FOR ASHISH PARIDA, cooking is like one big, exciting mystery to solve. He learned to cook from his mother, who cooked by feel rather than recipe, so Parida’s first mystery was to decipher his family recipes, tinkering with ingredient amounts until the end result matched his flavor memories.

His kitchen sleuthing didn’t stop at family recipes — he endlessly tinkers with dishes, skewing them to fit the specific tastes of his wife, Abhilasha, or to match dietary restrictions of his friends and extended family members.

When planning a menu in his Newcastle home kitchen, he starts with the guest list, making a broad list of options for all before honing in on how to make a harmonious meal compatible to each guest’s taste, flavor preferences and dietary restrictions.

His friends and family love the results, and Ashish loves cooking — so much so, he dreams of one day owning a restaurant. The first step to that was writing down all his recipes — a behemoth task. And, according to Abhilasha, handwritten recipes on index cards just weren’t going to be sufficient.

“I was looking for something that could become a keepsake and make a future for him,” Abhilasha says.


Scrolling Instagram for cooking-related gifts led her to Sarah Yeoman of Savor Custom Cookbooks, a Portland-based business that helps people turn their family recipes into glossy cookbooks.

Yeoman is a photographer who got her start in documentary linguistics, spending years working with Indigenous communities in the western United States on language documentation and helping them reclaim languages. Working as a photographer for an alt weekly had her shooting food at restaurants, and the combination of food and linguistics — more specifically, family histories — had her looking to her own heritage.

“I grew up in a really small town in Utah. The only thing I had in my Jewish heritage were three dishes my dad would make,” Yeoman says.

Yeoman’s grandparents had died — the end of the familial food line ended with her dad and those three dishes. She yearned for more, and knew she wasn’t alone.

“I’ve heard way too many sad stories. The sad eventuality is that a lot of the people that hold this food knowledge are elderly,” Yeoman says.

So she began meeting families, photographing them cooking — along with their finished dishes — and having them write down the recipes. That soon led to creating the formal business, helping families take those recipes and turn them into professional-looking cookbooks worthy of their food histories. As with the Parida family, it wasn’t always easy.


“You’re translating someone’s intuition onto paper. It’s using all your senses to know when everything is made correctly. Traditionally, those things have been passed down through observation. It’s not super-natural for us to write it down,” Yeoman says.

Yeoman helps families submit 20 to 30 recipes, plus notes or extended stories, and turns them into a bound book. The packages she offers (which start at $3,500) include her coming to your house for a full photo session: The family cooks a handful of dishes while she snaps away.

“The really beautiful thing when I’m working with the multiple generations is that connection [during the photo shoot]; it’s a lot of laughter, a lot of fun,” Yeoman says.

The Paridas had their son and friends over on the day of the shoot — and, true to Ashish’s nature, he considered Yeoman’s dietary restrictions when meal planning.

“Sarah cannot have eggs; I still remember that,” Ashish says with a laugh.

The Paridas sent photos of handwritten recipes for inclusion, and Ashish made sure each one had a gluten-free or dairy-free component, “So my friends can actually consume the dishes,” he says.


He’s also included a recipe for biryani, his favorite dish to make.

“It’s kind of an all-time favorite for whoever you serve it to. It’s more of a celebratory dish and has a lot of memories attached to it. For me, food has always been about memories,” Ashish says.

It’s the memory part that is Yeoman’s sweet spot.

“This experience is a time machine. You have these recipes that have been around forever, and you’re bringing them into the present and putting them into a book that’s going to last for generations. The present part is really important,” Yeoman says.

Ashish and Abhilasha have asked Yeoman to print 30 copies of the “Parida Family Cookbook.” They plan on gifting the book to both sets of parents — who still live in India — as well as friends and family locally.

“They’ve all been asking for the book. We’re really excited for it,” Ashish says.