Natchez Children’s Home cooks up book of recipes for everyone

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2005

At the Natchez Children’s Home, they are cooking up something a little different this fall. Earlier this month, the home released &uot;Yum-m-m! Recipes That Make Cooking Fun Again,&uot; a cookbook with recipes given to the home by Miss-Lou residents.

The books are on sale for $15, with proceeds to support the work of the home, which provides a place for children who have been taken from their families to live until they can return home.

The idea for the cookbook evolved from the &uot;Beast Feast,&uot; an annual gathering at the South of the Border restaurant in St. Francisville, La., that benefits the children’s home. At the Beast Feast, teams of cooks from across the Miss-Lou gather to make some unusual meals.

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The name of the event refers to the products, often the catches of local hunters, used to make some of the dishes.

&uot;The two are inextricably linked,&uot; Hungerford said. &uot;Those type of special events are crucial for us.&uot;

Carolyn Mathis, a longtime supporter of the children’s home, was instrumental in the founding of the Beast Feast and helps put on the event each year along with Shelton and Sarah Smith, owners of South of the Border. She was approached about the idea for the cookbook and almost immediately liked the idea.

&uot;Around Christmas last year, some of my girlfriends were sitting around and came up with this idea,&uot; Mathis said. &uot;They called me and said, ‘What about a cookbook?’ I said, ‘It sounds like a great idea, but let me call you back tomorrow to make sure.’&uot;

The children’s home put out a call for recipes to go in the book. Hungerford said she was shocked at the sheer volume of the response she got. Then, with the recipes collected, the real work began. Hungerford said Mathis put in countless hours compiling and formatting the hundreds of recipes the home received so that they could be put into the final form of the cookbook.

&uot;I don’t even want to count the number of hours it took (to make this cookbook),&uot; Mathis said.

The cookbook itself is a treasure trove of recipes, with more than 800 all told, covering

The book is arranged in eight chapters, each devoted to a different type of dish. The bulk of the recipes are in two of the chapters: Main Dishes and Desserts, perhaps reflecting the way Miss-Lou residents feel about their food.

The Main Dishes section is massive, covering 61 of the book’s 246 pages devoted to recipes. With barbecue, Mexican dishes, stews, roasts and more, the recipes cover just about everything. Indeed, the use of different ingredients is staggering.

Several pages of the section are devoted to recipes from the Beast Feast, and they aren’t your typical dishes. There are recipes for squirrel spaghetti, wild duck soup, quail with orange glaze and stuffed deer back strap.

But rest assured; for the less adventurous eater, there are many everyday recipes with ingredients likely to be found in any kitchen.

In desserts, the variety of dishes is staggering. From Joe Stevens’ Brennan’s Bananas Foster to Hope Trosclair’s My &uot;Almost Famous&uot; Pina Colada Cake (perhaps it will become famous after inclusion in the cookbook) to Roxie Elaine Wilkinson’s Never Fail Pecan Pie, there are all types of sweets.

There are also helpful hints interspersed in the recipes to help cooks.

&uot;We wanted to make a cookbook that was easy and fun,&uot; Hungerford said. &uot;All of these recipes are from people who really like to cook and they’re good. Now if I had a recipe in here, it would be scary.&uot;

The cookbook also marks a new fundraising strategy for the home. The privately-funded home relies primarily on donations from private citizens and businesses and annual events like the Beast Feast for its budget. With this project, the children’s home hopes to raise about $10,000. The Beast Feast usually raises about $12,000.

Beside each recipe the person who submitted the recipe, which Hungerford said reads much like a list of her annual supporters of the home.

&uot;It’s like a love letter to the children’s home,&uot; Hungerford said. &uot;As I flip through this, I see recipes from all the people involved with the home. These folks have participated because they love the work of the children’s home.&uot;

The cookbook is already a success in Hungerford’s eyes.

&uot;We’ve sold more than half of the 1,000 in the first run in just the two weeks since we got it,&uot; Hungerford said.