Creating Memories Through Family Recipes

In Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust uses the shell-shaped French cake called the “Madeleine” as an example of involuntary memory—for Proust, tasting the cake triggered a memory without intellectual effort.  As he wrote, “No sooner had the warm liquid mixed...

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Where Are the Voices From Our Past?

A recent editorial in the New York Times got me thinking. Why is that we have boxes, albums, and electronic devices full of photos but few, if any, recordings of the voices of the people in those photos? In his editorial, So Many Snapshots, So Few Voices Saved, writer Verlyn Klinkenborg,...

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Do You Know Me? It’s Still Me…

When my first job out of college took me to another city, the only thing I really missed was all the people from back home who “knew me from before.” Over the decades, I’ve come to love my new city of La Crosse, Wisconsin, and when my mom was 84, I brought her here to be near...

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Helping Dementia Patients Find and Save Their Stories

Recently I attended a seminar called Dementia 101, presented by the local Alzheimer’s society. This night was an eye opener for me. My grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s, and I recalled aspects about her, her care facility, and those around her while I listened to the presentation....

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Flying the Flag for Personal Histories in England

Having recently moved back to my homeland of England after thirty-two years in the U.S. and six years in Canada, it was a wonderful surprise to get a phone call from Mike Oke, a fellow Brit and member of the Association of Personal Historians, advising me that he would be conducting a personal...

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A Man, His Wife, and a Fish: A Love Story

When I was nine, I remember sitting with an elderly man at the edge of a pond, quietly fishing with him. There were about ten other residents of Castle Rest Nursing Home scattered along the grassy edge with a few nurses aides flitting about maintaining order. My mother, then director of nursing at...

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Recipe Notes and Cooking Stains Reveal Family History

The New York Times Dining & Wine section recently published an article titled Between the Recipes, Scribbles Speak Volumes. Author Kate Murphy celebrates the “ghosts [who] linger in old cookbooks, possibly the most annotated form of literature.” I was born into a family of writers....

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Things That Matter: The Candy Dish

On Mom’s antique coffee table, a deep green Asian-inspired piece once owned by my grandparents, sits a large crystal candy dish filled with an assortment of after-dinner mints and some old holiday candy. It is the kind of cut crystal that was popular in the 1930s. It’s about six inches...

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