Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Heirloom Recipes: A Hope Chest Legacy

 You may not know that the month of March is designated as Women's History Month. I want to start the celebration by sharing a special family recipe. Recipes can become the most beloved of heirlooms and are so easy to collect and pass down. The perfect addition to a hope chest!

Memories of food are especially compelling and there is something very affecting about owning a handwritten recipe from a mother or grandmother. It actually doesn't even need to be from their hand. The ability to recreate the process, the aroma and especially the taste of an associated food is enough to evoke a heartwarming memory. If you are a cook or if you have ever loved a cook, family recipes are priceless!

My great grandmother, like most grandmothers, had a recipe for sugar cookies. I think this recipe is probably not particularly special, as sugar cookies go, but the whole family, especially her many grandchildren, loved these cookies. I'm told the lemony flavor (which grandma writes in the recipe almost as an afterthought) was especially delightful. Although I know her only through stories, Great Grandma Anderson was a nurturer and nothing else quite says love and care as a cookie from grandma! But this is also true of a holiday meal or a birthday cake or some other memorable food.

I want Miss Abigail to have our special family recipes. This kind of project does take a little time. It can be tedious to copy out handwritten recipes or even to type them. I've been working on this a little at a time. You may remember that I created a recipe booklet for our Thanksgiving recipes. And Abigail has this recipe book from the club ladies in her hope chest. I'm currently trying to make a larger binder with other everyday recipes that Abigail enjoys. There is a handwritten recipe for yeast dinner rolls from another grandmother who was quite famous for her rolls, and the recipe for our Sunday Night Chocolate Chip Cookies.

If you have an heirloom recipe, be sure document and write the history to go with it. Then share it as widely as possible with those who will treasure the memories it brings. I regularly read a lovely blog called My Ancestors and Me, written by a friend who has a wonderful knack for telling her family stories. She often shares heritage family recipes, but Nancy recently shared the simple story of one recipe that has become special to her family. This post illustrates how easy it is for a recipe to become a heirloom.

handwritten recipe - Marian Bell Anderson (1864-1942)

Just a note about preservation. The recipe pictured above is written on a newsprint-like paper that is literally now falling apart. The handwriting is almost illegible on the paper copy, but I was able to improve that in the digitized copy. I think the paper may be a page from an old school notebook. My father kept his grandmother's recipe in a "banker's" box with his other treasures. I photocopied the recipe onto acid free paper to have a working copy in my files and digitized the document as well so that it can be shared. I now keep the original recipe unmounted with a stiff buffered paper to support it in a mylar sleeve and store it in the dark. Do any of you have handwritten recipes from special members of your family?


  1. We had several old recipes from my grandmother in her beautiful handwriting. When we were cleaning out mom's dresser the other day, we ran across about 20 more recipes in my great aunts belongings. I am thinking of photocopying them for the girls of the family. Most of my grandmothers recipes were from memory, so not a lot of hand written treasures! d

    1. Oh, what a treasure Donna! Even if you write the memorable ones down now, they will still be a treasure and become more so for future family members. And if you scan them and share them with the even wider family, they will love you for it!

  2. Thank you for mentioning my post here, Kathleen. You are too kind.

    I'm planning a post about my mom's and my grandmother's recipes boxes, both of which I still have. I still use several of the recipes. (I can't say regularly because I don't bake very often these days, but they are still favorites when I do bake.)

    Thanks again for mentioning my post. I appreciate it.

    1. My pleasure Nancy! I love reading about all your heritage recipes and will look forward to the post. Recipes are such treasures and I think we overlook the opportunity to create a memory when we think they are ordinary -- and you just never know which one will become an "heirloom." I wouldn't have predicted the school project...

  3. When we lived in the Philippines, I hired a young lady to type out all my recipes with my desktop computer. I saved the recipes onto my laptop as a Recipes file. This file has truly been a blessing as we travel full-time in our global missions work. Everywhere I am, so are my recipes.

    For Valentine's Day 2008, I printed two copies of each of these recipes. I inserted each in a clear protective sleeve. Of the recipes that were handwritten on 3x5s, I made color copies and inserted them at the bottom of the sleeves. After each recipe, I added any "Story behind this recipe" that I had. The recipes were placed in a 3-ring notebook for each of our daughters. I also put the computer file on a jump drive so they have an electronic copy as well.

    My grandmother's slaw recipe was always "in her head" and no specific measurements of its simple ingredients. My girls and I worked together one afternoon to formulate their G.G.'s perfect-tasting slaw dressing, so now our entire family of aunts and cousins have her special recipe.

    You're so right: Don't delay! Recipes are appreciated and beloved, woven into the very fabric of a family. Cooking and eating together is the height of hospitality and fun in my (cook)book!


  4. What a sweet story Kelly! Thanks for sharing it. I'm sure your daughters will love having the recipes and treasure the stories. Good work!

  5. When my grandmother died, I asked for her recipe box. I was surprised when nobody else wanted it. She collected many recipes from her friends and clipped more from the newspaper. I had started typing them into the computer, but like your idea of scanning them instead. I'd like to make a book for my cousins that contains favorite recipes from Grandma's house.

    1. That is a treasure Ruby! It is interesting what things we will connect with isn't it? Good luck with the project! Your family will love it.


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