A new heirloom project

Following the holidays my blog posting took a bit of a hiatus. A coworker at AASL was on maternity leave and though I have continued shooting, my extra hours covering at AASL kept me form updating the blog. But with her return and a summer season of shooting ahead, I am back to posting. Speaking of babies, I recently did some family portraits for a friend on her son’s first birthday and a maternity shoot for another who is due in July. I can’t wait to do her newborn photos! I’ll post from both of these shoots in the coming weeks, but this week I want to share with you a new long-term personal project I am working on.

This spring I began a project to explore another photographic specialty and at the same time create a beautiful family heirloom. All of our families have ethnic or traditional dishes with a secret family twist. Some of these family recipes exist only in our grandmother’s memory. In the past, one generation would teach the next to pass down family recipes. In present day, fewer and fewer of us are the homemakers our mothers and grandmothers were. Without documentation, these pieces of our family history could be lost forever.

The Family Cookbook Project is an opportunity for me to practice making all of my family’s most “famous” recipes and create a personalized gift for each of the cooks in our family, while dabbling in the art of food photography and food styling. The cherry on top… fabulous family comfort food to eat at the end of each shoot!

I kicked-off the project with Great Grandma Book’s buttermilk pancake recipe. The Book family has Finnish origins, and the thin silver-dollar buttermilk pancakes famous in my family have ruined all traditional restaurant pancakes for me. We’ve been known to compete for the eating record as kids. Of course this is one of those family recipes that written down says “add buttermilk until batter is thin enough.” What does that mean? I am the kind of cook that follows instructions specifically, so this project is proving to be an interesting experiment and sometimes requires a test run. However, despite the cryptic recipes and my amateurish cooking skill, the styling of the food for the photograph still proves to be the more challenging aspect. Note to any who may try this at home… peanut butter just looks like a dollop of poop on a pancake. I stuck with just the bananas and added strawberries.

This is not the first heirloom project I have taken on for my family in recent years. For my grandparent’s 50th anniversary I completed a family tree project. I took portraits of each of the family members and then pinned wallet-sized prints to a larger photo of a tree from their lakeside property mounted to a backboard. It turned out better than I imagined, and my grandparents were so touched. My goal with this new project is to cook and photograph at least one new recipe weekly this summer and complete the cookbook design for Christmas. I may also design a few recipie cards for those who prefer the card. I’ll try to post new images from The Family Cookbook Project along the way. 

Now, who’s hungry? Some of these recipes serve quite a crowd!

~ by Stephanie Book on April 28, 2010.

2 Responses to “A new heirloom project”

  1. Hi Bill and Janis! So good to hear from you guys on here. I’d love to get a recipie from you if you have a favorite-famous family recipe. Email it to me or my mom. Take care!

  2. Hi Stephanie: Your mom sent us your blog about the recipe book. Wow, we are impressed. Yes, those pancakes look good! We will look forward to seeing and reading more. Love, Bill and Janis Book, Marquette, MI

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