Three in five survey respondents noted that meals created from their elders are untouchable.

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Family heirlooms are meant to be cherished and passed down from generation to generation. And that's not exclusive to vintage journals or other personal keepsakes. According to a survey of 2,000 people on behalf of Watkins, commissioned with OnePoll, many Americans hold on tight to their family recipes. In fact, 41 percent of the survey's respondents noted that they have had at least five recipes passed down to them over the years, and even more believed they should stay in their original form: Almost half of American families have had arguments about modernizing these sacred recipes.

About half of the survey participants also believed that it's crucial to preserve family recipes so future generations can use them, too. When it comes to these recipes, three in five noted that the ones from their family are considered untouchable, as 57 percent learned how to make the meals from their mother and 33 percent from their grandmother. This all comes from the desire to continue the recipe legacy. Fifty-four percent learned because they wanted to keep up the traditions put in place by their loved ones, 52 percent pass them down to their children, and 48 percent just like the recipes.

baking holiday sweets with family
Credit: filmstudio / Getty Images

The survey participants also felt that family recipes helped strengthen their ties to their loved ones, as 84 percent noted that it boosted their connection with their family and history. Sometimes the meals don't hit the spot, though: Forty-five percent of Americans shared that they still make their family dish even though they don't like eating it, especially because "everyone else likes it," they "have to keep the family history going," or it gives them "a positive feeling when making it." In this case, 54 percent of respondents think that at least one of the recipes passed down from a previous generation should be improved and 56 percent have updated the meal to feature natural ingredients.

After making slight tweaks to recipes, 86 percent of people noticed that they tasted better. Over half of respondents explained that each generation should take the recipe into their own hands to update them and 61 percent added that they'd like to take a chance and include their own touch on an existing recipe. Respondents were even interested in creating their own recipes to pass down: Sixty-five percent would like to make one to help pass on their culture, 47 percent want to be able to tell their children stories through the food, and 36 percent would like to share music from their culture through this experience.

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