November 2, 2016

making a family cookbook: part 1

While on a family vacation a couple years ago, we decided to make a family cookbook. It would be recipes from aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. This year it was finally completed! Read ahead to learn how it went from an idea to finished books. This project will be broken up into 4 parts: 1. Getting started, collecting recipes, and taking pictures, 2. Organizing the book and design, 3. Naming the book and making the cover, 4. Printing and finished book reveal.

Part 1: Getting started, collecting recipes, and taking food pictures

1. Figure out what you want to include in the book. Flip through other cookbooks (both professional and family) and decide what you want to include other than recipes. Think about what would be cool to include in a book that will only be made once and hopefully passed on as the family grows. Some ideas: current family tree, biographies, kitchen equivalent charts, old and new family pictures, anecdotes of notorious family moments, a name attached to each recipe, a personal comment about each recipe, etc. For my family's cookbook I chose to include family pictures, names attached to each recipe, personal comments about each recipe, a picture for each recipe. and a letter from grandma in her handwriting.

2. Send an email to all family included in the cookbook. Explain what you want from them, how to submit their content, and give them a deadline. Ideally, a far deadline is best so that people can put in the effort and time needed to make the cookbook something great. Plus, it will give people the opportunity to send in seasonal recipes. Send a reminder email every couple months so that the deadline doesn't sneak up on anyone. 

3. Start collecting your own recipes. Think about your favorite meals as well as popular family recipes. Start typing them up and make a rough schedule to get them made and photographed well before the deadline. I typed mine in Word and made notes for the category, personal comment, and my name. 

4. Organize your files as they are submitted. Everything will be so much easier. I had two organized spaces: a master recipe log in excel and food section folders in finder. Each recipe had it's own folder that contained the typed word document and any pictures. That folder was then placed in it's food section folder (breakfast, soups & salads, appetizers & sides, main dishes, desserts, drinks). In both places, each recipe had a food section and a name attached to it.

5. Take pictures of the food. This was my favorite part of making the book. I wanted to have a picture for almost every recipe in the book so I scheduled and spaced out making my recipes over many months. I looked on pinterest and other cookbooks for food picture inspiration. I'm no professional, but I learned to work with what I had. I had a white tri-fold poster board, 18" white marble pastry board, a couple vinyl flooring samples, and a large window. Natural lighting is always the best so I timed cooking and baking based on the sun coming through the window. Set up a few feet in front of the window at a time when no direct sunlight actually shines in on the set up. For me that was usually mid-day or before 4:00pm. Choose the background for the picture (I switched between marble and wood vinyl) and then stage the food. I used props (like a fork, rolling pin, coffee mug, napkin, etc) and pops of color. For some color in my pictures, I bought a $2 small blue plate at Target and a couple fabric squares at JoAnn's. You can see in the pictures below what my set up usually looked like. I would take about 30 pictures with different angles, zooms, and props so that later I could choose the best one for the page layout.

Part 2: Organizing the book and design
Part 3: Naming the book and making the cover
Part 4: Printing and finished book reveal

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