a decade later, it was time to update the cookbook. I had discovered the Lulu publishing service and it inspired me to include photos with the recipes. This edition was created with and Photoshop Elements and uploaded to Lulu. This edition has 104 pages - all in full-color - with 119 photos. Lulu's cost to print and bind our cookbook was about $22.00 each and I sold them for $25.00 each. [NOTE: Prices have increased since it was first published.] After looking at the prototype, quite a few family members bought copies. I haven't gotten rich on book royalties, but they are still buying an occasional copy to pass on to others. A family photo album with great food - what's not to love?

I'm currently working on the next edition of the family cookbook, which I hope to publish next year. Again, technology will make this edition even easier than the last one. Why? I've discovered recipe software! Recipe software is nothing new, but today's apps are making it so much easier to collect, organize and share recipes. And, most are including features for publishing cookbooks.

I was still using Windows when I produced the last cookbook. I had stumbled on Living Cookbook but didn't have the time to really look at it until the cookbook was finished. I realized that if the cookbook recipes were maintained in the software, I wouldn't have to retype them should I decide to do another edition. PRANG! Later, after moving to the Mac, I found MacGourmet and easily migrated my recipes to the new app. Recently, MacGourmet announced a new plugin called Cookbook which will allow you to organize your recipes into chapters, add text and image pages AND upload the result directly to Lulu. All of a sudden, cookbook creation took on a whole new dimension! It was also at this point that I had another PRANG! moment - each recipe's notes field could be used for a story related to the dish and the photo didn't have to be a food picture. D'uh.

So now I'm happily putzing along updating the existing recipes with family photos and anecdotes either about the dish or its creator. I can focus on collecting additional recipes, photos and stories - the toughest part of any cookbook project. I even have a couple of family members using recipe software themselves and since most of these apps provide very nice sharing functionality, it will be even easier to get copies of new recipes. One goal for this year is to try and get more family cooks using software to manage their recipes - and to collect their related photos/stories. [Hmmm . . . could this be considered stealth genealogy?] In addition to printed cookbooks, we can share recipes (with their associated photos and memories) digitally.

In this family of great cooks, the future of memories is looking delightfully delicious.


Blogger Denise Levenick said...

Food and family go together like... spaghetti and meatballs. Thanks for a great article, Denise. My sister and I have published two family cookbooks and I empathize with your early angst. It was tough in those days.

What is you favorite/most treasured recipe from the earliest collection?

March 1, 2009 at 7:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words. My favorite recipe from the earliest collection will always be Dad's Minorcan clam chowder. Minorcan chowder is a local specialty and Dad's recipe is awesome. Add to that some fond memories of digging clams and helping make the chowder and . . .

March 1, 2009 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger Sheri said...

I'm not a cook, nor do I play one on T.V., but I sure like to eat! My brother is the chef in our family and I am going to pass this along to him. Thanks Denise!

March 1, 2009 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger Terri said...

Funny how so many of our memories are tied up with the family gathering and sharing a meal. I recall many family events growing up, with us cousins running around and sneaking from the goodie table. What a wonderful project and great tips too!

March 2, 2009 at 3:03 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home