Pick & Chews
An Interview about Local History in a Cookbook

The senior center in Trona, California, produced Pick & Chews: Recipes and stories from our past that helped shape the people and legends that are Trona  to celebrate the town’s centennial in 2014. As the title suggests, it combines recipes – some from the distant past — with ample local lore, and humor that sneaks up on readers when they least expect it. Senior center program coordinator Priscilla Benadom recently spoke with socalwritersshowcase about the history behind the book.

Showcase: How did the idea for the project evolve?

Benadom: For six years, we thought about making a cookbook as a fund raiser. As the Centennial for Trona approached, we revamped the idea and added stories about the people and/or the recipes. After organizing the submitted recipes, we needed a few more. Living in Trona for over fifty years, I knew many local organizations produced cookbooks in the past. I tracked down eight old cookbooks and picked out recipes from people who had lived in Trona for many years. We contacted people (or family members)  who had submitted recipes and interviewed them to find pieces of information that we thought would be interesting. Finally, after compiling the recipes and the stories, I contacted by sister, Vonni Austill, and asked her to design the cover. She came up with Pick and Chews and designed the cover.

Showcase: You have a recipe by first–graders that says to bake cookies at 20 degrees for an hour, and another for rum cake that involves drinking copious rum while “wixing mell” and finally “pouring mess into boven and ake.” Did you intend to include humor from the beginning?

Benadom: While it wasn’t planned from the beginning, some stories submitted had humor. Finding the humorous recipes added amusement to our book.

Showcase: How did you gather the recipes? The community profiles?

Benadom: We posted on bulletin boards and Facebook, made phone calls, and announced at community meetings that we were looking for recipes and stories that went with them. As we began collecting, it was evident that interviews were needed to fill in the gaps. Interviews were conducted by phone and personal visits.

Showcase: How long did it take?

Benadom: Collecting the recipes took several years but the actually work of organizing and editing took about six weeks.

Showcase: How would you rate this approach to family/oral history?

Benadom: In my home, family time seemed to happen best at meal time. I cannot count the meals that have ended with family sharing about “the good old days.” Sharing recipes seems to be a good way to get families to share stories and history, saying the familiar “I remember when mama used to make this.” It starts the conversation that every family needs to have: telling the stories of the past and teaching our children the family history. What I learned from editing this cookbook is that family/oral history is important and using the cookbook to generate those conversations gives more meaning as we get a good taste the of past!

Direct your questions about Picks & Chews
to Trona Community Senior Center, 760-372-5889.

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