The other night we went to a dinner party and were served the most delicious cheese torte I had ever tasted. It was so unique I had to ask for the recipe. (That, and my hubby couldn’t stop raving about it! I knew I had to make it for him.)
As our hostess gave me the recipe, she told me the story of how the dish came about. Afterwards, I couldn’t help thinking of my grandma, who had a similar recipe that I’ve been trying to recreate for years. It reminded me about the importance of cooking in family traditions.
It seems that every family has a recipe or two that is handed down from grandmas and moms. When a recipe gets handed down, so does a story about your family. Maybe it’s how the recipe was recreated, how it was ruined one year, or how it evolved. The experience of eating a meal together is about so much more than just consuming food. It’s about sharing memories and coming together.
That’s why I love giving (and receiving) recipes and food items as gifts. They also make great homemade presents, which (personal opinion here) I don’t think we do enough of today. It’s all about “getting stuff” instead of creating something really unique. If you’re looking for some homemade cooking gift items, here are a few I’ve made in the past.
Jarred Spices and Mixes
I mentioned earlier that this year I’m giving my homemade Mexican spice as a gift, but in the past I’ve also given jarred ingredients to people. The key is to not just give these randomly, but to make sure you give them to someone who really will enjoy them.
For example, a friend of mine is wild about pancakes. I mean, she cannot get enough of them. I have an old recipe I use that includes dry ingredients I keep in a jar, then I just add live ingredients (eggs, milk, butter) when it’s time to cook them. The recipe came from a childhood friend’s dad, who used to serve these up to his three boys every Sunday. They are heartier than most pancakes, which his boys loved (and my family likes too) but wouldn’t appeal to everyone. I made them for my friend once and she loved them. She asked me for the recipe, and I gave it to her with a jar of the dry ingredients already made up.
Handwritten Recipe Book
If you’ve got some recipes to give to a younger member of your family, why not write them up in a pretty book to give as a gift this year? I love seeing anything with my grandma’s handwriting, especially the recipes she used to make. In fact, one year I gave her a blank book as a gift and asked her to write some down! As an added bonus, you could include a short note about the “story” behind the recipe. (Knowing when a recipe was made in the past or how it came about is just as fun as making it.)
Scrapbook Recipe Book
My other grandma was the best cook on earth, but never wrote anything down. Some of her recipes were complicated or unusual, and I’ve spent years trying to recreate them just by doing what I think she did. I’ve experimented until I could recreate the taste of her original recipe. Her Thanksgiving cranberries were once such item. I scribbled them on a ratty old piece of paper, but after Thanksgiving one year I included the paper in with our scrapbook. We haul that out every year now to look at the recipe, and in doing so enjoy browsing through the scrapbook as well.
This gave me an idea, and I continued to scrapbook favorite recipes. At times I’ve taken pictures of people working on the various steps in a recipe, or on the ingredients, or other parts of the process. If the recipe is an old family favorite, this makes it even more memorable.
Writing in a New Cookbook
One of my most cherished possessions is an old cookbook from my grandma that has notes scribbled in it about recipes and family history (like who lost a tooth or had their appendix out or when they bought their new washer). The book is duct taped on the outside and falling apart, and I am filled with memories of her every time I open it.
Why not use that as inspiration? If you’ve got a favorite cookbook, give a copy to someone and write your thoughts on the recipes you’ve tried? Or the times you wrecked the recipe? Or how you remember a certain event every time you make it? I’ve received a few cookbooks as gifts over the years, and I always ask the giver to write in the front of it for me. They say “happy birthday” or “I hope you make the recipe on page 46” and just those little notes make me so happy each time I refer to that book.