Christmas and Chanukah are fast approaching and sometimes gift giving can either be stressful and/or expensive. Occasionally we get the idea to do hand-me-downs or re-gifting but we can feel guilty or cheap doing this. The key is knowing the recipient.
What most people don’t realize is that family heirlooms can mean a great deal more than something new and shiny. However, often passed down heirlooms are more about what you want to give to someone rather than what they really want of the heirlooms and trying to navigate these waters can be tricky without hurting someones feelings. After all, it’s not that I don’t love Grandma’s crocheted doilies it’s just not something that means a lot to me or goes with my decor.
There are many ways to pass down family heirlooms and many creative ways to make it something new and exciting. Take for example a rocking chair from my husbands side of the family that we have on our second floor landing. By simply updating the shape of the cushions and fabric they were covered with it made for a better blend of new and old without loosing the memory of his grandmothers rocking chair.
Add to that it makes a great place for a memory quilt my sister made for me. When my grandpa died on my fathers side we all went to his apartment to clean it out. My dad told us to take anything we wanted as keep sakes. Of a few things I chose was the throw pillows from this wonderfully tacky polyester couch he had. My grandparents had this couch for as long as I can remember and it’s one of those things that touching it, seeing it, smelling it would just bring back tons of memories.
I was in luck that at the time my sister was very into quilting. I asked her to take these pillows and make me a quilt out of them. Years past and I kinda lost hope until one Christmas she presented me with this amazing quilt. Not only did she make a wonderful deigned incorporating pieces of those pillows but she also had images of her and I printed onto fabric and incorporated all of those images into the quilt as well.
Passing on family heirlooms doesn’t mean you have to give me the polyester couch as it can mean doing something creative so I never loose that memory. However, I do realize we’re not all that creative and with less than a week to go till the gift giving commences we need easier ideas. This is where antiquarian cookbooks come into play.
If you have someone who loves to cook in your family there is little better than passing on to them cookbooks of generations past. Recently I was at my mothers house and going through some of her cookbook stuff and came across this old dilapidated looking cookbook wrapped in something like oilskin. It turns out this cookbook was my great grandmothers cookbook. I stopped it up since my mom didn’t have any use for it and it went into my cookbook library. Then recently I was watching a PBS special the Christopher Kimble did titled Frannie’s Last Supper. In it he tells the story of who Frannie Farmer was and her critical role in American culinary history. The menu he did was from an old turn of the century cookbook called “The Boston Cooking School Cook Book”. As he talked about this book I made a note to try and find an early printing of this book. Lo and behold this was the cookbook I snagged from my mom. The oilskin was so old it was pealing away revealing the title on the spine.
Then just the past weekend I was at my mother-in-laws house and asked her if she had a cookbook collection. She told me where they were at that she hardly uses them. I went rummaging in her cupboard and unearthed a two volume set “Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking”. This was yet another of the founding cookbooks to American culinary history but this one was of the 1940’s and 50’s. My mother -in-law told me she had no use for them and if I wanted them I could take them. I was more than delighted to. These to me seemed like such treasures that I couldn’t fathom how or why she would be willing to part with them but then again how many people need a cookbook telling you how to skin and prepare raccoon!
So if you happen to have items with historical significance, or are passed down from generation to generation, this can be the perfect time to re-gift these treasures. Add to the heirlooms a little write up of the meaning and significance of the item. You may know the story but the person you are giving it to may not. Just remember to think of what the person may want bases on interests and hobbies and not just something you want to get rid of by de-cluttering! But hey if you can kill two birds with one stone go for it… just know if you come to my house I might now serve you raccoon for dinner!