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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    Entries in cookbook (9)


    Book Review: Finding Inspiration in "Sweet Home" Cooking

    I buy cookbooks for many reasons. The last reason I buy a cookbook is because I want to cook the recipes.

    First, I am attracted by an interesting title and cover, even better with a photograph. Next, I'm interested in the story line or theme. Is this a book about foreign cuisine with amusing travel anecdotes? Will I learn something about food customs or preparation technique?

    I buy cookbooks because a well-written recipe can be almost as satisfying as a slice of decadent death--by-chocolate cake (note: almost). We aren't a big dessert family, saving sweet treats for holidays and Sundays, but I love flipping though a cookbook and tasting the deliciousness of home-made goodness.

    I also buy cookbooks because they inspire me to try something new -- a new dish, a new technique, or maybe a new way to preserve my own recipes.

    Sweet Home: Over 100 Heritage Desserts and Ideas for Preserving Family Recipes is one of those cookbooks I bought because of the very last reason. More than just a collection of recipes or a coffee-table book of mouth-watering photographs, Sweet Home is filled with ideas for any family historian who has wondered about preserving old recipes or sharing memories of family meals. That I can't wait to try out most of the recipes is an added bonus.

    Who wouldn't love to taste

    • Cloudberry Krumkaker Cones
    • Mom's Banana Cake
    • Spiced Cider Doughnuts
    • Pumpkin Snack Bread
    • Dad's Chocolate Mudslide Cookies

    Author Rebecca Miller Ffrench grew up in a family of dessert lovers where evening dessert "was a sacred bonding time." She talks about the sad passing of weeknight desserts in most homes and reconnecting with the past through food. In the same way that Gena Philibert Ortega notes the importance of food and meals in family tradition (From the Family Kitchen), French writes about how recipes and cooking have always been a central part of family life.

    More Than Recipes

    Sweet Home is filled with more than recipes. The four chapters -- Preserving, Celebrating, Giving, Creating -- are anchored by dozens of ideas for preserving and sharing family recipes and favorite foods.

    Preserving focuses on recording food stories and memories and sharing favorites with tips from interviewing cooks to making an accordion fold recipe album.

    Celebrating showcases "10 Ways to Make Small Moments Big." I like the fun idea to make photo cake cards on a stick to use in decorating future birthday cakes! 

    Giving features ideas for personalizing food gifts in clever and unique packaging.

    Creating is for the family food historian in many of us with ten possibilities for Creating Your Own Food Story with activities, writing, and new traditions.

    As I read Sweet Home and enjoyed the beautiful photographs, I was inspired to think about how I could preserve my own family's food memories before they slip away. Some of the recipes reminded me of dishes I had forgotten or hadn't made in years. Sweet Home is a more than a cookbook, it's an inspiration for why we need to save family food memories and  a simple guide on how to get started.

    Sweet Home: Over 100 Heritage Desserts and Ideas for Preserving Family Recipes , by Rebecca Miller Ffrench (Maryland: Kyle Books, 2012). Available from


    Adding Context to a Family Keepsake

    Now that I've decided to reproduce my aunt's home economics notebook, I am looking for ways to make the book more interesting and uncover any other stories related to this little keepsake. My approach isn't strictly genealogical; it's more a blend of local and family history with a dose of literary criticism from my high school English Lit teacher past.

    My purpose is to add a "sense of place" to the notebook, not to overwhelm it with facts, figures, or history. I will probably need to select the most compelling information and save the other research for background. Here's my initial brainstorm list of possibilities; feel free to leave a comment if you can add to the list.

    I used MindNode for Mac (free) to brainstorm possible topics:

    I like using a mapping tool for brainstorming, but here it is in list format:

    Franny's Food Notebook

    Food Notebook

    • Part 1 Requirements
    • kitchen how-tos
    • 50's homemaking
    • food trends
    • Part 2 Personalized
    • recipes
    • clippings
    • comments

    Author: Frances Brown

    • age 13
    • family
    • parents Frank & Arline father working?
    • 1 sister Susie
    • home address frequent moves
    • friends

    Willard School

    • junior high
    • santa ana, ca
    • new school bldg 1931
    • home economics class semester or yr long?
    • teacher?
    • what was it like? girls only?


    • home ec
    • wartime
    • orange county

    With so many possibilities to make the story richer, it will be tough to choose the best. What have I missed?




    Lessons from the Archive: Finding Clues to Tell a Story


    Sometimes you have to do a bit of snooping on the way to sleuthing.

    By snooping, I mean that you just have to open your eyes to look at anything that comes along. Sleuthing seems to have a more defined goal and method, but snooping can pay off bigtime.

    My Sweet Aunt Frances saved a lot of stuff. The fact that her home contained only one tiny trashcan under the kitchen sink and an even smaller one in the bathroom are evidence that she didn't throw away much. She collected twisty-ties, rubber bands, and sugar packets, and crafted scratch paper from junk mail. Drawers were stuffed with old letters and cards, shirt boxes became repositories.

    Obviously, she was a saver. For the family historian and genealogist, that's all good news. People with the Saving Gene save most everything. If they saved paper clips, they probably saved photographs. If you need to tend to a Saver's home, you might be in the enviable position of curating a superabundance of stuff.

    My solution was to box it up, bring it home, and unwrap each box another time. So, when I have an extra few hours or especially miss Auntie I open a box and snoop around. I don't do any serious preservation of artifacts, scanning, or archiving, that comes next. For now, I just read old letters, look at picture, and leaf through books and journals.

    It might seem easy to separate the treasures from the trash, but it's not. Soon you come across the wedding guest book and wonder what to do with it. You get tired, and the old calendars and datebooks seem less important. The family photos are set aside to save, but what about the vacation albums and loose slides? Trash or treasure?

    A few weeks ago I came across Auntie's home economics notebook. It looked familiar because I was required to compile almost the same book when I was in high school home economics. Nothing changed very much. It was a school assignment, overall insignificant, but I set it aside and later decided it might be a fun project to create a reproduction copy. With budget cuts in California schools, home economics is becoming a dim memory. As I scanned the pages, I decided it would be even more interesting if I could add some kind of context to the book.

    Frances Louise Brown was 13 years old when she assembled the book. Her careful and beautiful penmanship testifies to a careful and good student. She carefully recorded the due dates for the book, noting extra credit points available for turning it in early. She included a Table of Contents and "My Half of Notebook" filled with recipes and clippings of foods, dishes, and products. I would say she was a bit of an overachiever!

    I learned all this from the notebook. To know more about teenage Franny, I had to go into my grandmother's photos and letters. Snooping led to sleuthing and now I am putting together the clues that tell the story of Franny's Foods Notebook.

    I'll be back with Part 2, and more photos to share.

    P.S. My inspiration for this project was planted by Denise Olson's eBook The Future of Memories. You are missing a treat, if you haven't read it yet.


    Black Friday Cooking

    It’s that time of year… while some families are watching football, shopping, or already trimming the tree, our is usually mixing up a batch of holiday LevNog that probably won’t last until the first day of Christmas.

    Our recipe came from a friend who made the mistake of gifting us with a glass snowman filled with the stuff. She probably got tired of refilling Frosty, and finally gave us the recipe.

    The recipe is traditionally brewed from dairy and distillery sometime during Thanksgiving weekend, and carefully stored in the basement for as long as you can stand it. About 24 hours. We give in to worries about food safety in Southern California and keep ours in the basement fridge. It is really cold in there.

    But things will be different this year. We are travelling in and around New York State and sampling the local specialties. Wonderful farm fresh eggs, delicious homemade bread, free-range fowl, this-season apples. Maybe we can find some nog somewhere to hold us until we get home and mix up our own.


    You Do Not Have to be Irish to Make Grand Corned Beef

    Every year my Irish friend hosts a huge bash in honor of this greenest of holidays and her very-Irish parents. Last year she cooked 15 corned beef roasts, and there wasn’t a speck of leftovers. We aren’t Irish (that I know of. . . yet), so our family ethnic celebration occurs in the Fall, in October to be exact. We host an Oktoberfest. This “divide-and-conquer” plan works pretty well. I’m around to help my Irish friend with her hoolie, and she helps out with ourfest.

    In case you are thinking of throwing your own party on March 17, here’s Mary Theresa’s traditional menu and recipe for The Best Corned Beef EVER! Our family contribution is a wicked-good Irish Coffee.



    Spinach Salad

    Glazed Corned Beef

    Irish Soda Bread


    Irish Coffee

    Bailey’s Ice Cream Torte


    Glazed Corned Beef

    1 large corned beef

    2 bottles beer of choice

    1 cup orange marmalade

    4 T Dijon mustard

    4 T brown sugar

    Place corned beef in slow cooker and add beer. Add boiling water to cover meat. Cover and cook on low 8 hours, or until very tender. OR cook in large pot on stovetop (or in 325 oven) about 3 hours at low simmer.  The meat should be firm, not falling apart, but the fork should go in fairly easily. Remove meat from liquid, cool, and trim all fat. Meat may be made ahead to this point.

    About one hour before serving, preheat oven to 350. Combine marmalade, mustard, and brown sugar in a small bowl. Place meat in baking dish and pour glaze over meat, coating all sides well. Bake in oven for about 20-30 minutes until glaze is crisp and brown. Slice and serve with colcannon and Irish Soda Bread.

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