Family Recipes & Food Heritage | MPHPL 

Family Recipes & Food Heritage

Family Recipes & Food Heritage

Women’s stories have often been overlooked by history. Their setting was the frequently the home; their contributions tied to the everyday tasks of keeping a home and family. Unfortunately, despite the importance of their voices, their stories are often missed in the stream of names and dates that fill textbooks. Thankfully, social history can help recreate the lives of the women and families forgotten in the larger narrative.

Social history examines the lived experience of the past, focusing on the everyday lives of average men, women, and families and how they were impacted by factors such as government, war, famine, economy, etc. In her book “From the Family Kitchen: Discover Your Food Heritage and Preserve Favorite Recipes,” Gena Philibert-Ortega discusses social history and how its methodologies can be used to rebuild a family history, specifically, by examining how they ate. As she explains, food can deepen our understanding of a family’s finances and food availability, and how these were changed due to outside forces like wartime rationing. Such changes in diet may in turn develop into a habit or family tradition as recipes are passed on. By examining food, historians and genealogists can learn more about how their own history was shaped by significant historical events.

One key resource Philibert-Ortega identifies for tracing family food history is community cookbooks. Commonly known as fundraising cookbooks, they have been around since the Civil War and used to raise funds for churches, women’s organizations, war relief efforts, hospitals, libraries, and many more. Serving as a sort of “city directory” for the women of the community producing the material, these books can provide readers with names, residences, sometimes photographs and biographical information, and, of course, recipes!

The Mishawaka-Penn-Harris Public Library encourages you to join us on Thursday, June 10 at 6:30pm via Zoom to listen to Gena Philibert-Ortega discuss food history and community cookbooks in our program Researching Women: Community Cooks and What They Tell Us About Our Ancestors. Tune in to learn more about community cookbooks, where to find them, and how to recreate the communities from your own family history using them. Click here to register for this event.

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