Preserving the most special of family treasures 44



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I don’t have many memories of my grandmother. She lived a long time ago and I only got to spend six short years with her alive. She was a great lady; I always thought she was so elegant and so clever. But it has been fifty years since she passed away. Despite this, she has always been in my life. In fact, she has had a huge presence in my life. Not a week goes by where she doesn’t influence me. And this all comes down to one thing…

Her recipes.

She was by far one of the most wonderful cooks I have ever come across. There is a quote by Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you did. But they will always remember how you made them feel”. Well, Nanna made me feel the most incredibly delicious kind of full. And without her, my childhood would have never been the same.

Every family has their treasured recipes with unique individual twists that reflect the way previous generations ate and the types of food they enjoyed. My Nanna’s special dishes were her flourless mandarin upside down cake, powder puffs and her “adults only” junket that myself and my cousins enjoyed at an inappropriately young age. She handwrote every recipe and kept them in a file together. When she died, my mother got this file and it became something of a family bible. I have recreated almost every recipe in that collection, as have my sister and sister-in-law.

We don’t just love and use them so much because they are just ridiculously decadent recipes – it is because it gives us a connection to the woman that we loved and admired. It strengthens our memories of her and it is almost like we know every time we make something, it is laced with a little bit of her generous love.

Because of how special this collection of recipes is to the women (and the stomachs of the men!) in our family, we decided to preserve them as more than just a pile of original and photocopied handwritten pieces. We had Nanna’s recipes turned into a full cookbook and it is one of the best things we have done.

We did it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was getting difficult to sort through the printed pages, and deciphering her handwriting gets more difficult with each generation. Secondly, her recipes were so sought after by extended family and friends. And thirdly, cookbooks are one thing that we struggle to throw out – if you’re like me, you will have hundreds of cookbooks sitting on a shelf. Even though you search online for recipes when you need them. So it isn’t something that will get lost or thrown out.

We spent hours every night transcribing the recipes and taking photos of each original handwritten page. Then, we used a computer program to design a book from cover to cover, filling each page with a recipe and, if we had it, a photo of a time when we had made that dish. We wanted to keep it personal and we didn’t want to lose Nanna’s memory so we had photos of the original recipes used as watermarks on each page. The final product was beautiful and it was full of love.

We each had several copies of the book printed. Just enough so that we could have a copy, there are copies for our kids and their kids, the extended family and our closest family friends.

It isn’t as hard as you would think, getting a book made. There are three stages that I would really recommend you go through if you’re going to make one.

  1. Do some research on what program suits your needs. There are so many out there – a simple Google search will bring up hundreds. But based on how widely used the book will be, the style and formatting of the book you want and the amount of pages and customisation you can find one that suits you perfectly.
  2. Do your planning to make sure you have all of the content prepared – recipes typed out, photographs taken and store it all in the one place so setting everything up online is a much easier process.
  3. Keep the connection. The book and recipes are special to you and the family for a reason, so whatever you do, don’t lose that beautiful connection.

Recipes and food are some of the most unique things from family to family, and preserving the memory of a loved one or generations of special people in a book is a way to make sure your family treasures are never lost.


Have you preserved your family recipes? How did you do it and why?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I have the original war time recipe book from my grandmother full of newspaper clippings and hand written recipes some of which I still use! She lived in the country and had great pickle recipes. I have often thought of doing something with this book, so am prompted to take thoughts further.

    2 REPLY
  2. My mother never wrote down her recipes and never used a recipe book so I have been unable to replicate anything, especially her fantastic pastry.

  3. I have mums little red cook book with all her favorite recipes in it. Not all with exact measurements. A few years ago I typed all the recipes out and gave a copy to each of our children (who are married) and I still have it “saved” in my computer. I wish I could make her “squeaky” sponge – it was so light!

  4. No time for dying in the next lot of years,lol… the time the recipes and photos alone are sorted “to leave for others” a few years will be needed!

  5. When as a child I asked my Mum ‘when you die can I have your recipe book? Sadly I have it now. I will pass it on to my Daughter.

  6. I had mine for 43 years, and treasured her for every one of them, except when I got growled at, and I would go and hide and tell her what I thought of her, but never out loud, h, ha, ha, ha.

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