Vicksburg Vittles: Local cookbooks stir up flavor of community

Published 9:24 pm Monday, May 27, 2024

When it comes to finding a recipe, it seems like the Internet has made it easier.

No longer does one have to peruse through a cookbook page by page to find what they are interested in preparing. Nor do they have to second guess whether a recipe will be time consuming or laborious. Most Internet recipes provide this information and they also come with rankings based on a five-star scale, along with comments from those who have already tested out the tastiness.

Certainly, having access to recipes out the wazoo and the culinary analysis from others can be beneficial. But let’s face it, when it comes to finding a recipe the family will love, the proof is in the pudding and sometimes that may mean relying on a cookbook — hometown cookbooks, specifically.

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Take, for instance, “From the Kitchen Of The Cypress House,” a Vicksburg cookbook compiled by the late Lauren Stamm.

Stamm, whose name is synonymous in the River City with cooking, wrote a weekly food column for decades titled “From the Kitchen Of The Cypress House” for the Vicksburg Evening Post, which later became the Vicksburg Post. In her columns, Stamm shared hundreds of recipes with her readers, some of which are included in the cookbook she published a year after she retired in 2010.

Sprinkled throughout Stamm’s cookbook are photos that serve as a time capsule of events and people who are and were part of the Vicksburg community.

You can’t find that on the Internet.

Stamm’s oldest daughter, Story Ebersole, who enjoyed a cooking and catering career in Vicksburg before she retired in 2018, said, “I think all communities, especially in the south, have tons of cookbooks. They are great ways to share your favorite recipes with friends and they really do tell a story about the group or town or club,” she said.

Stamm’s cookbook is certainly a meaningful addition to the many Vicksburg cookbooks that have been produced by individuals, groups, clubs and churches in Vicksburg, many of which were compiled and used as fundraisers.

“Cookbooks are a perfect fundraiser since all the ‘members’ feel compelled to buy the cookbooks for themselves or for gifts. It is an easy sale,” laughed Ebersole.

In 1983, the Mu Xi Omega Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. began selling “Cooking With The Alphas,” a cookbook they compiled as a fundraiser for the sorority.

“We do fundraisers to assist with projects to benefit the community and the funds from the cookbook were allocated to assist deserving students to further their education and then other community projects,” AKA charter club member Zelmarine Murphy said.

In gathering recipes for the cookbook, Murphy said they reached out to the membership and asked them to submit recipes. They also encouraged members to solicit recipes from co-workers, church members and friends — “those who were good cooks.”

“I submitted recipes from friends of mine who I was friends with at Alcorn State University who were excellent cooks,” she said. “We also have some names in the cookbook who are from Tallulah, La. These were people I worked with — particularly ladies who worked in the cafeteria of the various schools — who I knew were excellent cooks,” Murphy said.

The types of recipes Murphy said they wanted for “Cooking With The Alphas” were recipes that would be appreciated.

“We wanted good recipes that were used often and with the Southern flavor as we used to call it,” she said.

Murphy said Stamm met with the sorority after reviewing their cookbook and was very complimentary of its contents.

“She came and met with the sorority, and we were really surprised and shocked that somebody from The Post— the editor of what we had called the ‘society page’ back in the 80s — had complimented us on how we had gathered recipes and how we had organized them,” Murphy said.

Stamm also pointed out to the sorority that in going through the cookbook the recipes were authentic, and she would try some of them.

Obviously, the sorority was happy about Stamm’s assessment.

“We thought that we were the last words as folks were concerned in Vicksburg,” Murphy said, “Because she (Stamm) gave us the OK.”

Murphy said it was Stamm who also inspired her to check out other Vicksburg cookbooks.

“I have several Vicksburg cookbooks and it’s because of her. And I do use those cookbooks, and I enjoy looking through those cookbooks and recognizing names of people I have known through the years,” she said.

In 1983, the Junior Auxiliary of Vicksburg had its first cookbook — “Vintage Vicksburg” — published.

Natalie Bailess served as the editor and, since its first printing, more than 40,000 copies have been sold.

Ebersole said her mother, who was a former JAV member, had been instrumental in assisting the membership with the cookbook.

“Mom worked very hard on ‘Vintage Vicksburg’ and I know she was very proud of that book.  She helped compile the recipes and I’m sure she made sure that all the good, old Vicksburg recipes were included,” Ebersole said.

Just over a decade later, the JAV embarked on its second cookbook, “Ambrosia.”

The cookbook is filled with recipes grouped according to seasons, along with amazing photography by former Vicksburg photographers Bob Pickett and Jeneva Faulk Pickett.

Martha Maupin Whitaker served as the editor while the entire JAV membership had some hand in producing the beautiful coffee table style cookbook.

Whitaker also served as the editor for “Moore Groceries,” a cookbook to benefit the Old Court House Museum.

One of the highlights of this cookbook are its vintage photos taken by J. Mack Moore between 1869 and 1954.

Crawford Street United Methodist Church has had several cookbooks published and sold as a fundraiser. One was a compilation of recipes that belonged to Mary Jane Jackson, the longtime secretary of the church. Jackson spent 55 years — as some would say, running the show at Crawford Street — and was known to like simple recipes. After she died, a cookbook was assembled with a collection of them. This little cookbook, with its wooden cover and one-of-a kind hand painted designs made by Lewis Decell and Jo Glyn Hunt, respectively, with recipes typed by Decell’s wife, Coralee, was sold at the church bazaar as a fundraiser for the United Methodist Women’s group.

Crawford Street has produced several other cookbooks including “The Most Unique Marvelous Yummy Fantastic Cookbook Ever”; “Treasures”; and “Floral Club.”

“This (Floral Club) cookbook was done in 1928,” Crawford Street member Carol Duncan said.

Crawford Street is not the only church in town that has released cookbooks.

Other churches include St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Bovina. “Dinner-on-the-Grounds at St. Alban’s, II” was copyrighted in 2014. The cover was designed by the late Ann Biedenharn Jones, and its forward was written by historian Rebecca Blackwell Drake.

“T’AI BIEN,” a cookbook comprised by the women of St. George, is filled with a collection of Lebanese recipes including Tahini, several versions of Kibbee, and Baklawa. The cookbook was first printed in 1988, with subsequent printings in 1990, 1993, 1998, 2003 and 2008.

Copyrighted in 1990, Christ Episcopal Church put out a cookbook entitled “Christ Church Sesquicentennial Recipes.”

Like most of the church cookbooks, it includes a bit of the church’s history and Christ Church has a storied one. During the War Between the States, the church was badly damaged from intense shelling. But the Rev. W.W. Lord did not let this curtail his daily services, which were held during the 47-day siege.

The Church of the Holy Trinity, Episcopal published “The Trinity Cookbook” in 2017.

Included in the cookbook are not only some very delectable recipes, but the histories behind the church’s stained-glass windows, some of which are Tiffany’s.

Stamm made reference to “Our Daily Bread” in her column and then included it in “From the Kitchen Of The Cypress House.”

The cookbook was compiled by the Women’s group of the The Lutheran Church of the Messiah that was located on Cain Ridge Road.

The recipe Stamm highlighted was a Pork Tenderloin recipe.

While these listings represent only a few of the cookbooks produced in Vicksburg, they do embody the immense amount of talent and creative culinary prowess within the city.

Ebersole said her mother amassed many of the local cookbooks in her collection, some of which were included in the 569 cookbooks donated to the University of Southern Mississippi for The Mississippi Community Cookbook Project following her death. The project focuses on how recipes and cookbooks provide insight into the way Mississippians ate, and how they thought about their hometown, state and world, which gives credence to the importance of local cookbooks.

Ebersole said she thought cookbooks would eventually become like “encyclopedias” — a thing of the past — and she has even whittled down her collection. However, the ones that remain are those she has personally worked on and the books about Vicksburg.

“I used to have shelves of cookbooks.  But now I just have my favorites,” Ebersole said.

And what makes a favorite — a cookbook one uses all the time?

“It’s in your kitchen with grease or chocolate stains on your pages,” Ebersole said. “That is a keeper.”


About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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