What We’re Reading: Preserving Family Recipes

Food has a unique power to bring people together, both in a literal sense at gatherings and meals, but also as a figurative common ground that even folks of vastly different opinions and backgrounds can share. In Valerie J. Frey’s recently published book, Preserving Family Recipes: How to Save and Celebrate Your Food Traditions, the author drives home the power of family recipes in particular to connect people in the kitchen, at the table, and across generations.

frey_preservingfamily_pPreserving Family Recipes delivers exactly what it promises: thorough, start-to-finish instructions for how to collect, update, organize, and share endangered family recipes—those that were never written down, those that were written but not accurately or with enough detail, those that were written on notecards that wear with use and splatters from the stove. She considers various approaches to this type of project and addresses a variety of concerns, such as pinpointing the source of a particular flavor, finding ingredients for foreign dishes, and deciphering difficult handwriting.

This wealth of guidance alone would be enough to make the book an invaluable contribution to the field of foodways and to every individual who wishes they had measured out just how much flour grandma threw into her biscuit bowl. But readers will find so much more than documentary direction.

Frey also infuses her book with stories and recipes she collected from her own family, which makes it a cozy joy to read. At the same time, by including these, she proves that the process of documenting such recipes is not only feasible, but wholly worthwhile.