Friends and authors' new cookbook also addresses healthy eating, food deserts and generational recipes.
Do recipes for Bahamian fried snapper or jerked shrimp & savory sweet potatoes pique your interest? Then “Pinch-Dash-Done: A Gateway to Flavorful Recipes” is the addition you need for your kitchen necessities to be complete.
Authors Vernita Harris and Beatrice Moore used the time on their hands during the pandemic wisely as you can tell from the quality and quantity of recipes this cookbook packs in at 188 pages. Although Harris is based in The Bahamas and Moore in Texas, they didn’t allow geography to stand in the way of the next testament to their almost 45-year friendship.
The cookbook is a culinary journey inspired by their experiences in food, travel, culture and more. The Prairie View A&M alums have also stayed true to their HBCU roots by working on a scholarship endowment for college students studying agribusiness at their alma mater.
Bringing Families Together
Shining the light on important food issues in food chains and systems, food insecurities and deserts, healthy cooking and eating, generational recipes and traditions, the pair has put together an eclectic cookbook featuring international cuisine transformed to easy-to-make recipes. It has Bahamian, Italian, Caribbean, Southern, Tex Mex and more, and if there's something that you don't like or want to utilize, there are substitutions offered.
There are two more books in the works in this series of three, as Harris and Moore pursue corporate sponsorships for a bigger presence for their first book and continue to work in their community. Within the first 30 days of the book launch, a highlight was being named among the 10 Favorite Cookbooks in 2020 by the Houston Chronicle. They are also one of five finalists for the Pinnacle Awards through the Greater Houston Black Chamber.
“We're excited and looking forward to doing online cooking segments, pushing the educational component of this, teaching people how to cook at home, creating healthy meals that are easy on the budget most of the time and promotion of gardening at home and looking at sustainable gardens and small space gardens,” says Moore. “We’re excited about opening doors of opportunity to educate people about food as well as how to create your own little sustainable piece of heaven on earth.”
The two friends began working on the cookbook as a response to the pandemic. Harris put out a Facebook post to share recipes and menu items with everyone being locked in at home and cooking again. She knew Moore would respond, being the passionate cook that she is, but the number of other responses received was unexpected and that gave them the motivation to turn the idea into a book.
Reviving Home Cooked Meals
They started the business in May 2020 and went from concept to market just six months later. The book has been received well. They’ve seen support from local businesses hosting book signings and feedback from people appreciating recipes that use ingredients that are easily found.
On the behind-the-scenes work involved, Moore says, “We had to first develop what was the focus of this particular book and bring in recipes that were familiar to us. We wanted to share some tried and true recipes but with a little bit of international flair. We didn't want to be just a soul food book or a southern cookbook. We wanted to introduce different herbs and spices that many people may be familiar with but never thought about using in their daily recipes, like lavender.” The cookbook has a recipe for lavender ice cream and lemon ‘n’ lavender yogurt loaf.
For the next book in the series expected to release in 2022, they are looking at cooking for kids. Given her background in education and mathematics, Moore believes this is an opportunity for children and parents to enjoy easy-to-use recipes and to answer those “How are we ever going to use this?” questions heard in the classroom all the time.
The authors first met as youngsters at age 17 at the dorm in college and gravitated toward each other as they learned their way together around the campus. That friendship has lasted over four and a half decades. When it came to working on the book, Harris brought her background in marketing and business and experience, having published five books while Moore had written about six. But working on a cookbook was new terrain for both.
“It was out of our realm, but we figured if we took the time, we could make that work too and it was a ‘why not us’ kind of a moment,” shares Harris. “We know each other's roles.” The duo also shared their experience doing a virtual cooking series earlier this year with AARP Texas called Brunch, Lunch & Munch, with people tuning in from Israel, Dubai, Hawaii, Germany, the Caribbean, and throughout the United States.
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older. “It was a great opportunity. It's live, so anything can happen, so you have to be prepared,” says Harris. “It's a good way to reach an audience that still may be stuck at home or not too excited about getting out.”
Combating Food Insecurity
For both women, working on the cookbook provided a creative outlet for relaxation as COVID impacted their other businesses. It is only natural then that they hired over 18 other small businesses in the community also affected by the pandemic, giving them a way to showcase their talents via the book through photography, layout design, and other areas of expertise.
Another way they are giving back is by donating part of the proceeds from sales of the book to the Houston Food Bank—the largest food bank in the area leading hunger relief in 18 southeast Texas counties—and establishing a scholarship to assist economically challenged agribusiness students at Prairie View A&M University, the second oldest public university in Texas. Both also shared their passion for supporting farmers markets as small businesses in their efforts to help the local community.
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Moore also points out that the book focuses on family time back at home in the kitchen creating wonderful memories and the food and fellowship that has been missing. “It’s time to come back to the dinner table and enjoy the meal, passing down generational recipes,” she says.
“We come from a very oral tradition; not many recipes were written. Let’s start writing some recipes down and creating in the home that environment that’s not just, ‘Where are we going to go eat tonight?’ As we talk about food deserts, we also have the concern of childhood obesity and most of that is related to fast foods that are readily available and inexpensive, but you can have quality food on the table and use inexpensive ingredients and still eat healthy. That’s why cooking with kids is important to us and to have cookbook ideas for children so they can develop early healthy eating habits that will last them a lifetime.”
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