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Bread And Butter: Preserving Family Recipes

A loaf of banana bread with a slice cut off of it on a white plate

Grandma Madsen—my dad’s mom—always had banana bread in her kitchen. Always. When I was a child on my way to visit grandma and grandpa, there were two things I could count on: playing with toys in the sunroom and sitting at the table to eat a fresh slice of banana bread—perfectly browned, sweet and always dotted with walnuts.


Since grandma’s passing, my dad took over the wooden spoon, often sending me and my children home with our own mini loaf of banana bread, made from grandma’s recipe. Only, it wasn’t grandma’s recipe. It was her mom’s. Just a few years ago, I opened a newly compiled “Madsen Family Food Favorites” to find a recipe for “Grandma Cannegieter’s Banana Bread.” Instructions for this simple quick bread were on their fourth generation, maybe more, depending on where great-grandma picked up the recipe.


You have family food favorites too. What are they? Where did they come from? How can you preserve the memories that accompany them? During the pandemic, many of us are making meals at home more often—an opportunity to cook side-by-side with a spouse, child or roommate. Even those who live alone might call up a family member or friend for some long distance co-cooking. Along with tips for beating eggs or kneading dough, you can share your memories. It won’t be hard—one whiff or taste will bring it all back.


Besides cooking together, many people collect favorite dishes into family recipe books. They don’t have to be fancy. Ours is a standard three-ring binder with printed papers inserted into plastic page protectors. It allows for future additions and easy clean up, although those well-loved pages still manage to acquire grease spots.


Some families self-publish literal volumes with illustrations and photos while others go paperless, posting family recipes on public blogs, private shared documents or subscription services. These especially come in handy for sharing and organizing numerous recipes used often.


A free online service may also prove useful for preserving memories as family history. FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization that works to help people connect with their ancestors through easy access to historical records. Formerly the Genealogical Society of Utah, FamilySearch is headquartered in Salt Lake City and is sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


While many Utahns are familiar with FamilySearch pedigree charts or indexing, not so many have thought about sharing recipes through FamilySearch Memories, a feature that enables users to store photos, stories, documents and audio in one place, tagged to ancestors so others can view as well.


On its site, FamilySearch provides samples and questions to help you tell your own recipe stories. For instance:

What foods did your family eat on a regular basis?

Did your parents, grandparents or loved ones teach you how to make certain foods?

What foods do you associate with good memories?


Additional questions encourage interaction for gathering family favorites, such as:

Who likes to cook in your family? Ask them if they’ve collected any family recipes.

Who is the oldest person in your family? Ask them if they have any family heritage recipes to share.


Regardless of how you may choose to preserve family recipes your effort will be appreciated, maybe even for generations to come. Now, I may need to bake up a batch of Grandma Cannegieter’s bread. My seven-year-old twins will love smashing the bananas.