“It’s a chance to sort of time travel and to touch relatives and people in our families’ lives that we may never have actually even met.”

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As Southerners, it's safe to assume that most of us have cherished family recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. Whether they were shared by just word of mouth, and you've memorized them, or you have worn, splattered index cards in little boxes all over your kitchen, Food Network's Aarti Sequeira has just the thing we all need. Her new book, My Family Recipe Journal from DaySpring, isn't a cookbook. It's a vehicle for all of us to preserve those beloved family recipes and the stories behind them.

The TV personality and mom of two, recently spoke to Southern Living from her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, about this very personal project.

"My approach to cooking has always been, come along side me and let's make this food together… It was about the conversations that happen in the kitchen while you're cooking the food. And about the conversations that happen at the table once you're sitting together and are eating the food," she said.

Aarti Sequeria in Yellow Apron
Credit: Stephanie Todaro

My Family Recipe Journal, (BUY IT: $29.99, Amazon) is Sequeira's guided tour in becoming your family's culinary historian. It's almost like an adult workbook that helps us not only keep all of our family recipes in one place, but to create our own family heirloom to be passed down from generation to generation.

"I have a family recipe journal. Meaning I have, and it's a tradition in my family. My mom has one. She has her mother's. My sisters all have a copy of it. And I can't wait, to get a copy of my mom's because within the covers of that book lie not only the recipes that I grew up with. The recipes she grew up with, but it's a chance to sort of time travel and to touch relatives and people in our families' lives that we may never have actually even met."

The book is color-coded and divided into eight sections with room for ten recipes each. Sequeira has left it up to us on how we divide the sections, be it by poultry, vegetables, dessert, etc. Or, she suggested, it could be by family member. One section is for Aunt Betty's recipes, and another is for Grandma Joan's. She has left it up to us to personalize and truly make it unique to our own families. "But the one way that I made it my own is that all of the colors in there are inspired by saris I remember my mom wearing. So there all these really rich jewel tones. And it's laid out really beautifully because I want it to feel like a gem. Like a jewel. Like something really precious."

Sequeira was born in Bombay, India, raised in Dubai, UAE, and has lived in several US cities before settling in North Carolina with her husband so her culinary journey reflects the various places she has lived. The recipe journal is a way for her to trace the dots of her own life as well as remain connected to her roots.

"One thing about writing things down is I have recipes from my mom that I photocopied, and I have. And that's her handwriting. … So for me to look at my mom's handwriting. She's in India, I'm here. For me to look at that is a way for me to touch her. To be connected to her. That's the other part of this recipe journal that I think is really special, is that we get to slow down. And we get to write things down. And I think there's something to that act of writing things down that preserves it. Not only on paper but in your memory."

Sequeira is also a devoutly religious person so you will see that there are blessings throughout the journal. Prior to her career as a chef and TV personality for the Food Network, Sequeira earned a degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and she worked as a producer for CNN. Her turn towards food, she believes, was Divine intervention.

"For me, food and cooking it goes very much hand in hand with the spiritual side of life. I started cooking at a point where I was really lost. I was working at CNN, but I knew my career wasn't there anymore and I really had lost that sense of who I was and was I worthy of anything? And so, cooking really helped me and I really believe God spoke to me through cooking."

Along with the places to write your recipes and stories down, you will find blessings to read aloud as you share your meals as a family.

With the holidays right around the corner, Sequeira's My Family Recipe Journal is the perfect idea for a most thoughtful gift. She even suggested that we write one recipe down as a starting point before we gift it to our loved one.