This fall, it’s high time we start giving these cookbooks the respect they deserve—and have a little bit of community fun.

By Sarah Baird
September 13, 2019
Photo: Jennifer Causey; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Torie Cox

New freshly pinned, chef-driven, fine-dining cookbooks seem to hit bookstore shelves every day, complete with recipes that attempt to recreate a restaurant experience or challenge home cooks to seek out a laundry list of complicated, hard-to-come-by ingredients. (Sumac, anyone?) And while these often complex, always beautiful, works of culinary art definitely have a place every once and a while in a home kitchen, it’s the tried-and-true community “yard sale” cookbooks—those spiral-bound beauties that are frequently found at yard sales and originate from the likes of local churches and high school fundraisers—that deserve celebrating now as casserole season rapidly approaches.

I’ve been a “yard sale” cookbook devotee from the first time I created tuna noodle casserole at age 8 using a local Daughters of the American Revolution recipe compilation. Today, my community-based cookbooks are dog-eared, filled with hand-scribbled recipes notes and covered in stains from meals past. That’s because they’re always down in the culinary trenches with me: guiding my hand as the standard-bearers of local community cooking knowledge and always succeeding in providing simple (and, yes, occasionally wacky) recipes that are directly tied to my town and region. 

Watch: How to Make Italian Green Bean Casserole

This fall, it’s high time we start giving these cookbooks the respect they deserve—and have a little bit of community fun. One of the best ways to go about this is launch your very own “yard sale” cookbook club: a once-a-month potluck dinner during which time each person creates a dish from their favorite community cookbook and shares it with the group. Are the artichoke balls from the St. Charles, Louisiana Junior League cookbook your go-to appetizer? Share with the group! Or do you prefer making Mrs. Laddie Clayton’s famous “chocolate yummy” dessert, complete with an abundance of Cool Whip? Bring it to the club meeting! Each club member should be prepared to share a little bit about why the recipe speaks to them, and also be encouraged to bring their “yard sale” cookbook along to share with others who might be interested in swapping for a little while to try out a whole different set of recipes. 
  
The best part? “Yard sale” cookbook recipes are always budget friendly and fairly easy to create, allowing people to walk away from their cookbook club meeting with a whole new stable of accessible recipes to share with their families. These cookbooks and the dishes therein have kept communities fed for generations. Through a “yard sale” cookbook club, we can ensure that they keep on living. 

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