It is only within the last 30 or 40 years that cookbooks have become as popular as they are today. Before that, handwritten recipes and cookbooks were passed down from mother to daughter and from friends to new brides. Treasured recipes were jealously guarded and passed from generation to generation.

Some old recipes are quite different from modern ones. These recipes are in Eugenia McQueen's 1864 "Recipe Book" which is at the Alabama Archives:

Three lbs. of flour, 2 1/2 lbs. sugar, 1 1/2 lbs. butter, 3 lbs. raisins, 3 eggs, 1 qt. milk, 2 teaspoonfuls saleratus dissolved in tea; spice to your taste.

2 tablespoonfuls of mashed (sweet) potatoes, 1 tablespoon of butter, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 pt. of milk, 4 tablespoonfuls of flour; mix together and bake in waffle irons.

Over time, recipes and food became an important part of a family's heritage. Certain dishes become associated with family celebrations, and holidays just would not be the same without those special cookies Grandmother always bakes.

Think about your family celebrations. Do particular foods or recipes come to mind? Ask family members how these food traditions got started. Do favorite recipes reflect your family's ethnic background or places your family members have lived? Go to the best cooks in your family and ask them what they most like to cook. Who taught them how to cook? Do they have any techniques or cooking secrets that they would be willing to pass on to you? Write these down to pass on to future generations.


1. Make a class cookbook. Collect a family recipe - the older the better - and write it down on an 8" x 11" sheet of paper. Be sure to copy the recipe accurately and neatly. Add any background information you know about the recipe to make it even more interesting. Have everyone in your class collect at least one family recipe, add your recipe, and you have a class cookbook. Recipes can be copied, collected, and bound to make a very nice booklet which could even be sold as a class project.

2. Hold an "Eating Meeting." Everyone in your class prepares - with as little help as possible - his or her favorite old family recipe. Bring your dish to school on the assigned day. During class, you will each introduce your dish and explain its history after which everyone will have a chance to sample it.

Bon Appetit!

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Updated: September 18, 2008