Ode to church cookbooks

Oh, how I love those sacred recipes from covered-dish dinners and bake sales of lore, where many are gathered with plastic comb binders and the culinary saints whose names are preserved on the pages will be blessed from tabletops for generations to come.

Just kidding, sort of.

I have loved cookbooks since my 20s, when my first post-college job was at Weight Watchers Magazine in New York City. Copyediting recipes was part of my job, as well as writing the “display copy” or prose accompanying the glamour shots of food.

Publishers sent free “review copies” of their new cookbooks to food magazines in those days, in hopes the editors would review or mention them in their pages. The seasoned food editors often gave me, the eager editorial assistant, the books they didn’t want.

Noticing my fascination with reading the books and trying the recipes, my family started giving me cookbooks as gifts. Many of those gifts were Junior League or community cookbooks, especially from the Southeast. In the last decade, my husband started bringing home old church cookbooks to add to my stash.

The “church cookbook” that I use the most is actually a fundraising cookbook I bought in 2002: Fragrant Offerings from Heart to Table to benefit the Wesley Foundation at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. Many of the recipes were submitted by the Rev. Ginger Howe Isom, then the director of Wesley Foundation, now pastor at Centenary United Methodist Church in Morristown, Tennessee. I often go to this cookbook for advice on Southern standards like Deviled Eggs or Strawberry Pie.

It’s fun to share our United Methodist recipes and cookbooks, don’t you think? So I was especially excited to see a new feature on our denomination’s website, “Our United Methodist Table” at UMC.org/OurUMTable. Check it out.

Here’s a video taste from the website, created by Lilla Marigza of United Methodist Communications: A recipe for “1898 Potato Puffs.”

If you try the Potato Puffs, let me know or comment on the YouTube video. My husband just bought home a bag of potatoes so I’ll try them, too.

We would also love to hear about your church cookbooks. You may reach me directly at annettespence@holston.org.

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