Starting a Cookbook Collection for a Grandchild Is a Meaningful Gift

It promises that your grandchildren will be able to enjoy being in the kitchen with you for the rest of their life, even if all they do is read it.

It's never too soon or too late and all reasons are great ones. The nature of the collection depends on the grandchild and, most importantly, you as the giver.

Some cookbooks are how-to manuals and cooking lessons meant to be put to good use. Even the youngest kitchen helpers can use cookbooks created for their age, skill level, and attention span. For that matter, that's solid criteria for selecting books for older cooks, including the grown ones. A well-written cookbook is a practical gift whether the recipient is learning to boil water or ready to tackle complicated techniques. These cookbooks are a great way to share tips and hints we wish we'd known when we were learning to cook, not to mention the ones we continue to buy to improve our own skills and expand our repertoires. These books get jobs done.

Three generations of women baking in the kitchen using cookbook
Tom Merton/Getty Images

Other cookbooks, although useful, are far more than how-to manuals; they're journals, archives, and delicious branches of the family culinary tree. They serve as markers and mementoes of family history and traditions, like a sheaf of love letters from one generation's kitchen counters and dining room tables to the next. These books are as much a part of the family recipe box as handwritten index cards.

A well-loved cookbook is a storybook, so it's important to add your own words. If there's ever a time and a place to write in a book, it's in a beloved cookbook intended for an adored grandchild. Open up the cover and record when and why you bought the book for yourself and why you want the recipient to have their own copy to keep, even if they might not use it for years.

Scribble generously in the margins. Mark the recipes you love and the ones you don't, and say why. Be honest. Tell on yourself. Claim your victories. Confess your bumbles, especially those, because we know that a notorious (and hopefully harmless) cooking fail makes for the best family stories. No detail is too minor or frivolous, even it's nothing more than a line such as "Grandpa liked this one, but always wanted more cheese." or "These are the first cookies your daddy ever made on his own."

Don't apologize for liking what you liked at the time. Recipes go in and out of fashion, yet we have to own them as signs of the times, just like baffling hairdos and outdated outfits in the family photos.

Share your honest opinions and make candid assessments, good and bad. Some cookbook recipes earn our heartfelt thanks for feeding us year after year, while others deserve our justifiable scorn for being way more trouble than they were worth. Share the tips and pointers you wish you'd had when you first made the recipe. Dish about the secret ways you tweak the recipes to make them your own. Dog-ear the best pages.

It's fine to like a book simply because the photography is gorgeous. It's more than fine to be proud of a cookbook because it hailed from your hometown and you knew the cooks whose names were neatly typed, with pride, below each recipe. It's important to remind everyone that Aunt Jean was proud of her Jell-O molds.

A homely cookbook, in the best and most sincere sense of that word, is a gift of you and your ways. It promises that your grandchildren will be able to enjoy being in the kitchen with you for the rest of their life, even if all they do is read it.

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