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."