Few people take the time to compile family recipes or stories into a book, and even fewer get published.
But now New Holland resident and retired Twin Valley English teacher Carol Witmer can count herself among those who have. The Mississippi transplant combined her favorite stories and recipes into a volume that’s part cookbook and part compilation of relatable family anecdotes.
The book, titled “Simply Delicious: Favorite Recipes of Family Friends,” strikes a balance between following a narrative style and formatting recipes in an easy-to-follow guide, Witmer said.
“Some recipes have a little bit of background to them,” she explained. “I wanted it to be a good cookbook to read, because some people like just reading them, but also a useful cookbook. I put spaces between instructions to make it as concise, but as user-friendly as possible.”
The book is divided into sections, including appetizers and beverages; soups, salads and sauces; breads and rolls; main dishes; vegetables and sides; desserts; and cookies and candy.
The eclectic collection of recipes include everything from her mother’s assuredly delicious custard recipe, praline-topped sweet potatoes and roasted vegetables to dishes like rice pudding and ricotta pie.
Some dishes come from former Twin Valley faculty. The most wonderful rice pudding Witmer has ever tasted, for example, came from retired physics teacher Evan Zervanos. The ricotta pie recipe was supplied by former history teacher Henry Affetto.
“I had always wanted to pass on family recipes to future generations of my family,” she said. “However, after I retired from Twin Valley and started writing the book, I realized how many of my favorite recipes came from having meals with my family and friends.”
That realization led her to include recipes other than those passed down to her from her mother and grandmother, and eventually family stories and anecdotes to make it a warmer, more heartfelt read.
Witmer said that at times she’d get discouraged and stop writing for a while, unconvinced that anyone would want to read her recipes or stories. But the drive to keep going came from Lois Mast, of Masthof Press, and Witmer’s youngest son.
“They said make it personal. And readers really seem to love that,” she said.
The book has evolved into a 206 page work, full of color pictures that Witmer learned to take herself. She tried to focus on whole foods and simple recipes, but found herself putting together a wide selection.
“That was the hardest thing, was to decide what to leave out and what to put in,” she said. “I wanted to include simple foods that are fresh, not from a can, but there are a few exceptions that were too good not to put in.”
The book was published in September, just in time for her eldest sister’s 90th birthday, and Witmer has been astounded by the reception, and not just locally.
Without having even seen the book, Noble-Watts Jewelers, a corner jewelry store in the town square of Witmers’ hometown of Canton, Miss., ordered a shipment to sell.
Most of all, though, Witmer is just happy to finally be a published author. She had been so busy before retirement that she never had much time to write for herself, she said. It was especially difficult as an English teacher, with so many papers to grade.
“So it’s ironic that at 70 I’m finally getting published,” she said with a laugh.
“Simply Delicious” is available at the Masthof Bookstore, 219 Mill Road, Morgantown, or by ordering directly from Carol at firstname.lastname@example.org.