When Michelle Woodard’s sons complained about the same-old meals, she knew where to go for inspiration. “St. Ann Center is filled with excellent cooks,” said Michelle, a volunteer at the Bucyrus Campus. “I asked clients for their favorite recipes, and before I knew it, I had enough for a cookbook.”
With help from fellow volunteers Nancy McCray and Martha Kelly, Michelle put together “Old Fashioned Recipes from Famous St. Ann Center Cooks.” She explained, “The clients dictated their recipes to me.” That technique worked beautifully. “I didn’t only get lists of ingredients—I heard some wonderful stories.”
For instance, there’s a lot of history behind Minnie Henry’s Cha-Cha Relish. “It’s a tradition in my family to grow a kitchen garden,” she said about the source of the sweet-tart condiment she uses to spice up everything from hot dogs to cornbread. “We all cooked from scratch in Mississippi.”
Besides preserving long-cherished recipes, the cookbook project has been therapeutic for those who contributed to it. “Just talking about food triggers happy memories,” Michelle said. Each featured cook was given a copy of the completed book. Ernestine Oliver, 72, beamed when she turned to page 5. “My grandma taught my mother how to make these Southern Tea Cakes, and Mama passed the recipe on to me,” she said, remembering the expert bakers who measured by eye, by hand and by intuition.
St. Ann Center’s famous cooks agree their recipes shouldn’t be confined to a book. Recently, they got together in the adult unit kitchen to whip up a few of their specialties. Creating something delicious provides these seasoned meal makers a chance to socialize. Michelle said, “They have such fun working together.”