Family Recipes - Dish Up Some Family History

activities recipes Nov 25, 2021


This year many of us are reuniting with family we haven't seen in years. We'll be gathering in the kitchen to cook and share all those special family dishes. You know, the often requested ones that make it to the table year after year.  (Truth be told, we might have missed some of those dishes more than some family members.)

Plate to plate, generation to generation, food is one of the ways we pass down our heritage.  Our family recipes represent our cultural identity and the journey of our ancestors. When I cook meatballs or make biscotti, I am flooded with memories of working in my great-grandmother's tiny kitchen crowded with my female relatives.  They didn't work from written recipes, they didn't take measurements too seriously, and most of the time, they spoke in Italian.

Luckily, I was able to get a few recipes written down before they passed. But I wish I had asked for more. Try as we might, we just can't get grandma's Easter bread to taste like hers.

This holiday season, don't miss the opportunity to celebrate and preserve your family's recipes and the stories that go with them.

Here's how to rediscover and make some culinary memories!

Step 1 - Select a Recipe or a Menu

Gather the family cooks for a culinary council.  Discuss and make a list of everyone's favorite family dishes and the stories behind them.

Then decide, will you cook one recipe or an entire meal?  Suppose a holiday is around the corner and you've got extra hands in the kitchen. Why not make a memorable menu featuring several family favorites.

Step 2 - Interview the Original (or Best) Chef

Contact the original chef, if available, to get the recipe. If it has been handed down for generations, contact the chef who cooks it best. Write down the ingredients and instructions.

Next, add a dash of family history to the mix.  Ask around for the following:

  • Who first made the dish and when? Do we have a photo of them?
  • When is it traditionally served?
  • What is the secret in the sauce? Any secret ingredients?
  • Why is the dish meaningful to your family?
  • How does it represent your traditions or culture?

Step 3 - Cook the Recipe

You can cook alone or, better yet, encourage everyone to participate. Recruit others to help with the shopping, prepping, cooking, and setting the table.  Cooking a family meal is an excellent activity for grandparents to do with kids.

As you prepare the dish, take pictures or record video on your smartphone.

Step 4 - Dine and Shine! 

Sit down together and enjoy the dish. Take pictures of your accomplishment. Write down any memories that come up. Make a list of future recipes you might want to make or have in a family cookbook.

Step 5 - Share the Family Food Memories

There are several ways to preserve and share your family recipes. It can be as simple as writing them down on recipe cards or emailing them to family.

You can also collect recipes and images and design your own family cookbook. It's a great holiday gift, wedding gift, or fundraiser for your family reunion.

You might want to start a family recipe journal. For years I kept a notebook in my kitchen where I recorded family recipes.  It eventually led to me creating this Our Family Recipes journal. It's an easy way to capture family recipes and family memories as they occur. 

When my relatives visit, they pull it out and add their own recipes and comments. I love reading their memories about the same dish. Seems not everyone is a fan of grandma's pumpkin pie and there's a big debate over what kind of beans were in dad's famous Super Bowl Chili. 

Every Family Has a Story. Ready to Discover Yours?

Subscribe to my newsletter for tips, exclusive content, and special offers.


50% Complete

Let's Stay in Touch

Sign-up for our newsletter and get research tips, exclusive content, and special offers direct to your inbox.