Life as a (Recipe) Book – Part 1

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I have been working on a family recipe book with my mom for the past decade.  Yes, you heard me, a whopping decade.  This is what happens when you volunteer to document a lifetime of good eats from a very seasoned cook.

The whole thing began (a decade ago) when all of our family was home for the holidays, before marriage, kids, and other responsibilities.  We were home and, as usual, my mom was busy in the kitchen, creating culinary masterpieces for us to scarf down without a thought of the time, energy, preparation, and love poured into it.  I don’t remember exactly what got us to talking, but somehow we all concluded that it was a darn shame that none of us knew how to cook like my mom and that when she wasn’t around us, like when we went back to work at our respective cities, we would die of food boredom because we wouldn’t know how to do anything except make white rice from our rice cookers.  This is quite a sad predicament given all the wonderful foods that you witnessed us eating on my recent trip to Taiwan.  It’s like a food purgatory.

This led to the brilliant idea that we should compile a family recipe book that shows not only all the recipes my mom made as we grew up, but should also include a complete visual grocery list and a how-to photo guide on how to make some of the more complicated, traditional dishes.  After much trial and error, a number of conversations with some of my graphic design friends, and some test runs of page layouts, the idea became it’s own beast.  Since we all had full time jobs, the process was very slow.  Also, my mom cooks a lot based on gut so she had never been tasked with actually documenting everything she made.  This led to a painstaking and decade-long exercise in cooking, re-cooking, testing, photographing, and tweaking every single dish she ever made for us that we could remember and ever want to make for ourselves one day.

Let me tell you, this was no small task.  Not only was there the testing, documentation, and photographing of the dishes (we did various stagings, sometimes cooking the dish up to 5 times to get it right!)  Since this was a cookbook that was mainly surrounding Taiwanese food, my mom and I wanted to add some history and background about the more traditional dishes and how they related to our family.  Most of the traditional dishes or the family favorites have little anecdotes or family stories associated with them. Recipes that have been adapted multiple ways have tips and tricks associated with them.  It was a great learning experience for me to hear all of these great stories and tips and tricks my mom learned through trial and error.

After endless documentation, proofing courtesy of my sister-in-law, moral support from my husband, through 3 family weddings and 4 grandchildren, I’m very happy to announce that we are FINALLY finished!  Above is a sneak peek of the final product!  Stay tuned for my next post, which will have more details on the creation of the book, some first glance shots of some of the interior pages, and a link to purchase the book if you so choose!

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