Preserving Holiday Food Traditions

Food traditions often linger longer in families and communities than any other custom. And there is no better time than the holiday season to celebrate old recipes!

Norwegian cookies

I recently taught a workshop designed to help people who want to capture and preserve their own family, ethnic, or community recipes, and was reminded just how precious family recipes are.

Food Traditions Class

After spending the day discussing and writing about food traditions, we shared a meal.

If you are also thinking about creating a family cookbook (or otherwise preserving and sharing treasured recipes), I hope that the following action plan will help focus your thoughts.

I.  TAKE INVENTORY

What family/community recipes, artifacts, photos, etc. do you have?

Who else might have additional family artifacts?

Who else in your family might have helpful skills?

Do you need to interview any relatives?

recipe

This was one of my grandmother’s favorites.

II.  STABILIZE, DUPLICATE, AND SECURE WHAT YOU HAVE

Scan/duplicate what you can

Photograph what you can’t

Store copies in secure location

Clean, stabilize, and store fragile pieces based on professional guidelines, or with professional assistance

Darlene textile

Darlene Fossum-Martin (Education Specialist at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum) demonstrates rolling, instead of folding, an old textile.

III.  IDENTIFY YOUR RESOURCES

Time

Budget

Other family/community members

Darlene cutting cookies

Who has family recipes, photos, artifacts, and expertise?

IV.  PRIORITIZE YOUR GOALS

Scope – What recipes do you wish to preserve?

Intended audience – Are you doing this for everyone in your family? Your children? Your community? Ethnic group?

What will be shared – Recipes as written? Updated recipes? Family photos? Food photos? Stories? Family tree? Poems, essays, or other personal/creative writing?

Tone – Do you want to preserve only happy memories? Or is it important to share stories of family conflict?

pie

Do you want to record that the choice of pie was a cause of family discord, or simply record the recipes?

V.  SHAPE OF FINAL PROJECT

Cookbooks are only one option. You might also create a recipe card packet, booklet, glossy book, scrapbook, calendar, notecards, blog, etc., etc.  (Here’s an example of a blog post I wrote about one of my favorite family recipes.)

No matter how you choose to go about it, preserving family food traditions is a wonderful thing to do!

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4 Responses to “Preserving Holiday Food Traditions”

  1. Ruth Nelson-Lau Says:

    This is a wonderful idea. My sister and I often call one another to see if one of us has one of Mom’s recipes. Ruth

  2. Betty Holty Says:

    My sister and I were in your class. We have the cookbook in our mother’s handwriting, we are writing stories for our kids. We’re focusing on things we learned from our grandparents/parents. We enjoyed the class.

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