In honor of Family History Month, we’ve compiled a four-part series to share small and simple ways to weave family history moments into present experiences. If you missed it, go back and read “Small and Simple Ways to Celebrate Family History Month: How Do I Love Thee?”
These aren’t revolutionary or groundbreaking ideas; they may even be things you’re doing already in one form or another, but with a subtle shift in mindset, you can infuse your daily activities with greater purpose and a spirit of family connection, which will enrich your everyday life while also strengthening generational bonds.
Idea #2: Cook Up Family Stories
You’ve heard the old adage: the way to an ancestor’s heart is through their descendant’s stomachs—or something like that.
Last year, I found a well-worn copy of the recipe book my grandmother compiled for a family reunion in the 1980s. I remember my mom cooking recipe after recipe out of the book throughout my childhood, highlighting her favorites in yellow. (One is simply titled “Special Treat,” while another is called, “A Mild Pudding Supreme Dessert.” Descriptive recipe titles are clearly not a family talent.)
As a surprise for my dad’s birthday that year, I decided to bake Grandma Hill’s famous orange cake, enlisting help from my 4-year-old daughter.
While Keira and I sifted and stirred, I shared memories of my grandmother’s kitchen: the drawer filled with flour that I always wanted to dig my fingers into, the cookie jar on her counter that was shaped like Dumbo the elephant, the potted lemon tree on the kitchen table, and the curio cabinet with the tiny glass deer and heirloom tea cups inside.
Keira and I were able to connect with each other—and with my dad later that afternoon—while also creating ties to a beloved grandmother who passed away before my daughter was born.
Pull out some old family recipes this month and prepare them with or for your children, siblings, or nieces and nephews while you reminisce about Grandma’s old kitchen. Share whatever stories come to mind. You may be surprised at some of the memories that surface.
If you don’t have an heirloom recipe book to consult, look up some traditional dishes from your ancestors’ countries of origin. Besides being Family History Month, which alone is a good reason to prepare heritage food, October also happens to be the home of these cultural observances:
- Polish-American Heritage Month
- German-American Heritage Day (October 6)
- Italian Heritage Month (to coincide with Columbus Day on October 10)
- National Indigenous Peoples Day (celebrated in lieu of Columbus Day in a growing number of cities and states)
Bring on the kielbasa, schnitzel, pasta e fagioli, and maize! You don’t need an officially designated holiday as an excuse to prepare heritage food, but it doesn’t hurt.
Make it a Family History Moment
Post a photo of an heirloom recipe book or the dish you prepared from an old family recipe wherever your family members can be found online: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or other places. Tag siblings, cousins, and extended relatives on your post to engage them in the conversation and spread the family history love. (Use hashtags #familystories or #familyhistory.) Also share on relevant ancestors’ pages on Family Tree the memories, stories, and photos you gather through this experience.
If you have ideas or thoughts to share about this blog series, please leave us a comment. We also invite you connect with FamilySearch on any of our official social media channels.