GUEST COLUMN | Food for thought

If you see a church cookbook, buy it. When women in a church are asked to submit their best recipes for a fundraiser, they bring their A game.

They do not want to be outdone. You will not find better recipes anywhere else.

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I've admitted this before. I'm a cookbook addict. When my wife sees me coming through the door with an armload of books, she knows I've found an estate or garage sale and bought every cookbook they had.

And there's no shortage of cookbooks. Especially ones that have tried-and-true family cooking home runs.

Not long ago, I hit the mother load. I went to an estate sale that could be the one they'll have for me when I'm gone. This person appears to have also gone to sales and sought the same cookbooks I buy.

The purchases included not just church cookbooks, but also a book from the Texas Rangers (the law enforcement Rangers, not the baseball Rangers), a VFW post, and a cookbook with wild game recipes.

The wild game cookbook could have been written by the fine citizens of my hometown, Ashdown, Arkansas, but it wasn't. It's a compilation of country goodness put together by the 1980 members of American Legion Post 191, in Stratford, Oklahoma.

If your curious how inclusive the wild game recipes are in this book, the front and back covers include artist renderings of pheasant, deer, fish, rattlesnake, and (my Louisiana cousins will be glad to hear) armadillo.

Another cookbook is all New Mexico recipes. As you probably have already guessed, these concoctions are spicy. Some are much spicier than others.

Spicy is a favorite of mine. For Christmas, my wife gave me a cookbook called, The Spicy Food Lovers Cookbook. Not everyone likes spicy, but many cookbooks you find at sales include at least a few recipes with some heat.

So, what is it about our desire to acquire and share recipes? Food isn't political. Well, I guess it can be, but for the most part, we either like certain foods or we don't. Rarely do we unfriend someone because they like Brussels sprouts.

And yes, it's spelled, Brussels sprouts, with an S at the end of Brussels. Amazing what you learn from cookbooks.

Some families are extremely protective of certain recipes, refusing to share them with anyone, ever. But if a ladies cookbook project is coming together, not wanting to be outdone, many times those top-secret recipes are revealed.

Their friendly competition is our gain.

Often, the recipe is outshined by the margin notations by the cookbook owner.

"Bill's favorite. Glad I made it for him in 76. His last Thanksgiving."

"Mom's yeast rolls were so good. Susan learned to make them after mom passed. It's like having mom with us. Hope someone else takes up the recipe."

Recipes are like old songs. They bring back memories. Specific memories. We recall where we were when we shared dishes we loved with friends and family.

Maybe it was homemade ice cream on summer camping trips, or snow ice cream during winter days when there was no school. Recipes take us to places we can't visit in real life, but with just a bite, we can go there in our minds.

One of my family's best recipes has never (to my knowledge) appeared in a cookbook, but it should. Since there's no current cookbook project in which I've been invited to participate, I'm going to share it here.

The dish is chocolate gravy.

Before you curl your lip and pinch your nose together, hear me out.

Chocolate gravy is a delicacy in Arkansas, Oklahoma, East Texas, and where other refined citizens also live. It is not an actual gravy; it's more of a sauce.

Typically served over homemade, buttered biscuits, chocolate gravy is made from milk, butter, sugar, Hershey's Cocoa, and a few other ingredients.

Since the Moore family recipe for chocolate gravy should be available, but isn't, I'm sharing it now.

CHOCOLATE GRAVY

1 cup of sugar

4 tablespoons of cocoa

1 teaspoon of self-rising flour

1/4 cup of salted butter

1 cup of milk

1/4-teaspoon vanilla (optional)

Directions:

Over medium heat, thoroughly mix sugar, flour and cocoa in a cast iron skillet. Add milk, butter and vanilla. Bring to a brief boil, then reduce heat and remove from heat when consistency is a medium thickness. Pour over biscuits and enjoy.

Now that you have my favorite family recipe (the credit for which goes to my late Aunt Maude), what's yours?

Have you shared it in a church cookbook? Have you shared it with your family?

You should. Because a treasured family recipe is always excellent food for thought.

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John's latest book, "Puns for Groan People," and volumes 1 and 2 of his series "Write of Passage: A Southerner's View of Then and Now" are available on his website, TheCountryWriter.com, where you can also send him a message and hear his weekly podcast.

©2022 John Moore

photo Columnist John Moore likes cookbooks, especially church cookbooks. (Photo by John Moore)

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