"The Vintage Church Cookbook: Classic Recipes for Family and Flock” by Parrish Ritchie, The Countryman Press, 224 pages, paperback, $22.95
Like author Parrish Ritchie, I have numerous church cookbooks, some old and others newer. Some came from my mom’s collection and some from local churches.
But, Ritchie, a blogger from Norfolk, Virginia, has taken her interest in old church cookbooks beyond just collecting them. She has gathered recipes she’s seen over and over in these books and turned them into her own cookbook, “The Vintage Church Cookbook: Classic Recipes for Family and Flock.”
Church cookbooks have a long history in the United States, she notes in the introduction. “Since the mid-1800s … church and community cookbooks, which were often compiled as fundraisers, were a way for the women to share their treasured, time-tested recipes. … Each one is a little different, and each has a unique blend of classic recipes and some special variations, but you can always feel such a strong sense of community through the pages.”
Many of the recipes in those cookbooks are casseroles, probably because they are versatile and travel well, making them perfect for sharing at potlucks or taking to an ailing neighbor. Consequently, Ritchie’s own cookbook has an extensive chapter featuring main dishes and casseroles, including French Onion Chicken Casserole, the classic Tuna Noodle Casserole, and Beef & Bean Biscuit Casserole. It also includes such family favorites as an easy-to-make beef stroganoff and Cola Cranberry-Glazed Ham and the brunch and shower staple, Cranberry Chicken Salad Croissants.
The chapter on hors d’oeuvre begins with the simple Million Dollar Dip, also known as Almond Bacon Cheese Spread, and ends with a no-frills version of pimento cheese spread.
The Side Dishes & Vegetables chapter includes longtime favorites like corn pudding and Waldorf salad and the more unique like Jell-O Spinach Salad. Yes, the latter is a real recipe from the author’s own church’s cookbook. She describes it as being from the era “when a hostess would put anything in Jell-O — from meat to veggies and everything in between.”
From the dessert chapter come recipes for Classic Caramel Cake, Hummingbird Cake, Lemon Lush and a candy called Martha Washington Jets, made with sweetened condensed milk, coconut, pecans and melting chocolate.
Each recipe is illustrated with a full-color photograph taken by the book’s author and includes serving suggestions or tips for jazzing up the dish.
This is a fun cookbook sure to stir up fond memories of past meals shared by family, friends and church members.
Cheramie Sonnier is a food writer and columnist. Email her at email@example.com, and follow her on Twitter, @CheramieSonnier.