It’s not just a recipe

Project STIR

Project STIR is a series of documentary films launched by Sarah Shotts on Kickstarter. The films will follow Abuelitas, Nans and Mamaws passing down heirloom recipes in kitchens around the globe, including countries such as Panama, New Zealand, Turkey, Croatia and England.

Read about Project Stir here.


The worn, canvas-covered book will likely be an object of contention when I die. Currently the blue journal resides in my kitchen drawer where I can easily locate it. I suspect each of my children will want it included in their inheritance and I envision it becoming a treasured family heirloom, handed down and replicated through generations. It is a simple, but timeless legacy to preserve my contributions as well as cherished memories. However, there is one major obstacle to achieving heirloom status – my deplorable handwriting. Nevertheless, there is something special about a handwritten recipe, so they will have to figure a way to decipher my scribbling.


My family can testify cooking was not a natural talent for me. My first efforts at cooking for my new husband over thirty years ago were a complete culinary disaster. Because I flipped pancakes too soon, batter oozed onto the plate. Gravy is one of the few foods I do not like, so when I sampled my concoction and it tasted horrible, I proudly served it to my husband who sheepishly discarded it in the trash. So our marriage began with the premise I had no talent when it came to cooking. Fortunately, he is quiet a competent chef and creates delectable dishes without the benefit of a recipe.


Over the years we frequented all of the local restaurants as a necessity associated with my demanding career as a physician as well as our kids’ involvement in various sports. Nevertheless, we maintained some mealtime traditions, such as gumbo for my son’s birthday or home-cooked breakfast on Sunday mornings. Now my children are grown and cooking together as a family has become one of our favorite past-times.


Ten years ago I moved into a house with a cozy kitchen and a magnificent view. For the first time in my life, I wanted to be in the kitchen where I could see the lake framed by a big picture window. So at the age of forty I finally began to master the art.


Like most people, I kept my recipes in books, on index cards and used online resources. My kitchen drawer was a jumbled mess of cookbooks, which made locating a particular recipe an arduous task. At the suggestion of a friend, I purchased a blank journal and began to preserve our favorite family dishes.


The recipes are hand-written on the right and the unique story associated with each dish is recorded on the page opposite of the instructions.


The chicken cordon bleu recipe was collected from a college classmate after her “how-to” speech. The caramel pie recipe is the dish my cousin made for family reunions. Corn salad was a favorite at work potlucks. My personal favorite is my biscuit recipe which I consider my very own creation. It is the result of much Sunday morning experimentation, advice from my friend in Alaska and tips from Southern Living magazine.



  • 2 cups flour (I use freshly milled wheat)
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup cold butter
  • 1 cup buttermilk


  • Mix dry ingredients.
  • Cut butter into ¼ inch slices and toss into dry ingredients.
  • Chill in refrigerator for ten minutes
  • Add buttermilk and knead by hand until the dough is a smooth ball, adding flour if necessary.
  • Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a rectangle ¾ inch high.
  • Sprinkle with flour and fold like a letter.
  • Pat it out again and repeat sprinkling and folding at least twice.
  • Cut with biscuit cutter (must have an open top) and place into greased pan with sides touching.
  • Brush with melted butter.
  • Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes.



Perhaps when the current volume is completely full I will create another so they don’t have to argue over who inherits this family treasure. For now, it is a handy way for me to quickly locate our favorite recipes. More importantly, it is a way to relish the memory of savory dishes and family and friends who shared them.

Because it’s not just a recipe, it’s an heirloom.

Psalm 102, “Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.” NIV

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9 thoughts on “It’s not just a recipe

  1. I loved this! I, too, have a journal of sorts. It actually began in a date book so the year it was started is documented in gold numbers on the cover. Needless to say, that was MANYyears ago:)

  2. I love this Vickie! 🙂 I’ve started something like this, but most of our recipes are still in the experimentation phase. I’ll have to start a special one for recipes once we have them perfected. 😉 Thanks for sharing your Project STIR story.

  3. Having the story with the recipe will make your book even more treasured. Perhaps it can be photocopied and assembled so everyone can have their own copy. My dear Mother took most of her recipes with her when she passed away. She seldom wrote anything down and relied on her memory.

  4. My friend made a book that has a picture of a family member in their kitchen and a copy of the recipe they contributed or enjoy the most. Then, the recipe is included. It is the neatest book! I have always wanted to create one of my own. I don’t think we take many pictures of women in the kitchen preparing food any more.

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