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Two Departments Collaborate on a Community Cookbook

Submit a favorite recipe for inclusion in a Mount community cookbook

December 9, 2020

Calling all cooks -- and pseudo cooks -- to submit your favorite recipe to the Mount community cookbook

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Deadline for submissions: December 15

Click here to submit

Questions: Contact Julie Feldman-Abe (jabe@msmu.edu) or Sam Vasquez (samavasq@msmu.edu)

A PDF of the cookbook will be available to everyone, but a limited number of hardbound copies will be available as well, although only contributors are guaranteed to receive a copy. The hardbound copies may not be available until the campuses are reopened.

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Two like-minded individuals in different departments, unbeknownst to each other, were planning to assemble a cookbook with submissions from individuals affiliated with Mount Saint Mary’s. Once they learned of their parallel goals, the project became a collaboration between the Center for Cultural Fluency and the Department of Sports and Wellness

Julie Feldman-Abe, PhD, director of the elementary teacher preparation program as well as the Center for Cultural Fluency, was inspired to create a cookbook after she, like so many others, turned to cooking and baking at the start of the pandemic “as a way of bringing comfort,” she said. “It was a lot of focus around food and family.” Feldman-Abe was also looking for something to fill the hole left by the CCF’s Food for Thought Series where a group would go to lunch at a restaurant and have a guest speaker discuss cultural topics regarding the food and its region of origin.

“It is sad that we can’t do that series at this time,” she says, “so I thought maybe we could do a Cooking for Thought series, but first I had to figure out who cooks at the Mount.”

Meanwhile, Samantha (Sam) Vasquez ‘21 was going through her own cooking revelations. Her mother is an excellent cook, so she never learned her way around the kitchen, which became starkly evident during the pandemic, when Vasquez returned home from the residence hall. “My mom’s a nurse and my dad’s a CPA, so they’re both essential workers, and it’s just me and my older brother at home during the day. And it’s not fair for my mother to come home and still have to cook,” she says. 

Two proud home chefs: Chicken parmesan, shown here, was one of the first family meals that Samantha (Sam) Vasquez '21 and her brother Anthony learned to make for their family at the start of the pandemic while their parents continued to work outside the home.
Two proud home chefs: Chicken parmesan, shown here, was one of the first family meals that Samantha (Sam) Vasquez '21 and her brother Anthony learned to make for their family at the start of the pandemic while their parents continued to work outside the home.

So Vasquez and her brother have been trying to expand their culinary horizons. Last year, the Sports and Wellness team compiled a cookbook for those with limited kitchen accessibility, but it was inadequate for Vasquez’s current needs. “It was mac and cheese in a mug or one person soup,” she explains, “so we haven’t been using those recipes at home because we’re four people, and my  brother really is a fifth person when we eat. We needed more home style, larger family dishes. I thought about the idea of Athenians Care, that we wear our masks not to protect ourselves but to protect our friends, our family, our churches, the greater Mount community. I thought it’d be fun to do a cookbook based on that idea — not just my own recipes or my mom’s recipes but a Mount community cookbook.”

As Vasquez’s idea was germinating, Feldman-Abe sent out her initial “feeler” email. Mark Spellmire, director of Sports and Wellness, responded and the two sides decided to combine their efforts.

Feldman-Abe’s initial plan was to seek contributions that were of cultural significance, but plans have expanded to include and familial or personal significance for the contributor. So far, the recipes they have received (nearly 20 at the start of December) represent a myriad of cultures as well as a mix of contributors from various groups at the Mount. The two hope to receive representation from all levels of the University– students, faculty, staff, alums and friends of the Mount. 

“No recipe is too complex or too small,” says Feldman-Abe. “This isn’t supposed to be intimidating to potential contributors. It doesn’t have to be some iconic recipe, just something that’s personal or culturally meaningful to them.” Both women would be ecstatic to receive 50 submissions to match the number of recipes from last cookbook the Sports and Wellness department published.

Feldman-Abe is hoping to broaden this project beyond the cookbook into some Cooking for Thought episodes, where volunteers give a cooking demo of their recipes and talk a bit about its cultural significance or what it means to them. “I had the Cooking for Thought idea before the cookbook idea,” she says, “and Bernie Roberts and Chantal Randolph were planning to do a segment on Creole cooking in the fall, which we had to postpone. My hope is that we will do it in the spring and that other cookbook contributors might be interested.”

Just some food for thought.