We Did It


Published on

The story of two ordinary cooks who covered the entire United States in a quest to preserve America's food heritage.

1 Like
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

We Did It

  1. 1. We did it! The story of how two ladies, Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley, went out to find America’s best recipes and in the process, created the BEST OF THE BEST STATE COOKBOOK SERIES.
  3. 3. he process began in the early 1980s. After being involved in T the development and publication of numerous cookbooks, Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley were frequently asked what were their favorite cookbooks and recipes. From their own cookbook collec- tions, they had highlighted recipes they thought were special. From this, the idea was born, “Why not collect all those highlighted recipes from dif- ferent cookbooks into one cookbook?” They quickly realized that this ambitious undertaking could best be accomplished on a state-by-state basis. The BEST OF THE BEST STATE COOKBOOK SERIES had begun! rom the very begin- F ning, Gwen and Barbara established goals. They would search for cookbooks that showcased recipes that captured local flavor. They would insist on kitchen-friendly recipes that anybody anywhere could cook and enjoy. They would make the books user friendly, and edit for utmost clarity. The criteria for including a recipe was that it have three distinguished features: great taste, great taste, and great taste! Early in the BEST development, the purchase of a used van turned out to be just the right vehicle for their travels. With stacks of boxes, luggage, grocery bags, cooking para- phernalia, etc., it proved to be the ideal way to pack up and head out for discovery! This was one of four vans that took Gwen and Barbara across the country. PHOTO BY COOKIE SNYDER 1
  4. 4. n 1982, Best of the Best from I Mississippi: Selected Recipes from Mississippi’s Favorite Cookbooks was published. Its success prompted going next door to Louisiana, Gwen’s native state. The Louisiana edition, published in 1984, has been reprinted seventeen times and is the best-seller of all the states. The two editors then took on Texas—four trips were required just Gwen and Barbara did a lot of work on the to cover the territory! But cover it recipes before they ever got in the kitchen to test they did, selecting ninety-four cook- them. books from all over Texas to con- tribute their most popular recipes to Best of the Best from Texas Cookbook. At 356 pages and over 500 recipes, Texas is one of the largest cookbooks in the SERIES. With three states under their belt, Gwen and Barbara now had a mission and a motto: Preserving America’s Food Heritage. . . . We’re under way! 1982-1985 2
  5. 5. he editors committed themselves to T tracking down those classic family recipes that have been refined and per- fected over generations. It had become an interesting, sometimes fascinating, often exhilarating process . . . and they knew they were hooked on wanting to explore each state and taste their cui- sine. Talking to townfolk was always fun and informative. Gwen and Barbara would usually be directed to someone else if that person couldn’t help them— “Go see Sarah at the drugstore; she has lots of cookbooks.” Over the next four years, Gwen and Barbara concentrated on those neigh- boring states that were convenient to Tasting the local fare is one of the best get to. In the early days before the bonuses of a trip through any region in Internet, their normal method of finding search of great recipes. In Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, Gwen and Barbara visited local cookbooks was to travel through- Loretta Lynn’s Kitchen and found tasty local vittles and recipes for how to fix them. In North Carolina, they drove a long way to taste Pete Jones’ famous barbe- cue at his Skylight Inn in Ayden—a restaurant that has a replica of our nation’s capitol on the roof! Here Pete treated them to the delicious fla- vor of true wood-smoked North Carolina barbecue. No wonder it has won so many awards—well worth the drive. 3
  6. 6. out the state. Gwen usually did the driv- ing, and Barbara— with map in lap—the navigating. They stopped at bookstores, gift and kitchen shops, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, chamber of commerce offices, tourist bureaus, and any other place that might offer the possi- bility of discovering a While traveling across the country, Gwen popular local cookbook. Without fail, and Barbara were invited by Paula in every state, the BEST thing was the Cunningham, owner of McClanahan people they met and the information Publishing in Kuttawa, Kentucky, on a sea they so proudly shared. plane ride over the Land Between the Lakes. The road was not always so easy and They all dined that night on wonderful enjoyable as it may sound. They occa- Kentucky Baked Pork Chops (Best of the sionally had car problems, but invari- Best from Kentucky Cookbook, page 101). ably were helped by friendly people, . . . We’re covering the South! 1986-1990 4
  7. 7. They also continued to meet and make wonderful new friends. In Indiana, they spent a few days with Chris and Mike Sikorski. Chris has the distinction of being the first member of the Best of the Month Club (individuals who have signed up to receive a copy of each new edition in the SERIES). Chris tried recipes, gave us her com- ments, and became a dear friend. She was also the first person to own the entire SERIES. Gwen and Barbara stayed an extra day in Cincinnati just to try the different Hot Cheese in a Jar 2 pounds Velveeta cheese, melted Bringing food to book signings helped us 1 medium onion, grated show people how delicious the recipes were. 1 (5.33-ounce) can evaporated milk Teammate Tupper England (between 1 pint Miracle Whip salad dressing Barbara and Gwen) has illustrated every 1 (8-ounce) can seeded, deveined one of the cookbooks in the SERIES. jalapeño peppers, chopped fine (cut off stems) including truckers, motorcyclists, even Melt cheese in top of double boiler. the police! They missed turns, became Add onion, milk, Miracle Whip, hopelessly lost, and sometimes made and peppers to melted cheese, and wonderful cookbook discoveries while mix well. Pour into 6 (8-ounce) finding their way back. jelly jars. Cool, screw on Throughout the ’90s, Gwen and caps, and refrigerate. Barbara continued to search with renewed dedication to finding and pre- This recipe was often made serving those little recipe gems that before road trips and a might be tucked away in a modest supply taken along. Many church cookbook published in a small times the editors relied on this community. Junior League cookbooks, treat to make it through some long days of travel. The recipe was because they are developed by local contributed by Cowtown Cuisine and members and contain recipes from their is included in Best of the Best from city and community, have been a partic- Texas Cookbook (page 28). It is truly ularly valuable contributor to the a classic. SERIES. 5
  8. 8. varieties of chili that the city is famous for. They had Philly cheese steaks in Philadelphia, clam chowder in Boston, Hot Browns in Louisville, lobster in Maine, Crab Louis in California, gumbo in Louisiana . . . and after each culinary experience, they sought out the BEST recipes that would enable the rest of America to enjoy all of these regional classics. There were always adven- tures on the road. Near Farmington, Maine, Gwen Sometimes the forked road beckoned in both directions, and Barbara found them- and the girls didn’t know which way to turn. Their trips were sketched out, but left lots of room for wherever the selves traveling among hun- spirit led them. This was a photo op for a chapter dreds of motorcyclists. After opening picture at Indiana Dunes, but they were never initial concern, they stopped quite sure where they would wind up in search of for gas in the midst of them America’s favorite recipes. and discovered that these burly, leathered, tatooed guys . . . We’re halfway there! 1991-1996 6
  9. 9. more useful and enjoyable. Glossaries were included in those books with words or phrases that might not be understood in other parts of the country (Louisiana’s French and Cajun words, New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona’s Spanish terms, Hawaii’s pronunciations, etc.). “Editor’s Extras” have occasionally been added to the original recipes to ensure complete understanding, suggest an alternate ingredient if the original was not available, or offer an embellish- ment or variation the editors particular- ly liked and wanted to share. Sprinkled throughout each BEST cookbook is a series of short “quips” that provide interesting facts about each state. These are fun and informative, and help to convey the unique features In their quest for the BEST, Gwen and of the state. Barbara learned that every region has a Each cookbook contains photographs particular food or signature dish. As soon and illustrations that capture some of as they arrived in Maine, they embraced the the visual highlights of each state. state’s culinary spirit by diving into some drawn-buttered boiled lobster at the first roadside restaurant with a lobster on its sign! (and gals) were genuinely intrigued by their pursuit of America’s BEST recipes, and offered some favorite dishes of their own. It seemed that talking about food was a common denominator that Often shrouded in a thick fog, the Golden just about everybody delighted in Gate Bridge sways 27 feet to withstand winds of up to 100 miles per hour. Its two doing. Almost always, it translated to great cables contain enough strands of steel wire finding a local cookbook that had just (about 80,000 miles) to encircle the equator three the recipe they were after. times, and the concrete poured into its piers and anchorages would pave a five-foot sidewalk from New York to San Francisco. n addition to the over 300 wonderful I recipes that each BEST cookbook con- An example of an illustration and a quip. tains, Gwen and Barbara have added These are scattered throughout the BEST other features that make the cookbooks cookbooks. 7
  10. 10. One of the most popular fea- BEST OF THE BEST Statistics tures, particularly for anyone who collects cookbooks, is the • Total cookbooks evaluated: over 10,000 “Catalog of Contributing Cookbooks” section of each BEST • Total cookbooks selected to contribute cookbook. This section provides recipes: 2,689 a brief description of each con- • Total number of recipes selected: tributing cookbook, a reproduc- 17,214 tion of the book’s cover, plus • Road miles: approximately 70,000 price and ordering information. • Air miles: 40,000 n the late ’90s, the editors fin- I • Total mailings and correspondence: ished the Midwest and set their over 30,000 sites on the “big” states of the • Recipes evaluated: hundreds of West. These states with their vast thousands areas provided major challenges to locating those local cookbooks • Phone calls made: over 25,000 that might contain that special • Percent of people who were initially recipe. asked to taste the BEST recipes being In the Southwest, the Arizona tested and who volunteered to continue and New Mexico editions became providing this service: 100% instant favorites. The popularity of the Mexican influence on the BEST SELLING STATES cuisine of this region, abundantly (based on lifetime monthly average) represented in these cookbooks, surely contributed to their appeal. 1. LOUISIANA The California edition, like 2. TEXAS Texas and New England, required 3. ARIZONA more pages to accommodate the 4. VIRGINIA large number of contributing 5. NORTH CAROLINA cookbooks. The great variety of recipes selected makes these 6. OHIO cookbooks particularly interesting 7. MINNESOTA and enjoyable to use. 8. TEXAS II With the California edition, the 9. LOUISIANA II editors made one of their few bad 10. TENNESSEE decisions. In order to speed up production, they bound the book Total number of BEST cookbooks sold: as a paperback rather than the 1,800,000 (through 2004) normal ringbound format. The 8
  11. 11. Best of the Month Club members immediately voiced their displeasure. The editors quickly realized their mis- take, and Best of the Best from California Cookbook is now ringbound like all the others. This binding format allows for convenient lay-flat usage and, like the recipes themselves, creates an overall comfortable, user-friendly feel for the cookbooks. Gwen and Barbara knew from the beginning that they did not want the BEST OF THE BEST cookbooks to be hardbound, oversized, full-color, expensive books that would stay on the coffee table and not be allowed to go in Barbara and Gwen are always at home in the kitchen. It was their hope that each the kitchen, no matter where they are. Though space was limited in this tiny BEST OF THE BEST cookbook would Manhattan apartment, fresh produce at the become a family favorite used again corner market was not. It was a fun experi- and again for their consistently superb ence cooking Curried Corn Soup with recipes. friends in this cozy kitchen. There were two major developments that helped the SERIES gain national . . . We’re going strong! 1997-2000 9
  12. 12. Barbara and Gwen were usually expected to cook when they booked a TV appearance, a difficult thing to do on the road. Sometimes they had to prep the food in their hotel room. For this Miami show, they cooked the fish for Black Bart’s Seafood Ambrosia on a hot plate! recognition. In the mid ’80s, Cracker located. Many customers play the game Barrel Old Country Stores began carry- of getting a new BEST book only at a ing the BEST OF THE BEST STATE Cracker Barrel store each time they go COOKBOOKS when they had only about to a new state. 65 stores in their chain. Over the years, In 1997, the electronic shopping this wonderful relationship has grown giant, QVC, came to Mississippi as part as the BEST SERIES developed. Now of their nationwide search for new most of the more than 500 Cracker products. Best of the Best from Barrel stores now carry the BEST cook- Mississippi was one of the twenty or so book of the state where the store is products that were selected to air on the 10
  13. 13. Mississippi show. It sold out in two n 2000, after nearly two decades, I minutes, faster than any other product, Gwen and Barbara were still going and earned the honor of being included strong. They had completed thirty-six with other state winners on a special states, had met and become friends with show from the main QVC Studios in many delightful people, had seen a West Chester, Pennsylvania. Since then, great portion of their beautiful country, Gwen has appeared numerous times on and were even more committed to their goal of Preserving America’s Food QVC showcasing many of the BEST OF Heritage. THE BEST STATE COOKBOOKS. This rela- tionship has been a successful collabora- From 2001 to 2003, Gwen and tion, allowing a tremendous number of Barbara completed eight BEST cook- people to become aware of the SERIES. books and covered eleven states (Best In addition to bookstores, many small of the Best from the Mid-Atlantic gift stores and kitchen shops have given Cookbook includes Maryland, valuable support to the BEST cookbooks Delaware, and New Jersey. Best of the over the years. Best from Big Sky Cookbook covers Talented food stylist Bobbi Cappelli, shown at left with Gwen and Barbara, makes the BEST OF THE BEST recipes for QVC on-air presentations. She makes the dishes look as good as they taste. The hosts and crew are treated to a banquet when the shows are over. 11
  14. 14. Montana and Wyoming). From Cape May (New Jersey) to Glacier Bay (Alaska), this was a demanding stretch. However, the SERIES had now gained national recognition, a devoted follow- ing, and the process of searching for those special local recipes was a great deal easier. In Anchorage, Alaska, Chef Matt Little Dog, at Simon and Seaforts, shared his incredible bread pudding recipe after Gwen had dined on this delicious treat and begged for his secret. Best of the Best from Alaska Cookbook, incidentally, became the best-selling cookbook in Alaska shortly after it became available there. Gwen and Barbara were now a long way from home in the Pacific “It helps our research to find out all we can Northwest and Alaska, but still discov- about the food of the state, and Pike’s Place ering wonderful cookbooks and select- Market is the place to do that in Seattle,” ing from them the popular recipes of says Barbara. “Just look at this gorgeous the region. seafood.” . . . We’re getting close! 2001-2003 12
  15. 15. Oregon’s fruit-growing district, “The Fruit Loop” offered many fresh fruit treats that inspired recipes like Boysenberry Swirl Cheesecake with Hazelnut Crust (Best of the Best from Oregon Cookbook, page 212). Seattle’s Pike Place Market was an exciting experience. The great variety of vegetables, fruits, and fish on display challenged the editors to find recipes that could fully exploit such an abun- dance of fresh ingredients. They feel they have met the challenge with Best of the Best from Washington Cookbook. The state fair in Palmer, Alaska, was another unique occasion to taste some local fare. The exhibit at the fair con- Passing along her love for cooking, Gwen enjoys letting her grandchildren have fun tained remarkable blue-ribbon winning with her in the kitchen. What better way to fruits and vegetables. Preserve America’s Food Heritage! Gwen and husband, Barney, attended the Alaska State Fair in Palmer, and were aghast at how big the long summer days grow these vegetables. It was a wonderful place to get a first- hand look and taste of some of Alaska’s food products. They found Moose Kabobs, Alaska Salmon Nuggets, Sourdough Bread, and Bear Tracks, all of which made their way into Best of the Best from Alaska Cookbook. 13
  16. 16. also helpful as she allowed the editors to review her own extensive cookbook collection, many of which were of a vintage nature. Utah and Nevada, the final two states, offered an opportunity for the editors to experience not only the tasteful cuisine but also the unique beauty of the desert, quite different from their lush, green, southern landscapes. here are forty-one volumes in the T complete BEST OF THE BEST STATE COOKBOOK SERIES. This is due to the fact that some states were combined into one cookbook. Best of the Best from New England Cookbook, for instance, consists of Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Best of the Best from the Mid-Atlantic On the drive up the North Shore on O‘ahu Cookbook includes recipes collected (in Punalu‘u), you can’t miss the bright yel- from cookbooks published in Maryland, low Shrimp Shack truck. Irene serves up Delaware, and New Jersey. delicious pan-fried shrimp herself, deliver- ing it personally to you on her umbrella- The recipes from North Dakota, topped picnic tables. A big sign says, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas “Suck, peel, dip, eat,” and, believe me, you were combined into Best of the Best will not need encouragement to do so. Her from the Great Plains Cookbook. Best recipe has been written up in magazines, of the Best from Big Sky Cookbook con- and she has been featured on the Food and tains the most popular recipes from the Travel channels. When Gwen asked her if leading cookbooks of Montana and she would share her recipe, she sweetly agreed. Wyoming. The SERIES also includes second edi- tions from Louisiana and Texas. These n beautiful Hawaii, the editors states published early in the process are I encountered many helpful people, the two bestsellers in the SERIES. Best including Jeff and Bennett at Booklines of the Best from Louisiana II Cookbook Hawaii. Booklines was a gold mine as (1998) and Best of the Best from Texas they either publish or distribute almost II Cookbook (1996) are part of the every current cookbook related to forty-one book BEST OF THE BEST STATE Hawaiian cooking. Faith in Kauai was COOKBOOK SERIES. 14
  17. 17. N Completely new editions have been ow that the SERIES has been created for Mississippi and Florida. completed, what next? Gwen These cookbooks consist of new con- and Barbara, both grandmothers many tributors and new recipes and are now times over, are not ready to retire. part of the forty-one book collection. “There are still cookbooks to be discov- The original editions are still available ered and tasteful recipes to be pre- while the current supply lasts. served,” says Barbara. “We might just The BEST OF THE BEST cookbooks start over.” range in size from 288 to 380 pages and “Regardless of what we do in the contain between 350 and 500 recipes. future,” Gwen adds, “we set out to col- They are ringbound for convenience of lect, capture, and celebrate the food of use, and are enclosed in heavy, laminat- America on a state-by-state basis, and ed covers that resist stains and spills. that mission has been accomplished. Each cookbook contains a mix of We did it!” contributing cookbooks ranging from a modest little church cookbook to a grandiose bestseller. The editors are particularly pleased that, although some of the smaller con- tributing cookbooks may go out of print, their most popular and tasteful recipes are not lost but are preserved in their state’s BEST OF THE BEST cookbook. . . . We did it! 2004 15
  18. 18. RECIPE HALL OF FAME COOKBOOK COLLECTION he recipes selected to be in T the HALL OF FAME COOKBOOK COLLECTION have earned extra distinction for consistently produc- ing superbly tasteful dishes. These are recipes that have become classic family favorites that will be made over and over. The recipes have been collected from the entire database of more than 17,000 winning recipes included in the BEST OF THE BEST 304 pages • $19.95 304 pages • $19.95 STATE COOKBOOKS—they are the BEST of the BEST OF THE BEST. The four HALL OF FAME cook- books can be ordered individually at the price noted below each cookbook or can be purchased as a four-cookbook set for $39.95, almost a 50% discount off the total list price of $76.80. With over 1,600 recipes in the HALL OF FAME COLLECTION, this amounts to less than three cents for each incredible recipe, an amazing value! 240 pages • $16.95 304 pages • $19.95 Best of the Month Club Individuals may purchase BEST OF THE BEST STATE COOKBOOKS on a monthly (or bi-monthly) basis by joining the Best of the Month Club. Best of the Month Club members enjoy a 20% discount off the list price of each book. Individuals who already own certain state cookbooks may specify which new states they wish to receive. No minimum purchase is required; individuals may cancel at any time. For more information on this purchasing option, call 1-800-343-1583. Special We Did It! Discount The entire 41-volume BEST OF THE BEST STATE COOKBOOK SERIES can be purchased for $521.21, a 25% discount off the total individual price of $694.95. To order call 1-800-343-1583, and mention, “We Did It!” Individual BEST cookbooks can be purchased for $16.95 per copy plus $4.00 ship- ping for any number of cookbooks ordered.
  19. 19. Best of the Best “Best of the Best from Virginia is a boon to Virginia cooks who can’t remember exactly which book in their collection includes a favorite recipe . . . enough to tempt even dyed-in-New England Yankees to try out Old Dominion recipes.” —Louis Mahoney, Food Editor; Richmond News Leader ### “Although I have acquired a very extensive collection of cook- books over the years, when looking for a recipe in any category, I find myself perusing my BEST OF THE BEST books.” —Dorothea O’Donnell, Stoughton, Massachusetts ### “Each book I receive is better than the last one, if that is possible, for they are all the “BEST.” I can’t say which is my favorite. I would have to say that my favorite is the new one—until the next one arrives.” —Arlene Luskin, Silver Spring, Maryland ### “I think the BEST OF THE BEST cookbooks are fantastic and a good way to dis- cover America the culinary way. Please pass on my regards to the editors and thank them for the great work they do. I look forward to the chance of adding to my collection.” —Bert Klein, Muenchen, Germany ### “The selection of fabulous recipes is not all . . . they’ve put the proverbial icing on the cake by including wonderful photographs of interesting places in the state, beautiful line drawings, and a wealth of informative little one-liners that tell you many facts about the history and geography of Pennsylvania.” —Louise Dodd, Dublin Courier-Herald ### “After reading this book, I would recommend it to anyone who craves a sampling of some of the state’s ‘down-home’ recipes. It would make an excellent gift to out-of-state friends (or home- sick transplanted Kentuckians).” —Carole Bailey, The Lexington Messenger
  20. 20. Best of the Best G wen and Barbara have made many new friends while compiling the BEST OF THE BEST STATE COOKBOOKS. They have also become acquainted with many more individuals who have written them to say how much they enjoy the BEST cookbooks. Listed below is a random sampling of comments from individuals and reviewers who have praise for the cookbooks in the BEST SERIES. ### “You have brightened my Alaskan winter day! I received your Best of the Best from Alaska Cookbook yesterday, and have toted it around with me to show everyone that I know how lovely our book is. You have captured Alaska in a cookbook.” —Ann Berg, Nikiski, Alaska ### “I’ve learned to trust Gwen and Barbara. Now I make anything from their cookbooks with total confidence that it will be delicious” —Shirley Laird, Cookeville Tennessee ### “I just want you to know how very much I have enjoyed all of the BEST SERIES. They are truly “Best of the Best” and they make cooking fun because you know the recipes are tried and true! I recently received Oregon’s Best, have tried several of the recipes, and they were just great! My husband was so impressed that he started planning dinner parties!” —Caroline Frazier, Jackson, Mississippi ### “My cooking class enjoyed cooking from Best of the Best from Missouri so much that I have scheduled another one with Best of the Best from Pennsylvania.” —Bessie Theodorou, Dierbergs School of Cooking Additional comments on reverse side. QUAIL RIDGE PRESS • P. O. Box 123 • Brandon, MS 39043 1-800-343-1583 • www.quailridge.com