3 Meaningful Ways to Preserve Your Family’s Food Heritage

For most of us, eating is a daily event so ordinary that it is taken for granted. (Some days, we don’t get any farther than grabbing takeout on the way home from work.) But the harvesting, preparing and sharing of food is truly a rich part of human culture.

Whether shared with strangers or dear friends, enjoying a meal together is a universal means of expressing fellowship, hospitality and gratitude. There’s a reason birthdays come with birthday cake.

Eating together is also an opportunity not only to eat, but also to teach and learn. The dinner table is one of the many places that family culture is passed down from one generation to the next.

Each one of us has a unique food heritage — one that has evolved through countless years of getting dinner on the table. Don’t think you have one? Think again.

What special dishes do you usually enjoy during the holidays?

Who is the oldest person in your family? What did their parents and grandparents used to make?

Does a particular meal remind you of your grandmother? Your best friend?

Is there a recipe your mom makes that just screams “fiercely popular in the 1960s?”

Do you have a family recipe stashed in your kitchen cabinets that you couldn’t bear to misplace?

Whatever your family’s story — wherever you come from — you have a food heritage that, if forgotten, would be quite the loss. Here are three ideas for preserving your family’s beautiful food heritage in a meaningful way.

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1. Curate a recipe book

Do you remember your favorite dinner as a kid? That recipe should go into your recipe book. Did your mom make cookies with a secret ingredient? Write it down. Does your partner make the best buckwheat pancakes on earth?

These family recipes may not turn the heads of gourmet chefs, but they will always be a part of your history. Here are a few creative ways to save them:

  • Do you have a child getting married soon? Throw them a “recipe shower” by collecting the favorite recipes of the family, then save yourself a copy.
  • Make your own Blurb cookbook online.
  • Turn handwritten recipes into heirloom tea towels. Many Etsy sellers offer this as a service, and they make a wonderful gift.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to back them up digitally too!

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2. Cook together

Many of us learned to cook by watching (and imitating) parents, grandparents, aunts and family friends. Remember the first time you made brownies? Or learned how to get dough to rise?

Harness your knowledge and experience and make an intentional effort to teach your son, your niece, your neighbor how to make the dishes you treasure. What a delight it is to see those traditions live on!

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3. Talk about it

Food heritage is also passed down through daily conversations. Remember that time your sister accidentally made spice cookies with whole cloves instead of ground? Remember the day you were gifted the china that’s been in your family for decades? Those are stories you’ll want to hang onto.

Keep those family memories fresh by sharing them often. You never know who might retell them tomorrow.

More Ideas:

  • Tell stories while you cook with children and grandchildren
  • Share the significance of special china, silver or other special dishes
  • Serve family favorites throughout the year
  • Create a family calendar with meals for each holiday or special event
  • Observe family traditions including what food is served and how
  • Participate in an oral history project
  • Bring favorite recipes to potlucks and family meals

What is your family’s food culture like? We would love to hear what memories you connect to sharing a meal.

48 comments

Jack Y
Jack Y4 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y4 months ago

thanks

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John J
John J4 months ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John J4 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Sue H
Sue H4 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Ann B
Ann B4 months ago

Just remember when Grandma is gone her recipes that she didn't write down are gone too--good advice especially talking with the people you love

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Angela J
Angela J5 months ago

Thanks

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Paulo R
Paulo R5 months ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo R5 months ago

ty

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Jennifer M
Jennifer K5 months ago

nothing more delicious than beloved family recipes. pass them down. teach the children. food unites.

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