The Best Ways to Save Family Recipes (And Why You Should Do This Today)

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Last year my grandmother turned 102 years old, and right before her birthday her three daughters started arguing about her possessions -- not her jewelry or her dishes or her furniture, but her 3x5-inch recipe cards.

My grandmother was an avid cook. She cooked dinner every day for her husband and three daughters, plus snacks for anyone who might drop by: the mailman, the milkman, her neighbors. Her kitchen was a warm, open place, and there was always fresh cake and coffee to be shared.

ruth whitman recipe book

As her daughters grew up and moved out of the house, they continued to cook many of the recipes they'd eaten as children: stuffed cabbage studded with sweet raisins, light-as-air chiffon cake, yeasty breakfast cake swirled with chocolate and nuts, eggy cookies covered in sugar. And when her children had children of their own, us grandchildren were served many of these same dishes by our own mothers.

My grandmother primarily cooked from memory. But she had a vast collection of recipes, most written in her hand and those of her daughters, friends, and her own mother, on those 3x5-inch note cards. These recipe cards constitute a large part of her legacy...and that's why her daughters were beginning to argue about who would get them.

ruth whitman recipe book

So my sister and I collected as many of her recipe cards as we could and organized, transcribed, scanned, and produced a book based on the collected recipe cards of our grandmother as a way for everyone in our extended family to share her legacy.

The family reaction was incredible: people were so thrilled to have these recipes again! "You captured our past so beautifully," one cousin wrote to us. "You stirred up so many family traditions and memories!" wrote another. And now there's talk of a family reunion.

ruth whitman recipe book

Making this book was a lot of work, and took time, effort, and money, but the result was worth it. While my family will always have stories and memories to remind us of our grandmother, her recipes—handwritten, frayed and stained from use, written in her hand and in her voice—will be how we’ll remember her best.

For those who don’t have the time for a project like this, but still want to make sure family recipes are stored safely for future generations to enjoy, simply create an Everplan and add every important family recipe to the “My Life & Legacy” section.

Written By Sarah Whitman-Salkin

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