Writing an Heirloom Cookbook

by Mrs. Sarah Coller on March 22, 2016 in Creativity, Dinner Table, Food, Home Culture, Homemaking, Legacy, Organizing, Purpose

Martha Lloyd's Cookbook

Do you have a book wish list? I do and one book at the very top of it is the modern version of Martha Lloyd’s cookbook. Martha Lloyd was the close friend of Jane Austen’s family who lived with the author, her sister, and her widowed mother before eventually marrying Jane’s brother, Frank. She kept a handwritten book of recipes that has recently been published for Austen fans to enjoy. When I was in England in September, I spent a day in the village of Chawton where Lloyd and the Austens lived in a not-so-little cottage owned by Jane’s wealthy older brother. It was my second time visiting the cottage, but this time I noticed something on display that I hadn’t before: Martha Lloyd’s cookbook.

In my opinion, there are few things more special a homemaker can leave for future generations than recipes written in her own hand. I’ve mentioned several times on my blog that my family gave me a box of my great grandmother’s recipes and cookbooks when she passed away. There were things in that box that even came from my great-great grandmother. They’re very special gifts to me–a legacy that she left without knowing who would benefit.

In our techy, 21st century world, it’s so easy to type up our recipes, add a staged, beautifully edited photo, and pin it to Pinterest for the whole world to see. As a homemaking blogger, I’ve shared countless recipes this way. However, I want to leave my family more than a link to a Pinterest board, so I’ve begun writing an heirloom cookbook. It’s very simple—but so was Martha Lloyd’s and so were my great grandma’s. In both cases, these women used a simple bound book and filled in the pages with things that came to mind. Martha’s contains recipes at the beginning and household tips toward the end. My grandma’s books are not organized by recipe type and even feature the same recipes more than once throughout.

My heirloom cookbook is simple on purpose. I tend to be a perfectionist but with my big family and busy life, I’ve found that perfectionism leads to procrastination. Therefore, rather than waiting for a trip to Hobby Lobby where I can spend $40 buying supplies to make a fancy, color-coordinated notebook with paper flags and ribbon bookmarks, I chose a notebook from my kids’ school supply shelf. In fact, I just grabbed one right from the top of the pile. I might snazz it up later on with pretties (that’s what my other great grandma would call them) but for now, I’m going simple. Simple means I’ll actually get the job done while I’m still here to do it. Whenever I have some time while waiting for something to bake or boil, I jot down a recipe. Sometimes they’re family favorites that are requested over and over—other times they’re simple lists of instructions I’ve memorized for making basic things. The point is that these recipes now exist somewhere besides my memory—somewhere my children and grandchildren can access.

Writing a simple heirloom cookbook is a beautiful way to preserve your personality, thoughts, quirks, and handwriting for generations to come. I even include notes like, Jamie (my husband) loves this or I made this for Selah’s 7th birthday dinner. It’s exciting to know I’ve joined with generations of homemakers before me in preserving special family memories.

Mrs. Sarah Coller

Happily married to Jamie and mother to nine sweet blessings, Sarah stays busy homemaking and homeschooling. Her passion is creating a comfortable and peaceful home for her husband and children. Thankful for God’s saving grace, Sarah hopes to leave a legacy that reflects His faithfulness. She blogs at Classical Homemaking and Belle's Library.

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Jenny March 22, 2016

When my grandmother died, I got her handwritten recipes. So they could be shared with the rest of the family, my aunt scanned some of the recipes then added family pictures. Then she made copies and put them in three ring binders. When my daughters began asking me to “make sure you give me this recipe when I grow up,” I took them shopping to purchase notecards and a container so they could begin their very own recipe box. Since I homeschool, part of their lessons included copying one recipe a week. 🙂 Now, they are teens and enjoy looking back at how their handwriting has changed over the years!

Mrs. Sarah Coller March 22, 2016

I think what your aunt did is wonderful for your family—how thoughtful! I also love the idea of having the girls copy recipes for copy work. My kids would enjoy this!

Ana Sullivan March 22, 2016

My daughters have been asking for this, but I keeping ignoring them. Maybe I will start it now. Thank you for the inspiration.

Mrs. Sarah Coller March 22, 2016

Yes! Keep me posted on how it goes. Don’t be worried about starting simple…if this is a priority for you then the important thing is to just start!

Phyllis Sather March 22, 2016

My mother didn’t have a cookbook. I have a few recipes that my mother used, but not in her handwriting.

But I’ve inherited my mother-in-laws recipes and cook books and it is a treasure.

Mrs. Sarah Coller March 22, 2016

Absolutely! My mom hasn’t put many of hers in writing either—but I’m gonna hound her about it! {Mom, I know you’re reading this…}

Amy March 22, 2016

Genius idea! Just a notebook-so easy even I can’t say there’s no time for that! All in one easy place, and hand written. So smart! Thank you!

Mrs. Sarah Coller March 22, 2016

I’m so glad this article was useful to you and others—yay!

Sherry March 22, 2016

Super, super idea Sarah! I love that you have a picture of Martha Lloyd’s cookbook! If ever I get to go to England I will call you up and take you with me!

Mrs. Sarah Coller March 22, 2016

I’m going in September, Sherry! Come with me! It was actually your Tea with Jane Austen post on Thursday that inspired me to put this post together!

christy virgil March 22, 2016

I am so happy you are doing this…. love, mom

christy virgil March 22, 2016

By the way….I have a lot of handwritten recipes in two boxes… you just didn’t know it! Love, mom

Mrs. Sarah Coller March 23, 2016

Ha!!! Secrets—woo hoo!! 🙂

Lindsay March 23, 2016

I have started a collection of recipes. They include cards from my great-great grandmother, my grandfather-in-law, my husband’s godmother, my mother-in-law, my mom, my husband, his father, and more. Most are in my handwriting, but I eventually want to make a cookbook for each of my children with their favorite recipes in them. I love that my husband can as for his grandfather’s rhubarb cake and I know exactly which one he is talking about! I never met the man, or many other cooks whose recipes I now cherish, but it makes me feel close to that person when I make their “famous” dishes. Oh, and I have my husband’s and my cookbooks we made in elementary school- mine was to make a turkey (cook for 20 minutes at 5 degrees, rub butter on it, and have daddy cut it up).

Mrs. Sarah Coller March 23, 2016

Collecting recipes from family members is a great idea! …and I love your turkey recipe—so cute!

FABBY March 23, 2016

I wrote two books with leather covers for my two daughters which I started writing since they were very young with family recipes I’ve collected thru the years, from hubby’s side mother and grandmother, specially cause my Mil was a great cook and she wrote two beautiful cookbooks and my mom’s of course, from whom I have great memories from my childhood… and our favorites from our immediate family, as we have made many memories thru food I cook as well.
The girls remember my baking specially and now that they’re married with children they bake too.
They love my Cook Book handwritten by me, way before computers, or Internet. As it helps them make all the recipes they grew up eating and remember so much. I also mention there who loved what recipe, including the girls.
Great post, thanks for sharing it with us.

Mrs. Sarah Coller March 23, 2016

That’s really special, Fabby! I’ve seen the beautiful meals and settings you put together in your home so I’m sure there are a lot of special memories wrapped up in those books! Thanks for stopping by!

Linda March 23, 2016

This is a great inspiration. I have done 2 typed cookbooks for my children. I have my grandmother’s recipe box with all the recipes in her handwriting. Something about those (with very few instructions) mean the most to me.

Thanks and wishes for tasty dishes,

Mrs. Sarah Coller March 23, 2016

Yes! Such a blessing. I have also found recipes with little notes from friends on them. I love that!

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