My family has the coolest tradition. I think every family should do it!
We collect recipes and make a cookbook which gets distributed (for a very small fee) at our annual family reunion in Fremont, Nebraska USA. The recipes include the best fried chicken in the world, and an even better rhubarb strawberry pie, a sour cream raisin pie that my father and Marc almost had an argument over, and a Beef Noodle recipe using canned meat that is out of this world. People have travelled 5000 miles to eat this! And it is the only lie I've ever told my husband. More about that some other time.
Janell Carson, my great uncle's daughter-in-law, collects the recipes from all the various family members. She then types them all up and sorts them by the typical cookbook categories, eg Appetisers, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, Desserts. But this cookbook is sooooo much more than just a handy reference book for the kitchen.
It is a profound collection of our lives. The book contains essays about our ancestors and photographs to help us remember. It contains memories of meals gone by and an opportunity to pass the love of gathering together for a meal on to the next generation. By the way, this has little to do with eating and a lot to do with laughing, catching up, staying involved and showing how important the family unit it.
These people who came before us taught us how to cook. And who to cook for....which includes just about anyone who crossed your path and needed a hot, nutritious meal. It didn't matter how well you knew them or what was in your fridge/pantry. Despite a great depression or a missed trip to the supermarket, there is always enough to stretch and when someday someone you love may be far from home and the ones they love, you just hope someone might give them the benefit of a hot meal and a nice smile and, if you are lucky a lot of laughter.
They taught us our table manners. And whilst some of my manners might be frowned upon in the classiest restaurant or the poshest homes, I try to remember to wipe my feet, wash my hands, say please and thank you, be grateful for the meal put in front of me and the people around me, clean my plate, use my napkin and never, never, never criticize the cook.
And they gave us our moral compasses against which we measure our success as human beings. Raising a happy, healthy well adjusted family is more important that financial success or political power. Laughter will help heal a broken heart. And if it doesn't, a hug will. When you give your word, keep it. Never make a promise you can't keep and never break a promise once given, especially to a child. I don't always succeed at these (and neither did they)but at least I know how I'm doing and which way I should be headed.
The next edition of the cookbook is due out this summer. Janell Carson will be collecting recipes on our behalf. If you are a member of my family and would like to contribute a recipe, please contact me for Janell's email and you can email it to her. If you are not a member of my family, start your own cookbook for your family! Or apply for adoption. We do adopt for a small fee.