Thursday, June 5, 2008

Family Cookbook - One Slice at a Time

Several years ago, before it became fashionable or even practicable, to use a computer program to keep our recipes at our fingertips, my sister and I decided we should put together a family cookbook. From conception to birth it was a labor of love and long, long hours of sorting, typing, editing, editing, editing!

The idea was received with great anticipation and cooperation from all of our family, "Give us several of your favorite recipes and we will be responsible for putting a cookbook together and see that everyone gets a copy."

Recipes began to pour in from all directions - North, South, East and West. Not that we are scattered in too many directions that far from Texas, but we did have family members sending recipes from as far away as North Carolina, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Missouri. Before we knew it we had a stack of handwritten and typed recipes that seemed to spill over the top of the desk to the floor and several feet out into the room. My sister was responsible for calling or sending emails to verify ingredients or quantities or give someone a gentle reminder that, "Yes, we do need your recipes, Aunt Bea, what would our Family Cookbook be without your favorite pecan pie?"

I busily began to enter the recipes into my computer, using the only computer program that I was familiar with - WordPerfect. And I was VERY loyal - adamantly proclaiming that WordPerfect was the best and only program worth using. Little did I know then how I would regret using WordPerfect for our cookbook.

I don't remember what year the idea of a family cookbook actually took root, but it took several years and many inquiries from family members as to its whereabouts to finally bear fruit - no pun intended! To begin with my sister and I both are perfectionists in certain areas of our lives. We couldn't seem to leave well enough alone as we edited, cut, rewrote, and edited some more. The book would seemingly be coming along great and then someone would want to include another one of their new recipes, or they just found Aunt Nancy's peach cobbler recipe written in her own hand, and it just had to be included. In retrospect we should have set a limit, but how do you tell Aunt Bea or Aunt Nancy why her favorites were not in the final book?

With all the changes and our dedication to "perfection," so to speak, time was slipping away - further away from our promised delivery date - every day. Then with my insistence on using WordPerfect instead of Microsoft Word, disaster was lurking just around the corner.

My computer died. Now I think my husband is a computer genius. He had suggested that I backup my work on CD. Thank goodness for that. But when we got a new computer, guess what it didn't have. That's right - WordPerfect! I don't remember exactly WHY I couldn't convert my WordPerfect files and have them formatted the way I wanted, but I eventually had to open them in Microsoft Word and let the formatting do whatever it wanted to do, and then slowly and methodically redo the pages one at a time. I'm sure there was something I wasn't doing properly, but I was very frazzled by that time, and I just did the only thing I knew how to do.

We finally began to see a light at the end of the tunnel. The book was being printed at last - on my printer, of course. My husband took reams of 24# bright white paper around the corner to Staples to be cut into 5 ½ x 8 ½ sheets. My printer was spitting the pages out faster than I could check to make sure the pages were backed up with the proper pages! You see, I insisted on a Table of Contents and an Index. What self-respecting cookbook editor wouldn't? It took nearly as long to print the thing as it did to get it prepared and ready to print. After we had collated the pages and printed a front and back cover we had the cover laminated and the cookbook spiral bound at a local print and copy shop.

My sister thought it would be a great idea to include a Memorial to those family members who were no longer with us. Each of them had a recipe that we included and the Memorial was placed on the same page with that recipe. We published additional books three years later because there were friends and other family members who had not gotten a cookbook and asked us to "please" print them one. By that time there were other beloved family members who had gone home to be with their Lord and Savior so their names and Memorials were included in the new edition.

We included a list of contributors as well as the Memorials. Favorite sayings were scattered throughout the cookbook. They were taken from a high school Autograph Book that had belonged to the Mother of a cousin in Oklahoma. Her daughter graciously gave us permission to use the sayings. One of my favorites is "Don't drive faster than your Angel can fly."

We have all enjoyed our family cookbook and I can say with assurance it is one that nearly everyone uses more than any other. The cookbook is a source of enjoyment and comfort. Comfort when we see the names and recipes of our loved ones who are no longer here and comfort in all the "comfort foods" found on the book's pages.

My children sometimes call and ask why a certain recipe is not in "our cookbook". Then there is always that little nagging thought in my head that it would be nice to print a 2nd family treasure but I think my marriage of 40+ years might be strained a bit if I took on another task such as the last one.

I heartily recommend taking on a project such as this with your family members or friends. It will be one you will not soon forget. I still have my backup copy on CD in Microsoft Word and the WordPerfect copy is lurking around somewhere laughing at me!

Also published by Judy Shubert at Associated Content



Wow! What drama! You could actually print out pages of the new recipes and let the requester(s) slip them into their own cookbooks. Use a Word template to put two recipes on one page. A piece of cake!!

Judith Gail said...

You LIKE my dramatic interpretation, do you? Or the drama on my back porch? You should have seen Shubert hustling. He was SO ready for that book to be outta here.

I had set it up to print 2-up as we called it in the printing business, but things went haywire - first my printer wouldn't cooperate and then - oh, well, you know most of the rest of it. But I'll have your template next time. Thanks for your help and for reading my blog.

Kylie Willison said...

My Mum put together a cookbook which she typed and gave to her copious nieces and nephews when they got married! When my brother, sister and I each left home we got a copy too. Being the youngest I got the updated, computerised version, still with the great little cartoons though. :-)



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When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food, and the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies with yourself.

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