When my wonderful mother-in-law suggested making a recipe memory box for my daughter, I thought it was the best possible holiday gift! It’s history, love, tradition, and culture all wrapped into one package.
It’s a celebrated fact in our home that my husband and I come from different backgrounds culturally, religiously, and geographically. It’s something we want our daughter to learn to appreciate, and food is an integral part of that understanding. Both of our cultures celebrate with food, grieve with food, show love with food, and connect food to history, memory, and tradition.
In fact, one of my most treasured heirlooms is my collection of my grandmother’s hand-written recipe cards, which includes her recipe for the chicken soup. I remember her walking through the door with her big soup pot, ready to dole out love in a bowl whenever anyone was sick. It’s a recipe she learned from her own grandmother, and I am so incredibly grateful I can make it for my daughter now! Which is why I was so excited about my mother-in-law’s suggestion, and why I set right to work making a recipe memory box.
Make Your Own Recipe Memory Box
Making your own recipe memory box takes a little more legwork than your average gift. But your work results in a simple, easy, often inexpensive gift that will become an heirloom. Here are a few tips I learned from making my recipe box to help you make yours:
Collect Everyone’s Favorite Recipes
What do you want the recipient to treasure and pass down? Does the recipient of the gift have a favorite dish you make or a recipe that has meaning to them (or to you)?
For my daughter’s recipe box, my mother-in-law included her green chile stew. My husband’s aunt wrote down their grandmother’s red chile recipe. Somewhere in there is a recipe from an aunt who passed away several years ago. I included my grandmother’s chicken soup recipe and threw in a recipe of my own.
2. Hand-Copy or Phot0copy the Recipes on to Cards
There’s something special about hand-written recipes, which is doubly true if it’s from a relative who isn’t with you anymore. Every time I follow a recipe in my grandmother’s or grandfather’s handwriting (he was the baker in the family), I feel a deep connection to them that (as corny as it sounds) gives me a warm glow and adds an extra helping of love to whatever I’m making.
If you’re writing the card yourself (or having another relative writing theirs down), make sure you use archival-quality card stock and pens. If you’re photocopying the recipe (or even including the original), you can find archival sleeves to put them in.
3. Choose a Package
By package, I mean the form your recipe memory box will take. It can be an actual box, like a decorative 3×5 card box. You could buy an archival-quality memory book and use photo corners or photo glue to paste in the recipes.
A more expensive option is to use a service. These are nice options because you can often upload photos and even a story to go with the recipes, and you can choose the design. The company will send you a beautiful, bound book—think a homemade cookbook with your personal recipes. You can find these services on sites like Shutterfly and various sellers on Etsy.
My daughter is still too young to appreciate the history behind her recipe memory box. But I hope that someday she takes the time to make these recipes and feel the love with which they have been made and passed down from generation to generation.