Interview: Laura Holmes (My Family & Food)
To capture the legacy of her mother and grandmother’s unique home recipes, Laura Holmes’s My Family & Food used Blurb—and inspired us all.
BLURB: What inspired you to make a book?
LH: I grew up in Donovan, Illinois--a small mid-western, farming community--and in my family, we learned at an early age that food is best when it is homemade. We also learned how to cook and bake at a very young age. I can thank my mother and grandmother for this gift and for my love of food—especially sweets. I love my sweets.
My mother and grandmother were my inspiration for creating this family cookbook—a collection of recipes that have been passed down through my family and new ones we’ve adopted along the way. It was time to put all of those family gems that we enjoy when we get together in one place!
BLURB: Why did you choose Blurb to make your book?
LH: I wanted to have full control with the design of my book and once I saw Blurb offered the InDesign/PDF feature, I looked no more. In addition to my love for baking, I also have a passion for design and photography. Being an Art Director at an advertising agency, I knew I wanted to design my own layout and photograph the recipes.
BLURB: What was your book-making process like? Did you plan everything out or was it more organic?
LH: I had a general plan of what I wanted. First step was to collect the recipes and then categorize into chapters. I found a lot of design and photography inspiration online as well as magazines. Once I had a pretty solid design direction and style in place, I planned a long weekend with my mother and grandmother to cook and bake with them. After collecting over 100 recipes—I was feeling ambitious--I knew we weren’t going to get them all done in a weekend. I focused on the ones I wasn’t as familiar with making. It was important for me to document exactly how these recipes—especially the ones handed down through family generations--are made because they never quite turn out the same when you make them yourself. We spent four full days in the kitchen at my grandmother’s house and probably knocked out about 25-30 recipes (testing recipes, food styling and photographing).
Now, you’re probably thinking I’d stop with those 25-30 and finish out the book with text-only pages for the rest, but I like to see a picture for each recipe. Am I right? I tested, styled and photographed all 112 recipes I collected. Well, almost. I did use a couple pictures from family because they turned out really nice. But it was more than just the recipes, it was about the family history and stories. I made sure to sprinkle that into the entire book. It took me around two years from start to finish. However, it was my pet project and I wasn’t able to work on it full time.
BLURB: What challenges did you face along the way?
LH: Finding a cutoff point for recipes, for one. And two, trying to not over design it. When you put something down and come back to it, new ideas would pop into my head. What if I did it this way? Or, how about a layout like this? I had to pick a direction and stick with it otherwise I never would have finished. What can I say? I’m a perfectionist.
BLURB: What did people say (your spouse, children, parents, extended family, friends, co-workers) about your book? What was the most memorable comment and why?
LH: My immediate family was so thrilled when it was finally ready. I still remember the Memorial Day weekend I went home to celebrate, cracked a bottle of champagne and handed them out (My husband and I live about 2 hours north in southwest suburbs of Chicago). My grandmother purchased a book for each household in my family (siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins). My husband, Jon, was proud of my accomplishment, but deep down I knew he was happy it was over. Now I can spend more time with him versus working on the book!
My co-workers were equally as impressed with the book and many of them purchased their own copy – which I was not expecting. It felt good!
There were many memorable comments, but this one stuck out in my mind from my cousin Shana:
It's so much more than we could have asked for and we are all so thankful for Laura's eye for perfection and detail and her endless desire to make a great family keepsake for all of us to share. To be honest, I used my cookbook at least once a week, cooking and baking foods that I love. My favorite is when each time I open it to see the faces of those I hold so dear. At least for me, it allows me to keep a bit of home with me wherever I go.
To read her full blog post about the cookbook go here:
Family Food Part I
Family Food Part II
BLURB: When you think about the process and the end-result of your book-making experience, what was the most surprising? Were there any unintentional consequences -- good or bad?
LH: I started posting pictures of the recipes on Facebook part way into the book making process and I was surprised at the amount of responses and comments people had. It was great to hear the positive feedback and support. There were many who offered to be taste-testers.
BLURB: If you could redo your book, would you do anything differently?
LH: - Start with a smaller collection of recipes
- Record videos and take more pictures of the prep work, steps and ingredients
- Include more family photos with the recipes
- Start a blog to capture the experience
BLURB: What would you say to encourage someone who lacks a little confidence about book-making?
LH: Stop thinking and start doing. Or is that Home Depot’s tagline? Sorry, I can’t help it. I’m in advertising.
BLURB: Do you have any plans for more books? What are they?
LH: Nothing planned right now, but lately I’ve been fascinated with making homemade ice cream. Who knows what will happen. Close