Cooking up our family histories

Have you ever thought that writing your family history is like cooking up a stew?

Idaho historian and writer Debra Holm is writing a series of four articles to help those who want to write their own family history stories. This was the first.

Writing family history is like making a good stew. We labor over good things and let them simmer, and the end result proves that the sum is much more meaningful than the parts.

Here is her recipe:

  • Assembling ingredients: Keep a box for photos, documents or other memorabilia. Add note cards with information.

  • Select veggies and herbs: Getting ready to cook? Organize the box to find the proper pieces of information.

  • Meat: The basis of a family stew is names, dates and places, “carefully chosen, chopped and browned.”

  • Add ingredients and stir: Chose the flavorful items – ancedotes – and mix them well.

“For instance, unique family stories and photographs offer as much savor as sautéed garlic—like the time when a maiden aunt was worried that the “vicious dog” would attack my brother, an innocent six-month-old baby. But when the dog yelped and my brother cried, it was because the teething infant had chomped into the dog’s wet nose!”

  • Onions: Holms calls these the times that make you cry – deaths, accidents, diseases and war.

  • Carbohydrates: Ingredients relevant to your family’s origins – Idaho potatoes, Japanese rise, Scotch pearl barley or Native American corn – to give body to your history.

  • Add color: Carrots and tomatoes are local color – local history – that adds to the family epic.

  • Salt and pepper: Simmer the family history stew, add seasonings and adjust the flavor – via editing.

  • Serve: The dish should be warming, rich, colorful and well seasoned. “Fun to consume, but also good for you.”

Tracing the Tribe has often compared genealogy to a road trip, but never thought about it as a culinary experience!

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