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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

Blend of love, determination create unique local cookbook

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Vera Strickland
NEW MADRID - Vera Strickland has the recipe to keeping family history alive.

Strickland recently received her second printing of "The Porter Way Seasoned with Cobbs." The 385-page-plus volume is a mix of recipes ranging from appetizers to main dishes to desserts along with photos and stories about the Porter and the Cobb families, early Southeast Missouri pioneers.

"I love family heritage and I wanted a family heirloom to pass down," explained Strickland about compiling the book.

She worked for a year writing relatives requesting recipes and stories to accompany the dishes. Some submitted recipes of their own, others offered recipes in memory of family members who had provided the recipes to them or had made it a favorite meal over the years.

"I sent out a lot of letters," said Strickland with a sigh then adding "but I never got discouraged in anyway." Her constant encouragement was the memory of her father, Olan David Porter Sr., and her determination to create the volume in his memory.

And while creating a volume in memory of her father, she also created a volume in memory of many others. The book's padded-cover features a family photo of the Porters taken at Higgerson Landing on the Mississippi River near New Madrid while the back of the three-ring cookbook features the family photo of Lynn Boyd Cobbs, taken in the early 1900s. Inside it begins with a bit of family history and a listing of the contributors grouped by their relationships followed with special photos and poems.

Each of the section dividers has family photos and history. There are the stories of life in a logging camp where Lynn Boyd Cobbs worked in 1892 and a family's struggles on the farm during the Civil War. Births, deaths and marriages are recorded.

Strickland said she was pleased when many of the recipes arrived with notes, making them more personal. "It added even more love to the cookbook and gave more meaning to it," she said.

She didn't try each recipe printed although many she has sampled as the families gathered over the years. Her husband, she said, even teased her that with all the recipes coming in, she wasn't cooking enough.

"I love family heritage and I do like to cook, but I didn't do much cooking while I was doing this," she admitted with a laugh.

Although the recipes are wide-ranging, Strickland said her favorite was the one submitted by her mother, Violet Rhodes Porter, in memory of her father. "It's a tamale recipe that I remember making when I was a little girl."

Some aren't even true recipes. Strickland pointed out another favorite submitted in memory of Rose Henry by her daughter Marilyn Henry Truelove giving the recipe for "A Happy Home." According to the directions: "Take love and loyalty. Mix with faith. Blend it with tenderness, kindness and understanding. Add friendship and hope. Sprinkle abundantly with laughter. Bake it with sunshine. Serve daily with generous helpings."

Truelove added a note that the recipe was originally given to her by her mother in 1988.

The importance of family continues to crop up throughout the book. Even in its final chapter Strickland offered activities families can share in a "Fun with Kids and Other Things."

While it was a long year of collecting, proofing and working with the publisher, Strickland was able to present the books to family members at their annual reunion in October. In no time the 362 books were snapped up and requests for more were made. Already about one-third of the second printing are spoken for.

While she is glad the work is now done, Strickland said it is a project she would tackle again.

"My mother thought I was nuts - obsessed with the cookbook but I feel like my dad inspired me to do this," she said with a grin. "But it has been very rewarding because of the response I've gotten and I loved every minute of it. I just did it for love of my family and as a way of keeping part of my family always with me."

For more information about the cookbook, contact Strickland at 573-748-5086.