How to Keep a Cooking Journal

We hear of keeping journals or diaries about the everyday events in our lives. Sometimes these are interspersed with photos or sketches. But have we ever considered keeping a journal or notebook about the foods we cook and serve, the recipes we save, the festive occasions our families enjoy.

Even though I’ve found value in searching for and saving the recipes of my ancestors and my childhood, have helped compile a cookbook of Allen Family recipes, I’d never thought of starting a cooking journal until I began to put together the syllabus for a workshop on journal keeping/writing.  I mentioned the enjoyment of reading in my grandfather’s autobiography and newspapers columns his thoughts about the foods served in his childhood..

Then I delved into my grandmother’s diaries and read some of the letters my mom wrote to me over the years and found in those mention of foods cooked and served. These were recorded in passing, but added interest to the discussion of their everyday lives.

Developing Your Food Journal

So I’ve begun a Food/Cooking Journal to see how this will play a role in the culinary history of my family. I think of journals as a type of notebook that you write in by hand. However, in our computer world, many people keep journals in various forms in a word processor or even online on a web site. Rather than having a private journal, with lock and key, some of the online journals on web sites are open to the world. Or they might be accessed only with a code that you give to specific people. Your food/cooking journal also could contain reminisces, restaurant experiences, different foods in areas where you travel.

Sample Journal Entries

May 4 – This was a day of feasting! Enjoyed fellowship potluck dinner at church – baked ham, various pasta casseroles, tossed salad with assorted dressings, carrot/raisin salad, green beans Southern style, homemade baking powder biscuits. The array of desserts seemed endless – chocolate cakes, vanilla pudding, assorted cookies, strawberry and vanilla ice cream, cream pie. In addition to the tasty food, the fellowship was delightful.
Later we visited Mom for her 94th birthday. The May Family Day celebration at the assisted living home was complete with a food laden buffet. Mom, to whom hospitality means serving food to guests, wasn’t satisfied until we had a bowl of mixed fruit and pastries. There also was an array of cheese and crackers, veggies and dip, and fruit punch.
A friend stopped by to wish Mom “Happy Birthday” and brought her a strawberry/rhubarb pie. After we returned from a drive, there was a mini birthday cake for Mom from everyone at the home.
Collecting Recipes

This also is a place to collect recipes you come across or are given by friends and family. You either can copy the recipe or paste in clippings from newspapers and magazines.
My aunt kept a cooking journal of sorts. She didn’t write down daily food experiences. However, in this notebook, she jotted down recipes from family members as well as neighbors.
Here is one I jotted down several years ago from my mother-in-law, one that has long been a favorite in her family:
LUCILLE’s STRAWBERRY PIE – Use a cooked pie shell, graham cracker crust, or cookie crust.
Mix together 3 tablespoons corn starch, 2/3 cup sugar, 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons light corn syrup. Cook until clear. Then add 2 tablespoons strawberry jello. Slice 1 quart strawberries into cooked pie shell. Pour glaze over all and chill. Garnish with whipped cream, whipped topping, or vanilla ice cream.

(c)2003 Mary Emma Allen

Mary Emma Allen has been collecting recipes since girlhood and has written cooking columns for the past 40 years.

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