Most of my best memories of my grandfather involve the food he made.
Whenever the family gathered at his house for holidays, he was always the one who handled any cooking my grandparents contributed (my grandmother had many skills, none of which involved anything to do with a kitchen). Thanksgiving meant his special cranberry salad, fluffy with marshmallows and real whipped cream, while Christmas meant an array of candies so wide they filled the entire counter.
Possibly my favorite thing he ever made, however, was clam dip. The dip was the only way I ever ate clams as a child, a salty, creamy, tangy concoction that generally appeared during Easter and New Year’s. It was almost more of a treat for me than the Christmas candy, and I would spread it over the ham or sandwiches in addition to commandeering a pile of it for my chips. It was infinitely more delicious than any other dip I’d ever had, and as a child I considered it secret proof of my grandfather’s genius.
Then my grandfather died, and my aunt got all his recipes. That meant items like the cranberry salad and the clam dip still appeared at family meals, but when it came to my beloved clam dip it just wasn’t the same. It tasted fine, but it didn’t have the magic I remembered from my childhood. By the time I grew up, I just assumed that my childhood memories had added a glow to the dip that wasn’t there.
When I grew up, however, I knew I had to test the theory. I called my mom, and together we pooled our memories until we had an ingredient list for the dip. I spread everything out on the counter, testing and tasting and adjusting, and even though I came up with something pretty good it still wasn’t quite right. I gave up, assuming that I would never quite recapture the flavor.
I put the leftovers in the fridge overnight. When I tasted them again the next day, the flavors had deepened and commingled to create the taste I remembered from my childhood. I’m sure my grandfather faithfully left his dip to set overnight, but since he didn’t write it down no one who tried to make it after knew to do it.
Recipes can be as important a part of family history as more serious forms of documentation, slices of family history that are shared and brought back to life every time that people start cooking. Cooking a beloved recipe can bring our childhood back, connect us with the family member who gave us the recipe, and create another connection between the generations.
In recognition of that, FamilySearch is giving people the opportunity to submit their own treasured family recipes and the stories that go along with them. At familysearch.org/recipes, people can either submit their own recipes, check out sample recipes, and find out how to identify your own family’s special recipes. To qualify, the recipes don’t need to be several generations old – as long as the recipe is important to your family, and family memories, it can qualify.
The recipes, which are public when posted, allow other family members the chance to both access the recipe and share in the beloved memory. If it’s a recipe you haven’t written down yet, it’s also a way to preserve all those little details you can’t imagine not remembering.
It’s also a way to help the dish live on, even when you’re not there to cook it for your family. Even now, I wish my grandfather was here to taste my clam dip. I hope I got it right.