From crafty to professional, create a cookbook that will preserve your family recipes and food memories for years to come.

Caroline Campion

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One of my most prized possessions is an old notebook, held together with a thick rubber band, containing the handwritten recipes of my Belgian grandmother (who to this day, is still the best cook I've ever known). It's actually more of a scrapbook: a hodgepodge of recipe cards, torn pages from ancient culinary magazines, and her favorite dishes copied onto butter-stained pages, all written in her beautiful script. Although I would do anything to be able to cook alongside her again, I know that when I want to remember how she made the small delicate Belgian waffles she was famous for, or her bright green asparagus soup, or her Cake aux Olives et au Jambon, that I will always have her instructions right there waiting for me. Recently, I have thought about organizing and making copies of her recipes so I could share them with family members and also pass them down to my own children one day. Truth be told, I want to keep the originals for myself (sorry, cousins!), but that doesn't mean I can't find a way to re-create this little treasure trove of recipes and memories. Here are some tips and ideas for starting your own family cookbook to share and savor.

1. Don't Wait

If you have older members of your family who are known as the keepers of all food knowledge and traditions, start asking them now to write everything down. Better yet, ask to cook alongside them so you can observe and record while they cook. If your Nonna is a bit cagey about how she makes her Sunday gravy, then the best way to get a reliable recipe is to watch what she does every step of the way. Most likely she doesn't measure ANYTHING, it's all eyeballing, a splash of this, a dollop of that. So you will have to ask a bunch of questions, pause at times to take a measurement, and then take photos and a bunch of notes. Moleskin makes a sturdy recipe journal for recording recipes.

While you're writing everything, consider asking a younger member of the family who's handy with a smartphone camera to take photos and video of the cooking sessions. It will be something to cherish down the line and can also be helpful backup when you can't remember how much crushed pepper to add to the sauce.

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2. Be Original

If you have inherited handwritten recipes and other members of your family are clamoring for them in all their handwritten, stained, scribbled glory, then consider having multiple copies scanned and compiled at a professional printshop. Depending on your budget, you can have them bound in a variety of ways (3-hole, booklets, spiral) with a selection of paper stock, and in black and white or color. You can personalize the covers with a collage of family photos and even solicit memories of particular recipes from relatives to include on the facing page of the recipe ("I'll never forget when the dog stole this baked ham right off the dining room table at Easter!"). Requesting a PDF of the final version ensures you'll always have a backup to make more copies down the road. If you are keeping the originals for yourself, consider having them protected or sealed to prevent damage or yellowing, or keep them in an archival storage box.

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3. Bedazzle a Binder

If you have some crafting skills and want to create just one keepsake for your immediate family that is more personal, then consider creating a handmade binder that combines recipes, mementos and traditions. Pinterest is a great place to start for inspiration, then hit the crafting store for binders, inserts, scrapbook decals, etc. If you plan to cook out of the book regularly, consider transcribing the originals onto typewritten pages for a more uniform and usable look (Google "cookbook recipe templates" to find numerous sites that offer free downloadable pages).

4. Get Artsy

Consider adding recipe photos to your project, since every cookbook is more appealing when there's a beauty shot to accompany the recipe. For the best results, photograph the finished dish during the day, in natural light, and from up above (and why not have fun styling it with your favorite tableware and linens). If you're the artist or expert doodler in your family, then consider accompanying the recipes and stories with your own drawings. Some of the most beautiful cookbooks lately are illustrated with whimsical pencil and ink drawings or watercolors, which give a personal touch.

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5. Try a Book Publishing Website

If there are a multitude of recipes floating around your family and you desire a more professional presentation, then consider using an online publisher to help you collate, organize and design your book. Create My Cookbook is a terrific option if you want a streamlined process that doesn't require a hot glue gun or a trip to a printer. The company also offers to type handwritten recipes, invites family members to also contribute your project, and offers several designs and bindings with color photography. You can order just one copy, or hundreds of copies if you plan on giving them as gifts. There are other sites that create similar projects depending on your budget and style, like Blurb and Rag & Bone Bindery.

6. Give One Recipe the Star Treatment

Chances are there's a recipe that has been passed down in your family that is infamous and much in demand. If it's Aunt Susan's deviled eggs or Grandma's chocolate fudge brownies that are in heavy rotation, then why not have that recipe printed large as a poster to tack on the inside of a cupboard or pantry door. Not only is it a conversation piece, but it will ensure that you never forget all the ingredients you need for your uncle's firehouse chili. There are several sites that offer to print original posters, like Be Funky.

Bonus project: Something really special is to have a family favorite embroidered and framed. We once saw a recipe for a cherished martini recipe hanging on a wall. The only ingredients were gin and olive juice but it never failed to win love and attention from those who saw it.

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