Community Cooking

What we eat, how it is cooked and when we eat it are great snapshots of society. I have long thought that recipes and cookery books are as much a reflections of the times they were used as just a new way of producing food. Getting together to share recipes has always been a great way of strengthening the ties between neighbours, friends and family, bringing a community together and finding your way in a new neighbourhood.

With the coming of the internet one of the fastest growing networks are those sharing recipes, from followers of celebrity chefs, to those with special food needs and of course the commercial communities set up by supermarkets and other food outlets. There are even sites on how to set up a community cookery books.

So I love reading through community cookery books. Those that have been put together by a collective of cooks to present the way they eat and what they eat that make them special. Nothing says ‘this is who we are’ like a great shared dish, by a family or community.

Whether that is local communities brought together by a shared aim for fund raising or groups representing a whole nation putting the word out about what is great about their country. Here are some of my favourites.

First is a hand-made book produced by The Working Ladies Guild. The recipe pages are typed and held between decorated boards with thread. The cover has a quote written on the front ‘ Unsubdued is, and shall be, my appetite for food C. S. Calverley’, with recipes including almond horseshoes, chestnut soup and ham souffle. 


Next is a great book called Favourite Recipes used by American Woman’s Club Bombay. Published in 1935. An unusual book covering all types of dishes both sweet and savoury but although it is produced in Bombay there are very few Indian recipes. These are expats after all. The local advertisements make up for that, opening the local shops for us to see. 


Next is a marvellous booklet from the 1960s,’Compliments of James F. Collins your Republican Candidate for Congress Hartford County. Containing a selection of favourite recipes of noted republicans from all 50 states. With a picture of the congressman and his family. His favourite recipe? Pecan Perfection Pie. circa 1962. Who’s to say a political party can’t be a community? 

Next is What’s Cooking in the City published by City of London Branch Red Cross. It contains recipes donated by the Court of Aldermen and the Livery Guilds of the City of London. So recipes from the Guild of Fishermen, the Worshipful Company of Solicitors, the Worshipful Company of Gold and silver Wire Drawers! Fascinating.


You can’t beat a good monastery book! Tashi Lhunpo Monastery Cook Book Very unusual little book with recipes for foods cooked and eaten at the monastery with versions for use at home. The Tashi Lhunpo Monastery was founded in Shigatse, Tibet’s second city in the fifteenth century by the first Dalai Lama.


But for my money you can’t beat a good fund raiser to get close to who people are. So the next ravings from Refried Books will be about those community fund raising books that I have found and loved. Watch this space…

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