As she thumbed through her mother's collection of recipes recently, Centerpoint resident Cindy Shaw saw an opportunity to help victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Though they may not be as essential as food, water or monetary help, the items she plans to donate are much more personal.
Shaw is in the process of compiling a hurricane-relief cookbook, which she plans to distribute to families in the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast region. The book will include her mother's recipes, most notably her famous potato candy, as well as recipes submitted by home cooks from throughout Clay County and beyond.
"I was looking through my recipes one day, and I thought, 'Why not?'" she said. "When I thought of some of the recipes of hers that I have, I saw something little I could do, mainly for the women."
To begin compiling recipes, Shaw spread word of her undertaking among friends and family members. So far, she has received around 60 recipes from 38 people. Her niece submitted a few. Rosalind Orman, a friend of Shaw's from Clay City, has personally contributed more than 20 recipes.
Shaw had planned to fill the cookbook with recipes from area residents, but the scope of the project quickly exceeded her expectations.
"At first, it started as a cookbook from Clay County," she said. "But then, recipes started coming in from North Carolina, California, Ohio, Kentucky. I thought about it, and I decided I couldn't not put them in."
Goldsboro, N.C. resident Karen Gurganus learned of the project through Shaw's sister Melissa, who now lives in North Carolina. Gurganus, a former resident of Slidell, La. who has weathered more than her share of natural disasters, said Shaw's project addresses a need that often becomes an afterthought in times of crisis.
"You come home after a hurricane, you've got water in the house. Your pictures, your photo albums are all ruined," said Gurganus, whose recipe for "chew bread" will appear in the book. "A cookbook is something you don't really think about, but you use it all the time."
Shaw said she has not yet determined how she will deliver the books to the hurricane-ravaged areas in the Gulf. The initial shipments will be hand-delivered by her daughter, Rena Ramos. A student at Ivy Tech, she plans to make two trips to the area over her holiday breaks from school.
As a volunteer aid worker in the Florida panhandle in 2004, Ramos witnessed the devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan first-hand.
"I went down to Gulf Breeze, Fla. around Thanksgiving last year, and I wanted to do more on my breaks this year," she said. "They didn't have anything left. They had nothing."
Shaw said she hopes to have some of the cookbooks completed in the next few weeks. She has not found a printer, but said she vows to do it herself if she has to. Memories of her mother's cooking have guided the creation of the cookbook thus far, she said, and she is confident she will successfully complete the project.
"For me and my mom, cooking was something that brought us together," she said. "Hopefully, it will comfort the people down there in the same way."
To donate recipes or money for printing, contact Cindy Shaw at (812) 939-2916. Donations from area printers and binders are especially welcome.