If food captures the heart and soul of a place, Hastings’ new community cookbook, “It Takes A Village,” does that and more.
The spiral-bound hardcover book, produced by the Hastings PTSA, represents an array of residents who contributed their time, talents, and recipes. All proceeds from sales of the book ($35 if ordered by April 30) benefit the PTSA.
At almost 200 pages, this colorful volume is more than a sentimental keepsake. It’s made to be used for everything from daily family meals to holiday feasts, or as a gift for Hastings grads leaving the nest and happy to bring a taste of home to their own kitchens.
The photos were all locally sourced, including many contributed by professional photographer Doug Schneider. Other images were provided by students of high school photography teacher Cory Merchant, and some by the cooks behind the recipes. The book also has a chapter devoted to the Hastings Farmers’ Market, which has spawned multiple culinary enterprises in the village and beyond.
Marketing and design consultant Jenny Ayres, the mother of a third-grader, wanted a feel-good project during the pandemic, and over the 2020 winter break her thoughts turned to designing a Hastings cookbook. She brought her idea to Robin Muskin and Kefira Wilderman, vice presidents in charge of fundraising on the PTSA executive board.
“We thought it was a great thing for our community, a great way to connect,” Muskin said. “Of course, for fundraising for the PTSA, everything is disrupted. So this was another selling point for us because it was a great way for us to continue fundraising.” The duo took created a marketing campaign for the cookbook.
Meanwhile, Ayres was already imagining what the book would look like. “I had created special cookbooks for other people,” she said. “The whole idea was to highlight the people, the different cultures, and how the recipes help us connect.” Her grandmother had been involved with community cookbooks from the 1950s and ‘60s, and left her collection to Ayres.
“That was part of my inspiration,” she said. “For this cookbook, we really wanted to encourage people to tell the backstory to their recipes and why they’re so important. There are funny ones, endearing ones, and there are ones that tell you about different cultures.”
The other half of the editorial team was Kate Sonders Solomon, a food industry professional who has done everything from working the line in restaurant kitchens to ghostwriting, researching, and editing cookbooks. Six years ago, she started her own business as a cooking instructor. She also helped organize the Rivertown Public Market, a food festival held on the Dobbs Ferry waterfront in 2018 and 2019. Ayres asked her to help gather recipes from the community and review them for consistency.
“I have a pretty big community, so I reached out to everyone I know, saying, ‘Please provide your recipes,’” Solomon, the mother of a fifth-grader, said. “I am also involved in the community and know a lot of different restaurateurs, and I asked them to provide a recipe. They were really generous with photos and recipes; the same with the farmers’ market. Pascale [Le Draoulec, the Hastings Farmers’ Market director] was extremely generous with an interview and connecting me with various vendors she thought would be willing to participate.” Readers will find recipes from many of their favorite purveyors.
The book contains additional interviews about food with other local personages, such as Hillside Elementary School Principal Amy Cazes, who contributed her time-tested banana bread recipe.
The cookbook team was heartened by the response from both food industry professionals and everyday cooks. “The recipes came in all shapes and sizes,” Solomon said. Some recipes were three pages long, and others were two sentences. “It was a challenge,” Ayres remarked.
Some of the recipes were well formatted when they were submitted. “I went through them to make sure everything was written out in a consistent way,” Solomon said. “A lot of times people provided us with recipes from their head, and in some cases I made some alterations in the language, but for the most part, [only] little technical changes.”
Many of the recipes include wine pairings, which were recommended by Rockwood & Perry Fine Wine & Spirits, on Warburton Avenue.
Each recipe credits its contributor and gives the year they moved to Hastings. In the case of local businesses, the book notes the year they were established. Those contributors include Boro6 Wine Bar, Saint George Bistro, The Good Witch Coffee Bar, Maud’s Tavern, DiRiso, Sakura Garden, Divino Cucina Italiana, and Penny Lick Ice Cream.
The cookbook is available to order through April 30 at $35; after April 30 a limited number will be available for $40. To order, visit my.cheddarup.com/c/it-takes-a-village-hastings-ptsa-cookbook