Food has the power to connect communities and create a sense of shared identity. Whether it’s sharing a new dish at a neighborhood potluck, trying new cuisine at a cultural festival, or exchanging family recipes with friends, food is a way to share and celebrate where we come from. That spirit of sharing is what inspired Grow Ohio Valley AmeriCorps member Emma Goldenthal to take on a service project to showcase Wheeling’s unique flavor.
In June 2023, Goldenthal moved from Massachusetts to Wheeling to serve as an AmeriCorps with GrowOV. She sought to explore the city where her mom’s father, Ron Felix, grew up, and to connect with her family in the area. Emma also came bearing an enthusiasm for food – cooking it, sharing it, talking about it. With support and encouragement from her coworkers on the GrowOV education team, Emma channeled her enthusiasm into an idea for a project: a cookbook full of stories about the many ways people make and share food, and some of the dishes and food traditions that connect people to place and community here in Wheeling. Now, six months later, Emma is the author of A Little of This, A Little of That: A Wheeling Community Cookbook.
The cookbook is a collection of local recipes, photography, and food stories gathered from all around our City of Wheeling. Alongside her project collaborator and GrowOV’s Assistant Education Manager, Corbin Lanker, Emma began interviewing people from around Wheeling about recipes and stories about the foods they cherish. The two traveled around town chatting with folks in cafés, in community spaces, and in people’s home kitchens, where contributors generously shared food, stories, and tidbits of cooking wisdom. Each meeting took delightful, often unexpected, twists and turns as the authors and twenty-six cookbook contributors reflected on treasured memories. Contributors reflected on memories of their favorite foods, Wheeling businesses, community food spaces – both past and present – and the simple yet profound meanings that food can take on in our lives.
Taking inspiration from the longstanding tradition of the community cookbook and The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery, this cookbook focuses more on the narrative behind each recipe than a traditional cookbook might. Many recipes are relayed by word of mouth, with no measurements, only suggestions to add a little of this, a little of that, or to cook until it looks right. The cookbook also intersperses typical cookbook sections – think salads, entrées, and desserts – with collections of recipes grouped by theme, topic, or storyteller.
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Altogether, A Little of This, A Little of That is, at its heart, a community storytelling project. While the cookbook does not claim to be authoritative on Wheeling cuisine, it does capture what has happened and is happening in the kitchens, backyards, and dining tables of some folks of Wheeling. As a 150-page patchwork of stories and recipes, this cookbook invites you to reflect on your own memories of food – recipes you’ve loved, recipes you’ve lost, or the memory of the first time you tasted your Gran’s famous cherry pie.
A Little of This, A Little of That is now available for preorder and shipping at growov.org/communitycookbook until December 21. Following preorders, the cookbook will be available at the Public Market and other Wheeling retailers.
Adding extra chocolate chips to freshly made cookies with Lillian “Lil” and Adam Payne. Photograph by Corbin Lanker.
One contributor, David Widder-Varhegyi, shows Emma and Corbin how to shape homemade pizza dough. Photograph by Corbin Lanker.
Terrie Fish gathers produce for ratatouille from her backyard garden. Photograph by Corbin Lanker.
Emma and Pat Jeffers look over some of her treasured family recipes at the Public Market. Photograph by Corbin Lanker.
Renel Hemmerling, of Little Brown Hen Bakery, pulls four finished lemon meringue pies out of the oven. Photograph by Corbin Lanker.
To celebrate the release of this new cookbook, the authors wish to extend an open invitation to a Cookbook Launch and Potluck Celebration event at GrowOV’s Public Market on Thursday, December 14, starting at 6:30 p.m. All are welcome to attend but are asked to RSVP online and possibly bring a dish along with them too!
Goldenthal is grateful for all the contributors who shared recipes and stories for the cookbook. She also wishes to thank Corbin and the whole team at Grow Ohio Valley for helping make her vision a reality, as well as those who advised the project. The team proudly looks forward to sharing the cookbook with you, and they encourage readers to experiment with the recipes they find within.
‘A Little of This, A Little of That’ was made possible through grant funding from several localand regional agencies. This includes financial assistance from the West Virginia Departmentof Arts, Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from theWest Virginia Commission on the Arts. This book has also been made possible through agrant from the West Virginia Humanities Council, the state affiliate of the NationalEndowment for the Humanities – special thanks to Jennie Williams. Finally, we thankWheeling Heritage for their financial support of this project via their Partnership Grant program.