The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


March 26, 2014

Cheryle Finley: New cookbook based on recipes from more than 700 columns

JOPLIN, Mo. — My new cookbook, "The Best of Cheryle," has arrived, but as I write this I have yet to see it. I can't wait to get my hands on it so I can find out how it feels to have my picture on the front of a book.

With more than 700 Joplin Globe columns under my belt, there was lots to fall back on for a cookbook. When the idea first came up, I honestly thought it would never happen and didn't get too excited. But it did happen, and now the finished product is here.

Putting the cookbook together has been a journey. As with all journeys, some parts were very good and some parts, honestly, were not as good.

My first task in getting the cookbook started was to come up with dates of columns that fit into different chapters, such as Elvis, The Early Columns, and Atlas. The columns would then be pulled from the archives and reprinted. I look back on that request now and, while I didn't realize it at the time, there was no way I was going to be able to come up with that much information. I email my column to the Globe each week, and I've had a couple of different computers since 2000. So, short of just pulling dates out of thin air, I wasn't going to be able to fulfill that need.

The biggest stroke of luck in this entire endeavor was that I had saved almost every single paper copy of my column. For several years the late Richard Ferguson, of Carthage, brought me columns cut out of the paper each week. When he could no longer do that, I continued to save them in a filing box. They were in no particular order. When someone would request a recipe from a previous column, I would dig through the pile and find it, never worrying about keeping the entries sorted by date. So, my first task was putting all those clippings and papers in a timeline from beginning to end. I spent several evenings on that little job.

Next came the job of selecting columns for publication. What fun that was, reading columns from years ago and remembering the family members, friends and events. There have been so many wonderful encounters, and narrowing down the final choices was difficult. Some memories are funny, such as when my friend Margaret Mullikin and I got together, and some are sad, such as Margaret's and my dad's passing. But they are all put together. I'm lucky to have a weekly diary of sorts for the past 14 years of my life.

I sent dates to my editor to get started on those early columns, but, unfortunately, the columns couldn't be retrieved from the Globe's archives. Thus, they had to be retyped. But that's a small price to pay for being able to have the columns to publish. Without that box of papers, there wouldn't be a cookbook. A big thanks to my dad for instilling the qualities of a pack rat in me!

Each chapter has a different title. I wrote an introduction for each one, and that was one of the easy jobs. I tried to keep them short and sweet but was excited to share what would follow.

The cover picture was taken in my kitchen on an evening when 15 of my friends and family members were over for dinner and cake-decorating. We worked around the hustle and bustle of the party and got what is a pretty good picture of someone who doesn't often look good in pictures. I would much rather look at anyone's picture but my own.

Definitely the not-so-good part of the whole cookbook experience was the Sunday my daughter, Sarah, and I whipped up 16 recipes, all needing to be ready at 2 p.m. so the photographer could take some pretty pictures. I honestly could not have pulled off that Herculean task without Sarah. Think of Thanksgiving dinner preparations times three. The kitchen was a mess, but the food was ready and picture-perfect right on time. Plus, all the food provided dinner for the next few days, so there ended up being a bright side to even this.

When more pictures were needed, thankfully I was relieved of the preparation duty. I turned to Globe employees, who had made dishes for a pot-luck lunch, which I got to enjoy after all the picture-taking. Everyone did such a good job making the recipes into beautiful and delicious food. My goodness! It was much more fun than all that cooking, even though I missed out on leftovers. That get-together ended up being the last installment of the cookbook timeline. It was then time to wait for the finished book.

A big thank you to everyone who has read my column over the years. To those who have contributed to it: I couldn't have done it without you. I am so grateful and so blessed to have crossed paths with you all.

Besides getting to see the book for the first time, I'm also looking forward to the Taste of Home Cooking School on April 5. I will be there for a book signing and can't wait to see everyone. I'm visiting Carol Parker at noon on Tuesday on KSN-TV, and we will talk about Taste of Home as well as the book. By then I should have a copy to show off.

I'm sharing three of the recipes from my cookbook. The last one, of course, is from the Elvis chapter. I hope you have a wonderful week and happy eating!


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