julia cooking.jpg
Sure, this cookbook won't be going down into the Recipe Hall of Fame like Julia Child's, but who pays attention to that anyway?
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Urbana Legends: Teaching Good Ol' American Recipes to a Persian Novice

julia cooking.jpg
Sure, this cookbook won't be going down into the Recipe Hall of Fame like Julia Child's, but who pays attention to that anyway?
I am no nana. I am definitely not from Urbana, Ohio. And my name doesn't rhyme with Anna (in case you were wondering).

But I do have an ancient cookbook in-hand, filled with recipes put together by who are now grannies of the homey United Methodist Church of Urbana. And it's aching to be put to use.

We found the book hidden in the desk of a former SW employee who hails from Iowa, and we were enticed to do some investigating. The book itself has no notation as to who is responsible for its creation, but beside each recipe is the name of its contributor. After looking up a majority of the names, most of whom obituaries revealed were dead, I came upon what I believed to be the head granny of the Urbana United Methodist Church.

Phyllis Youtz, who is now 81, is the president of the church's chapter of United Methodist Women and one of the book's main contributors. After having left a few inquisitive messages on her home phone, Youtz called me back with serious confusion as to how I even knew the book existed: "I pulled mine out after I got the call from you, and I was talking with some church members and we were looking through the book together," she said. "I hadn't seen it in years, but there are some great recipes in here. It's a wonder how it got all the way to Seattle." To explain the background of this mysterious cookbook, she gave me the number of a person she calls "a little, young, Chinese minister."

Three decades ago, Mark Chow, the young minister Youtz was speaking of, got a call out of the blue from a cookbook producer. He thought it would be a brilliant idea for the church to put one out as a fundraiser for their youth fellowship.

Chow now works as a pastor in southern Ohio, and I gave him a call to see if he could explain the project a bit more. In recalling the cookbook, he says that after its production, he swore (in a minister-like fashion, of course) never to take up the project again, so laborious was it. So SW is blessed to have come into possession of its only edition, and will honor its ongoing grace by whipping up one of its recipes, once per week--and you can read about it here every Tuesday in the new Voracious column, Urbana Legends.

As with Midwestern charm, all of the recipes have a tint of nauseating cutesiness to them, while providing unique takes on American classics. With apron in tow, I prepare to do those Methodist Urbanians justice and offer their wisdom to a new decade of cooks.

But here's the twist: Having been raised on almost solely Persian cooking, I'll be venturing into an entirely new genre of homemade cuisine (as if I ever even came close to mastering Persian food in the first place). And as I try out the recipes, I will chronicle the cooking process, while also offering up the recipes to you.

As a somewhat exaggerated taste of what's to come, here is one of the last recipes in the book. I just made it...twice.

A Happy Day

1 cup friendly words, 4 heaping tsp. time and patience, 1 dash of humor, spice of life

2 heaping cups understanding, 1 pinch of warm personality

Measure words carefully. Add understanding, time and patience. Cook on the front burner. Keep temperature low, do not boil. Add humor and personality. Season to taste with spice of life. Serve in individual molds. This recipe is guaranteed never to fail.

 
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