My mom-in-law is known for her soul-satisfying Southern cooking. If I lived closer to her, I’d gain a lot of weight but probably be less stressed thanks to all those endorphins she brings to the table. She also has some fascinating stories from her childhood growing up on a farm in the Tennessee countryside during the 1940s and 50s. She’s seen the advent of electricity, indoor plumbing, and automobiles. She’s picked cotton by hand. I had to get all these stories down on paper to save for generations, and why not save those recipes, too.
Last summer I published her book of stories and recipes, also photos of food, farm, and even farm crops since most kids these days have no idea what okra flowers or purple-hull pea pods look like. I’m glad my own kids have helped harvest the crops from my in-laws’ current big vegetable gardens. Stooping in the heat and buzzing insects to pull potatoes out of the dirt and snapping a giant pile of green beans to ready them for canning are meaningful life experiences in my books. Don’t take for granted where your food comes from, and appreciate those farm laborers.
I had the book printed for family only through Lulu.com since I only needed about 20 copies. Lulu did a fine job on the color interior! I scanned old photos, including some faded b&w ones, at 300 dpi and used high-resolution digital photos taken with my decent-quality Nikon Coolpix. Lulu’s color printing is not meant to make glossy, pro-photography, coffee-table style books or color-illustrated children’s books, but is just fine for family books with smaller size photos or art. The price was right, too. The 36-page paperback, 8.5” x 11” size, was about $18 each. Can’t beat that for color printing. I uploaded a photo taken in my in-laws’ kitchen for the cover and used a free Lulu cover template. Note from my last post, Far-reaching Effects of Family Stories, that Theresa had trouble with Lulu’s printing of her b&w photos. I’ve never had trouble with that before, but that’s something to take into consideration – and always get a print proof copy to head off any problems.
We are thrilled to have Grandma’s cool stories and those recipes saved. Even if we never make some of those rich recipes, they are of historical and cultural interest. Food was a big part of farm life. Homemade boiled custard, mmm. Farming sure has changed over the years. If you’ve got farm stories in your family, write them down to save. Even if you don’t have Grandma’s recipes, you can still write about the food. Tell what you do know and let the younger generations taste it in their hearts and minds.
PS: I enjoyed Carol Bodensteiner’s memoir of farm life back in the day, Growing Up Country: Memoir of an Iowa Farm Girl.