What's a Raconteur?

rac·on·teur
/ˌräˌkänˈtər/

A person who tells anecdotes in a skillful and amusing way; a storyteller; a narrator

Collecting And Sharing Family Recipes

Collecting Recipes

Ask loved ones for their favorite family recipes. Make copies of the recipe cards or pages from cookbooks you receive. 

Since many cooks don’t use recipes but instead cook from habit and memory, ask these relatives to take the time to write down the recipe. If that isn’t possible and they only know that “a pinch” of this goes in and “a bowl full” of that, a great way to get clarity is to film the cook preparing the dish. While filming, you can observe what they do and stop at any point to measure out a “pinch” or a “bowl full.” Once you have filmed the cooking sessions, you can archive an entire video library of relatives preparing their favorite dishes or take the time to figure out the recipe from watching the film.

Another great way to learn a recipe is to cook side by side with your relative. Hands-on experience can help you learn the recipes and clarify any confusing measurements.

Digitally Sharing Recipes

Start by sending an email to ask family members to contribute their recipes. Another option is to post a request for recipes on a private family Facebook page. These pages make for a convenient way to request a certain recipe from family members or to report on any recipes you’ve prepared. For example, if you’ve managed to improve an old recipe, the page is a great place to share your success and engage with family members in an ongoing discussion about all your family’s food treasures.

Since some older family members may not have access to email or Facebook, a good old-fashioned phone call may be needed. Call family members and ask them to write down their recipes and mail them to you, and then you can share them to other relatives.

Making Family Cookbooks

Once you’ve collected enough recipes, you can create a family cookbook. For a printed cookbook, determine which recipes to use and how measurements will be written. Type the recipes, adding memories and photos, then take the material to a graphic designer or design it yourself using desktop publishing software. Finally, take the finished layout to a copy shop to be printed. The printed books can make great wedding or baby shower gifts for family members.

Tackling Problems With Old Recipes

When you find old recipes, you may run into a few bumps along the road, so here are some suggestions to help with any issues: 

  1. If a recipe is written in another language, ask fluent family members to translate it for you. If no one can help, try posting the recipe on Facebook groups dedicated to your family surname’s history or contacting a local university to see if anyone there may be of help.
  2. Another issue that may arise is indecipherable handwriting. In this case, show the recipe to relatives to see if anyone is familiar with the handwriting and question and could give you an idea as to the recipe’s intent.
  3. When you discover a very old family recipe, you may encounter unfamiliar or archaic terminology. If the recipe hasn’t been updated in years, you may find old-fashioned terms for ingredients, such as “loaf sugar” (granulated sugar) or “long sweetening” (molasses). If an ingredient is unfamiliar, look it up in an online food dictionary. For archaic measurements, find a handy conversion chart or consult old editions of classic cookbooks such as The Joy of Cooking or Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook. These cookbooks can give you a better understanding of dated cooking terms and techniques in general.

No matter how you choose to collect and share your recipes, when you do, you will create a priceless treasure for your family that can be passed on to future generations! 


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The subject(s) of the book will communicate their story to a writer
The subject(s) of the book has passed away and other loved ones will relay their story to the writer
The subject(s) of the book has written pieces of their life story, but needs a writer to add to and refine the work for publication
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