'Sweetness follows': Columbus native's unique cookbook has a sweet story to tell

March 6, 2013 11:34:11 AM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


Cookbooks aren't supposed to make us misty-eyed, but then, this is no typical cookbook. 


"Sweetness Follows: The Story of Sam and the Treat of the Week," by Columbus native Katy Smith Houston, is more than a collection of dessert recipes. It is a heartfelt testament, a celebration of a young man who overcame a traumatic brain injury and the loving support of family and friends that helped him do it. 


The story begins with friendship. First, between Katy Houston and Leila Lane, who both live in the Jackson area, and later, their sons, born three months apart. 


From the time they were "crawlers," Houston's son, Andrew, and Sam Lane Jr. were buddies. Their shared adventures and milestones took them all the way to college together, at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. It was there, on a spring afternoon in their junior year, that Sam was hit by a drunk driver while cycling to an organized ride to raise bicycle awareness. He suffered a devastating brain injury. At one point, family and friends were even urged to say their goodbyes. 


But Sam is a survivor. He endured five harrowing weeks in a coma, during which he was transferred by air ambulance to St. Dominic's Hospital in Jackson. He later spent another two months in the Mississippi Methodist Rehabilitation Center, undergoing intensive physical, occupational and speech therapy. 


Houston visited often, and when Sam was finally able to eat again, she made him a promise -- that she was going to "feed him back to health." 


"With Sam's long and uncertain road of recovery ahead of him, I was at a loss of what I could do," said Houston. "Doing nothing was not an option. I decided I would cook, and that is what I did!" 




Treats of the week 


Houston's love of cooking dates back to an Easy Bake Oven and three brothers -- Forrest, Austin and Norwood -- who loved everything she made growing up in the North Columbus home where they lived with their mother, Nancy, and their dad, Lynn Smith, now deceased. 


For Sam and his family, she chose to make desserts while Sam's therapy continued during 2007 and 2008. Every Monday for 62 weeks, she showed up at the Lane household with a different sumptuous homemade sweet. If she had to be out of town, she made something in advance and arranged for it to be delivered. 


"Standing on his doorstep every Monday morning was my unspoken way of saying, 'I am with you in this, and I care about you,'" Houston said. The weekly confection became known as the "Treat of the Week" and was always looked forward to. They continued until Sam was so improved, he was able to resume his studies, this time at Ole Miss.  


As Sam's mother, Leila Lane, writes in the cookbook foreword, "These 'Treats of the Week' from Katy were the highlight of every Monday for over a year, and they exemplify the sweet, caring, sustaining support we received from hundreds of people during Sam's recovery."  




Creating a cookbook 


Encouraged to turn the dessert recipes into a cookbook, Houston attended a seminar in Nashville, Tenn., presented by Favorite Recipes Press. She obtained invaluable guidance, including a comprehensive publishing manual. 


The recipes Houston had made for the Lanes were gathered from family, friends, magazines and other sources. She got them organized and formed a testing team to fine-tune each one. The group often met weekly to receive recipes and evaluation forms. If the recipe fell short of producing a perfect dessert, it was revised and retested until it did. 


Houston's friend, Patty Roper, styled the food for photographs, working with photographer Greg Campbell. The cookbook was released in October 2012 by Favorite Recipes Press. 




All in a name 


Sam himself came up with the book's title. The renowned Athens music scene had been a big draw for Sam and Andrew when choosing to go to college there. One of Athen's most famous exports is the band R.E.M., which has a song titled "Sweetness Follows." 


"Thus, Sam came up with the title for this book," writes his mother in the foreword. It alludes not only to the sweetness of a dessert that follows a meal, but also to the sweetness of friends who supported the family through a critical time. 


The band, moved by the story, readily gave permission and even pledged to help spread word of the cookbook through their website. 


In addition to 84 dessert recipes, "Sweetness Follows" has ample photos of Sam and Andrew as children, as well as pictures of a grown and smiling Sam, who ultimately graduated from the University of Georgia. Passages from his family, friends, neurosurgeon, nurse, teachers and high school football coach offer insight into this young man who is an inspiration to so many.  


In the cookbook, Houston makes a request: "I would ask that when you make a recipe from this book that you would stop and say a prayer for Sam as he continues to improve. ... In the South, friends, family and food are all tied together. This story about Sam celebrates all three." 


Katy Houston will attend a book signing March 12, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at Pizazz, located at 2118 Highway 45 N. in Columbus. A portion of the cookbook's proceeds go to The Wilson Research Foundation at the Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson.  






Makes 5 1/2 dozen 




3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter or margarine, softened 


3/4 cup granulated sugar 


3/4 cup packed brown sugar 


2 eggs 


1 teaspoon vanilla extract 


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 


1 teaspoon baking soda 


1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 


1/2 teaspoon salt 


3 cups rolled oats 


1 2/3 cups butterscotch chips 




  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl; beat until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. 


  • Stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; add to the butter mixture gradually, mixing well. Stir in the oats and butterscotch chips. 


  • Drop by tablespoonful 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Remove the cookies and cool on a wire rack. 


    (Source: from "Sweetness Follows," by Katy Houston) 






    Makes 12-16 servings 




    1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened 


    3 cups sugar 


    6 eggs, at room temperature 


    3 cups all-purpose flour 


    1/4 teaspoon baking soda 


    1/2 teaspoon salt 


    1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature 


    2 1/4 cups frozen sliced peaches, thawed and chopped (or fresh, if available) 


    1 teaspoon vanilla extract 


    1 teaspoon almond extract 




  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bea the butter in a large mixing bowl on medium speed until fluffy. Add the sugar gradually, beating for at least eight minutes or until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. 


  • Combine the sour cream and peaches in a small bowl. Add to the butter mixture alternately with the dry ingredients, beating after each addition until just combined, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir in the extracts. Pour into a greased and flour tube pan. 


  • Bake for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours or until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the pan to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes. Turn the cake out of the pan onto the rack and cool completely. 


    (Source: from "Sweetness Follows," by Katy Smith Houston)  






    Makes 3 dozen bars 




    1 cup (2 sticks) margarine, softened (do not substitute butter) 


    1 cup packed brown sugar 


    2 cups all-purpose flour 


    3 (4.25-ounce) milk chocolate candy bars, broken into pieces (I use Hershey's) 


    1/2 cup (3 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips 


    1 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted if desired 




  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the margarine and brown sugar in a medium mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Add the flour and mix well. Press over the bottom of an ungreased 12-by-17-inch baking pan. 


  • Bake for 15 minutes or until light brown. Remove the pan to a wire rack. Microwave the milk chocolate and chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl on High for 1-2 minutes or until melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Stir until smooth and silky. Pour over the warm crust and spread evenly, sprinkle immediately with the pecans and press in gently. Cut into bars while still warm. 


  • Cover tightly with foil and let stand for several hours or overnight until the chocolate is set. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks. 


    (Source: from "Sweetness Follows," by Katy Smith Houston)

    Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.