80. Community Cookbooks (The Braille Version of Food Porn)

26 Feb

In a world of celebrity chefs, popular food bloggers and recipe sharing sites, y’all might be surprised how many Southerners still consult rinky-dink, fund-raising cookbooks put together by their local church or community organization.

Not even the Baptists consider perusing food porn a sin, nevertheless, you will find none in the pages of these DIY spiral-bound cookbooks. What you will find is good, old-fashioned recipes handed down through generations of Southern cooks. While some folks had the good fortune to work alongside grandma, learning how to make fried chicken or caramel frosting, many Southerners (myself included) did not. With these books we can at least learn how to make SOMEbody’s grandmother’s famous chicken and dumplings.

In “Florence Favorites” compiled by folks at the First Baptist Church in Florence, MS, you’ll find recipes like:

Mama Hazel’s Texas Nut Bread
Tristin & MeMaw’s Cookies
My Mamaw’s Oatmeal Cookies
Granny’s Rolls
Aunt Eloise’s Coconut Cake

And, of course, you can’t put out a local cookbook without adding at least one of these gems:

Recipe for Happiness (Page 82, if y’all are following along)

2 heaping cups of Patience
2 handfuls of Generosity
1 heart full of Love
dash of Laughter
1 head full of Understanding

Sprinkle generously with Kindness. Add a dash of Faith. Mix ingredients well. Spread over a period of a lifetime and give large portions to everyone you meet.

Contributed by Cindy Godfrey

I think her portions might be a bit off. What Southerner only adds a dash of laughter? What Baptist only adds a dash of faith? I think Cindy should have added a caveat: Your results may vary.

The amaretto's thataway!

When my sister was flipping through the book, she noticed a page where one of the recipes had another recipe glued on top of it. Obviously, a post-printing correction. But what could have gone so wrong that every copy had to be corrected by hand? They used industrial strength glue that couldn’t be peeled off, but if you squint, you can see that “Tropical Fruit Slush” covers a recipe for “Amaretto Punch” contributed by Janie Cook, who is obviously a heathen trying to sneak demon liquor into a Baptist cookbook! The nerve!!

I love how these cookbooks have 8 or 10 recipes with minute variations for Southern staples like corn bread or pecan pie. Have they no editors? At least the Baptists filtered out the racy Southern recipes for “Better than Sex Cake” or the dessert folks call “Sin,” which turns out to be the exact recipe of the dessert my family calls “Chocolate Stuff.”

Lazy Man, take note: THIS is a peach pie!

Sometimes the recipes don’t offer much in the way of explanation, such as:

Lazy Man Peach Pie

1 stick butter, melted
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
milk (to form dough)

Stir peaches into dough (part of juice). Add brown sugar and cinnamon. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

The person who contributed this one was indeed a Lazy Man, but I suspect he might be a Drinking Man, as well.

The original Bells Best features a section toward the back cryptically called “Men’s, Microwave.” It ranks just about “Salads” and “Vegetables.” Probably the sections are in alphabetical order, but it seems a little suspicious to me.

Best I can tell, “Men’s, Microwave” features recipes contributed by men, along with three microwave recipes that nobody could figure out what to do with (Microwave Fudge, Hamburger Vegetable Medley, and Microwave Rice).

The men’s recipes include such delicacies as: Hobo Casserole, Deer Meat Supreme, Fried Crappie, Dump Cake (which tastes better than it sounds) and, inexplicably, Quiche.

A couple of years ago at Christmas, my nephew Jackson gave me a cookbook called “A Child’s Plate” that was a fund raiser for his kindergarten. One of the main recipe contributors was my sister, Jenna, who included dishes we learned from our mom and our two wonderful sisters-in-law, Karen and Kay. I have to say that I’m proud to see our family’s recipes printed in an actual cookbook. Even if it is one of the low-rent, spiral bound kind.

Photo Credits: 1. My paltry collection of community cookbooks, 2. “Devil’s Punch Bowl” by Aura Beckhofer-Fialho, Flickr Creative Commons, 3. “First Prize Peach Pie” by Alanna Kellogg, Flickr Creative Commons, 4. The cookbook that made my family famous.

Do you have any community cookbooks on your shelf? Which ones? Do you still use them?

16 Responses to “80. Community Cookbooks (The Braille Version of Food Porn)”

  1. Judy February 26, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    Love community cookbooks! A great way to preserve family recipes and draw folks together. Great post.

    • girloutofdixie February 28, 2011 at 12:35 am #

      Thank you! Glad you liked it!

  2. delightfuleccentric February 26, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    I have three or four myself, including one that has some of my recipes in it. The beauty of these is that these aren’t fancy shmancy gourmet recipes – these are tried and true simple recipes, and you KNOW they’re good!

    • girloutofdixie February 28, 2011 at 12:38 am #

      Easy + tastes good works for me.

  3. Joe February 26, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    Yep, I have Bell’s Best, Bell’s Best 2, Best of the Best of Bell’s Best (how’s that for a title) and Best of the Best of Missisippi plus tons more Southern cookbooks. I have an aunt who retired from Bell South after 45 years and I know at least the first couple came from her. Most of the others were gifts from family who apparently are afraid that I might forget where I came from. But I will say this, there are some recipes in these cookbooks that are Southern downhome classics like my grandmothers used to make that can’t be found anywhere else and I do use them. I have eaten at great restaurants from San Francisco to New York to Paris but my cuisine of choice is still and will always be Southern.

    • girloutofdixie February 28, 2011 at 12:47 am #

      I have Bell’s Best 3, which I haven’t used much. I saw Best of the Best of Bell’s Best when I was looking for a photo from an earlier post. Do you recommend it?

      Ok, I just looked up the Best of the Best of Mississippi, and I’m going to have to order it, if only for William Faulkner’s “Pappy’s Hot Toddy” recipe.

  4. south of seattle February 26, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    I inherited my momma’s cookbooks but I am not beyond going on the internet and buying community cookbook books from the South. Saves on gas money for sure. Baptists and southerners prove to be the best sources! In fact, you just reminded me that I’m making pralines today!

    • girloutofdixie February 28, 2011 at 12:50 am #

      I have to agree that Southern Baptists are some of the best cooks around. The farther out in the country, the better, in my experience, at least.

      Let me know how the pralines turn out!

  5. ssanderson February 27, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    Great post! I always go back to my ‘community cookbooks’, especially the one our church put out 30 years ago…some of my mothers recipes are in it…..just the cassarole recipes you find in most of these books are pretty incredible. Yeah, I know, not exactly the stuff on Gourmet Magazine, but just the kind of food you want to sink your teeth into! You know it’s going to be good if the recipe calls for butter, a can of cream of celery (or mushroom) soup and a sprinkling of crushed Ritz crackers or potato chips on top!

    • girloutofdixie February 28, 2011 at 12:51 am #

      I’m also fond of casseroles topped with those fried onions from a can. My family does an awesome hot chicken salad with those. Yum!!

  6. Kim's Most Wonderful Sister, Jenna March 1, 2011 at 9:01 pm #

    Yes they are the best cook books. My sister was probably already working on this post when I called her over the weekend to ask for a recipe out of the “Florence Favorites” since I hadn’t unpacked my cook books yet from our recent move back to the REALLY DEEP SOUTH. She wasn’t at home so I sent my husband in a frantic search of the garage to find my cookbooks because you just can’t find “Take 5 Quick and Easy Chicken Pie” on the Internet….

    Oh and thanks Kim for posting about you being Jackson’s FAVORITE Aunt…Karen and Kay, I just said that to make her feel better about herself… 🙂

    • girloutofdixie March 2, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

      I love your new name. Geoff said that if you’re my “most wonderful sister” then you are also my “least wonderful sister,” as well…

      What? Jackson didn’t write the note himself? I’m shocked!!

  7. Kim's Most Wonderful Sister, Jenna March 1, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    Oh and wasn’t there one other crazy recipe in the Bell’s Best like Armadillo Stew or something like that????? And I must fidn this Best of MS Book as well…

  8. Kat Bar February 28, 2013 at 6:26 am #

    You kill me, as I only really had the ah ha moment about a month ago that “WE”, southerners, are the only ones who do this. I have my books, but when my mom passed away, that was the #1 thing I wanted…her version of the same book. WHY? Because as you mentioned there are multiple iterations of the same items, but mom either marked an “X” by her regularly used coconut cake, for instance….or, you could tell by the stained up pages where the good stuff was. It’s my go to for everything. But the best part is all the write in info. Where she scratched out someone’s ingredient and added her own twist. OR in the back she’d hand written a super winner recipe (ie “Galetta’s Cornbread) from an older neighbor. Not to mention the best recipe cards from my aunt Kate were tucked inside loosely in my aunt’s handwriting. It’s the crown jewels of our family and the first thing I’d hope to remember to grab in a fire.

    It’s not just about recipes, it memories and every time I make something from that book I feel my mom in the kitchen, her baking training with me, and I get to borrow her for heaven for just a little while.

    I think I will have to make something this weekend that involves a “stick of oleo”. : )

    • Kim Holloway February 28, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

      Aww. Your comment made me smile! I’d love to get my hands on a copy of your mom’s cookbooks, if only to snatch the recipe for Galetta’s Cornbread. Unless you want to share.

      Don’t know if I mentioned this before, but on one of my last visits home, I grabbed my mom’s copy of the Betty Crocker Cooky Book. My sister and I spent many an hour marking up the pages. Years ago, she bought me a copy, but having the original is so much better. When I opened it, I found the inscription “To Kim from Mom.” Don’t know when she wrote that, but WOW such a gift!


  1. 99. Salads (Hold the Veggies, Please) « stuff southern people like - June 15, 2011

    […] of congealed salad are too many to list, but here are a few I found in my trusty Bell’s Best community cookbook: Apricot Jello Salad, Coca-Cola Salad, Lemon-Lime Congealed Salad, and Miss Dora Sills’ Golden […]

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