Kalispell homeless shelter serves its own cookbookA new cookbook from the Samaritan House homeless shelter raises the bar for home-grown fundraiser publications.
By: Candace Cahse, Daily Inter Lake, Superior Telegram
KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — A new cookbook from the Samaritan House homeless shelter raises the bar for home-grown fundraiser publications.
With professional photographs and design, "Come To Our Table: The Community Cookbook of Sharing and Caring" offers a carefully honed collection of mostly fresh ingredient recipes, including 20 from local restaurants and many more from the community.
"I think it's so excellent that everyone should buy 10 copies," Curt Lamm, associate director of Samaritan House, said with a laugh. "We have 100 pages of amazing recipes interspersed with facts about homelessness."
Dishes include the "best-loved" chosen by Samaritan House residents at a cook-off of community submissions. Voted as tops in taste were Chili Egg Puff, Murray's Meatball Chowder, Honey Curry Dressing; Chicken, Wild Rice and Mushroom Casserole; Hawaiian Style Pulled Pork, Chicken Balti and Red Velvet Cake with a Twist.
Spiral bound for easy use, the cookbook features a good quality cover and paper stock to survive the inevitable kitchen spills and splatters. A recipe index and large page numbers make it simple to find recipes for breakfast, appetizers, breads, soups, salads and dressings, pasta, rice and casseroles, meat, poultry and fish, vegetables and desserts.
According to Lamm, inspiration for the cookbook came to him during a brainstorming session seeking projects to raise money as well as awareness of Samaritan House and homelessness. He views food as a great equalizer.
"What you have in common, whether you are a millionaire or homeless, is food," Lamm said.
Heidi Long, a professional photographer and member of the Samaritan House board of directors, recalled the meeting where Lamm had the cookbook idea. She said she immediately thought it was a fantastic idea and the board of directors did as well.
Long said their concept was to produce a cookbook that people would want to buy on its own merit.
"Basically, I took that idea and ran with it," she said. "I donated the photography, Curt did the writing and Heidi Gaiser donated over 86 hours of design time. We really worked our tails off to produce something great."
Long and Gaiser worked with Lamm for about six months putting the cookbook together for printing in June at Thomas Printing.
"By partnering up with 20 local restaurants, that added legitimacy to our recipes," Long said. "Then we included the community by having a couple of bakeoffs with category winners."
Recipes needed visual as well as taste appeal to qualify as category winners for the book and the cook-off at Samaritan House. Some of the "Best Loved" by the residents were quite a surprise.
"There was this coconut curry soup that we all thought was great and sounded fantastic," she said. "But the totally non-sexy meatball chowder won hands down. Everybody loved it."
Long described the 20 participating restaurants as very supportive, adding that getting to taste the dishes she photographed was an added bonus.
"I kind of have to laugh," she said. "I didn't get paid in cash but I got paid in calories because I got to eat everything."
Featured on the cover, Whitefish Lake Restaurant's "Grilled Walleye Over Risotto" provides a mouth-watering introduction with grape tomatoes, baby spinach, roasted red peppers, onions, Kalamata olives and fried capers heaped over walleye.
Long said Betsy Cox at Good Medicine Lodge provided a particularly appropriate selection of a chicken soup that was served to the homeless in Virginia in 1980. Each volunteer prepared a gallon of the soup, which they combined to feed a multitude.
"This chicken noodle soup recipe has nourished thousands and has been a favorite of our children and grandchildren," Cox said in the cookbook.
Chefs Mike Gorski and Mike Kmiecek of Grouse Mountain Lodge also submitted a recipe easy to cook large that they call "Fajitas for a Crowd." Long said she cooked those fajitas for a meal at Samaritan House.
"The residents were just psyched," she said. "They don't usually get things like that. It was great that it was all part of this project."
While perusing the recipes, readers learn from Lamm that Samaritan House provides a three-tiered housing program ranging from free, 30-day temporary stays to transitional and semi-permanent apartments for rent on a monthly lease. Family units provide a free place to stay while they save money to get back on their feet.
Last year, the organization served just under 35,000 meals and housed close to 1,600 people. Lamm said the shelter stays pretty full.
Since Montana shelters receive no direct to client state dollars, Samaritan House must make fundraising a priority. Lamm said donations of money and/or time make a big difference.
"It's a big help to come and work in the kitchen and cook or just help serve," he said.
Volunteers have their homeless stereotypes swept away when they meet people such as Ed, 67, described in the cookbook as a worker who got laid off and couldn't find work for nine months, or Navy veteran Marge who suffers from Crohn's disease and is trying to save enough from her small pension to find permanent housing.
In the cookbook, Lamm encourages people to use the recipes and make an extra batch to share with an elderly neighbor, ailing friend or the Samaritan House homeless shelter.
"Great things happen when people share meals," he said.
Information from: Daily Inter Lake, http://www.dailyinterlake.com.