Family history: Storytelling using grandma’s cookbook

Creating an ancestor profile using a book

Tell a story with grandma’s cookbook

I began collecting cookbooks years ago, a habit for which my husband prefers I receive therapy. Or was that for hoarding fabric? Never mind! The point is, while I can say I have too many cookbooks, a few in my collection are gems. They absolutely suit my purposes here: they help tell a story.

Covered with a thick, contact paper-type material, and secured with barely sticking scotch tape and sturdy string, this one was well loved.

Its owner was my mother-in-law, Dorothy, below with two of my children, 1991.


Meals as insight to our history

My husband remembers his mother almost always made dessert. A favorite she often made was Cottage Pudding. I’d never heard of it, and imagined some sort of stovetop-cooked, soft pudding served in a cup. Wrong.

Essentially a single layer cake, it is served with sauce. His favorite was Lemon.

beachler recipe_cottage pudding

If you look closely, you can see she quadrupled the recipe. I am not surprised.

Often, when Dorothy stayed with us, she would make chicken and dumplings. I am hard pressed to think of better comfort food. Hers was excellent–a meal we all loved–and remains a favorite to this day. These pages are spotted and speckled, and include hand-written recipes someone didn’t want to forget.

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Host a celebratory dinner

A delightful way to remember an ancestor and tell their story is to host a dinner serving traditional foods. Each year on Dorothy’s birthday, her youngest child and his wife serve one of their favorites of Dorothy’s meals. That dinner is chicken and dumplings with cottage pudding for dessert.

As a fun side note, I have a few of Dorothy’s kitchen utensils I use to this day. I have her cutting board, her measuring cups, and my prized favorite: her granny fork. I believe the fork belonged to Lucy, Dorothy’s mother, and is quite useful when canning fruit. Dorothy is responsible for teaching me how to can food.


Can you remember a favorite meal your grandma made when you visited? How about holiday dinners? Which foods come to mind, and better yet, do you have grandma’s cookbooks?

Happy profiling! ❤

  1. A visit with sister-in-law Alice leaves me corrected that the meal made yearly is fried chicken and cottage pudding. Yummy either way. 🙂


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