Church cookbooks and comfort food


Church cookbooks are full of classic, often-simple recipes that have fed congregations and families for generations. A new cookbook by Parrish Ritchie compiles about 100 of them.

Church cookbooks are full of classic, often-simple recipes that have fed congregations and families for generations. A new cookbook by Parrish Ritchie compiles about 100 of them. Photo by: Jan Swoope/Dispatch Staff




Jan Swoope



Cookbooks have a way of gravitating to my bookshelves here at work. At rough count, there are 15 right now, about half of them compiled by churches in the area. I have a soft spot for those collections of recipes put together by congregation members, old and young -- recipes that, in some cases, have been handed down through generations. They bring to mind suppers on the ground, Wednesday night fellowships, hard-working committees and good souls like my late mother, who so often seemed to be taking a dish to church.


So, when a new cookbook arrived recently in the mail from The Countryman Press titled "The Vintage Church Cookbook: Classic Recipes for Family and Flock," by Parrish Ritchie, it caught my eye.


Ritchie, who lives in Norfolk, Virginia, describes herself as a "nap-deprived, taco-loving mom of two adorable boys, wife to the milkman and blogger at 'Life with the Crust Cut Off'" on the book jacket. She is also filled with memories of church and food.



"In my family there is an old church cookbook," she shares in the introduction. "It was put together by all the ladies in the congregation including my mom, my grandma, my great-grandma, my great-great-grandma and my aunt and my great-aunt ..."


Since the mid-1800s, Ritchie continues, church and community cookbooks -- often done as fundraisers -- were a way for women to share treasured recipes long before the age of the internet. Her compilation is replete with simple, classic, potluck-suited dishes that are transportable and can be scaled for the number of people to be fed.


Recipes are divided into sections: hors d'oeuvres, side dishes and vegetables, main dishes and casseroles, desserts. Many of the names conjure up happy images of church suppers in my youth, like corn pudding, cranberry chicken salad, frito pie bake, chicken and rice comfort casserole, buttermilk pie, hummingbird cake and shoo fly pie.


Tidbits of advice from the Ritchie family's own church cookbook are scattered throughout: "If you break an egg on the floor, sprinkle it heavily with salt and leave it alone for 5 to 10 minutes. Sweep the dried egg into the dustpan." Or, "For improved texture and flavor when using canned shrimp, soak shrimp for one hour in ice water, then drain."


With color photos for each recipe, this 224-page cookbook is a reminder of what comfort food -- and sharing it -- is all about.


The book is available wherever books are sold, including independent sellers, Amazon or Barnes and Noble.





Makes 8 servings



5 eggs


8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted


1/4 cup sugar


1/2 cup milk


4 tablespoons cornstarch


1 (15-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained


2 (14.75-ounce) cans creamed-style corn



  • Preheat oven to 400 F. Great a 2-quart baking dish.


  • In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the melted butter, sugar and milk. Whisk in the cornstarch.


  • Stir in both the whole kernel corn and creamed corn. Pour the mixtures into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 1 hour.


    (Source: "The Vintage Church Cookbook," by Parrish Ritchie)





    Makes 6 servings



    1 cup shredded cheddar


    1/2 cup sour cream


    1/2 cup mayonnaise


    Pinch of black pepper


    1 (10.5 ounce) can cream of mushroom soup


    3 cups diced cooked chicken


    16 ounces egg noodles (cooked according to package)


    6 ounces french-fried onions



  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.


  • In a large bowl, mix the cheese, sour cream,mayonnaise,pepper and cream of mushroom soup. Add the chicken and noodles; toss to combine.


  • Spoon into the dish. Bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle the fried onions all over the top and cook for another 5 minutes.


    (Source: "The Vintage Church Cookbook," by Parrish Ritchie)





    Makes 18



    8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter or margarine


    4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder


    2 cups sugar


    1/2 cup milk


    Pinch of salt


    3 cups quick cooking oats


    1/2 cup creamy peanut butter


    1 teaspoon vanilla extract



  • Mix the butter, cocoa, sugar,milk and salt together in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Let boil for 1 minute.


  • Remove pan from the stove and stir in oats, peanut butter and vanilla. (For extra texture, use crunchy peanut butter.)


  • Drop by tablespoonfuls onto waxed paper. Let cool until hardened and serve.


    (Source: "The Vintage Church Cookbook," by Parrish Ritchie)



  • Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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