Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Cookbook Project

So I'm really excited to tell you about this new project I've started working on. But before I do, I need to put you in the mood...you'll see why.

A couple of years ago, I was listening to CBC radio (I do that now that I'm getting old) and heard this interview with this guy, Brian Francis. He was talking about his blog, cakercooking.com and in particular, this hilarious story about two women, Vera and Gwen and their dueling Tomato Soup Cake recipes found on same page of the cookbook they both contributed to: From Our...Kitchens…To Yours, produced by the Melfort Block Parents Association. Apparently, in this tiny little town of 6000 people, two women contributed almost the same recipe for this unusual-sounding (yet apparently famous and cult-like among cakers) dessert. And it appeared on the same page of the cookbook. He went on to describe the hilarious imaginary conversation that ensued when the cookbooks came out and the two ladies discovered what had happened.

Hearing this story made me curious about many things:

1. What the heck is a "Caker"?
2. Whose Tomato Soup Cake recipe reigned supreme?
3.Does Tomato Soup Cake taste better than it sounds?
4. Do the people of Milford eat anything besides Tomato Soup Cake?
5. Are Vera and Gwen still friends?

Now that I've (hopefully) piqued your interest and left you wondering all the same things I'm wondering about, I bet you're also wondering why I told you that bizarre tale of tomato soup cake.

What exactly was I getting at?

Well, simply put, like Mr. Brian Francis, I LOVE community cookbooks. You know, those cookbooks put together by the ladies (and sometimes men) of a community to raise money for their schools and skating rinks and to show-off their mad cooking skills. Most other regular cookbooks have tons of tons of recipes from one person...and they can't all be winners, but in community cookbooks, the only recipes in there are the contributors' signature dishes, the ones they've been making for years, the ones friends and family have been raving about for years, the ones they are most proud of. In a community cookbook, every recipe is a winner.

My other favorite thing about community cookbooks is the story behind the salad..or sauce, or soup, or strudel. Often, there is a short blurb that goes with the recipe, sometimes explaining how it was created, sometimes bragging about how people rave about it, and sometimes giving tips on preparing and serving the dish. For example, my go-to recipe for salmon patties comes from the Cedarville Community School 50th Anniversary Cookbook. It initially caught my attention with this enticing lead-in and subsequent directions:
I like how she says my kids will probably like these.
Ruth Stilman may not be the best PR person, but she sure knows how to make a mean salmon patty.

But this recipe is not the only recipe I make on a regular basis that comes from a community cookbook. I can't even count how many times I've made the one-bowl one-spoon banana cake recipe, which is also from the Cedarville Cookbook and the Sticky Chicken from the Kinnereth Cookbook is one of he first dinners I cooked for my roomates when I attended the University of Western Ontario. When we moved up there, I knew I
The Kinnereth Cookbook:
 A Toronto Jewish Tradition put together by
The Hadassah-Wizo group of Toronto
needed a cookbook (this was back in the dark ages before the internet) and so I stole borrowed the Kinnereth from my mom. It is still my go-to book for that Sticky Chicken, Sweet and Sour Meatballs, and Mandelbrot. And I know I'm not the only one out there that loves this book.

So now that I've thoroughly convinced you that community cookbooks, like the Cedarvale and Kinnereth, rock, I have terrible news: they are both out of print and almost impossible to get unless you steal them from your Mom or Bubby's cupboard.

The good news is that a brand-new community cookbook is in the works! Yay! It will have all of your favorites, like banana bread and salmon patties and sweet and sour meatballs, but it will also have some new favorites, like quinoa-this and vegan-that.

In just about one year, the latest and greatest community cookbook will be hitting the shelves of Toronto. Ladies and gentlemen, I (and the Toronto UJA Women's Philanthropy) present to you (drumroll, please):


Remember all those wonderful recipes I told you this cookbook will have? It can only happen if YOU (that's right, I'm talking to you) submit yours, or your Bubby's, or your Zaidi's best recipe ever.

It's super-easy! Choose a recipe, click here, and enter away!

Which of your recipes will be my next go-to dish?

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