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Cookbook aims to compile the flavors, stories of community

ALPENA –A community cookbook that hopes to capture the cultural heritage of people living in Northeast Michigan is in the works and is now accepting submissions.

The cookbook is a joint project of the Rogers City Senior and Community Center and the Presque Isle District Library that will coincide with a Smithsonian exhibit, “Crossroads: Change in Rural America,” coming to the senior and community center in March.

Anne Belanger, the library’s program director, said organizers hope to compile “secret family recipes” and tell the backstory of the recipe, such as to whom the recipe belonged and the history or memories associated with the recipe.

Judi Frank, president of the Senior and Community Center’s board, said celebrations with food is what rural America is all about and food is at the center of the holidays.

“We have a real rich cultural heritage here,” she said. “You have a lot of people that were from Germany or a lot of people who were from Poland, so we want to market that: What’s your family history? Where did your family come from? What area and what country? And what were some of their recipes?”

Belanger said anyone can go online to find a recipe today, but the family recipes and stories that go with them are one generation away from being lost.

“Those little tin boxes where you kept your 3-by-5 or your grandmother kept her 3-by-5 recipe cards, it’s like, who goes in that anymore and pulls out a recipe?” she said. “So we want people to go into that little box with the 3-by-5 cards and pull out their grandmother’s recipe.”

The spiral-bound cookbook will also serve as a fundraiser for the Senior Center.

Anyone living in Northeast Michigan can submit a recipe, along with its backstory. If a backstory isn’t known, submissions will still be accepted. Family photos to accompany the recipe are optional.

Recipes can be dropped off at any branch of the Presque Isle District Library or submitted via email to srogerscity@yahoo.com. Recipes must be submitted by Jan.10. Someone will be available to photocopy recipes and collect the backstories verbally from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 18.

The Presque Isle District Library was selected by Michigan Humanities to host the exhibit, which focuses on how rural American communities have changed in the 20th century.

Belanger said the share of Americans living in rural areas has dropped from 60% at the beginning of the 20th century to 17% today.

Belanger said the exhibit will allow the community to reflect on the history of the region as well as its present and future. She said they want to have conversations about what makes the community unique and that the library has developed public programming to accompany the exhibit.

Because of the size of the exhibit, it will be hosted at the Senior and Community Center, 131 E. Superior St., from March 21 through May 2. A ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception is planned for 5 to 8 p.m. March 21.

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.

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