Goodlanders stay close while social distancing to make cookbook during COVID-19 pandemic

Wearing face masks, Goodland Civic Association's arts committee members Linda Van Meter, Tara O'Neill, Celeste Navara and Judy Wittwer hold copies of Goodland Cooks and Chills at Goodland Community Center on Oct. 16, 2020.

Like the rest of the world, tiny Goodland had to change its ways in 2020.

When the coronavirus pandemic made it difficult for its residents to safely gather, annual events like the Holiday Bazaar and the all-you-can-eat pancake fundraisers were canceled to prevent spreading the virus.

"Because everything was an unknown, we wanted to do something to promote and involve the community," said Celeste Navara, member of the Goodland Civic Association's arts committee. 

Local cooks shared food recipes in a Facebook group and brought homemade meals to their neighbors.

"When you are cooking, you end up with more food than for just one or two people so there was a lot of sharing of food going on, dropping things off at people's houses, ringing the bell and running," said Tara O'Neill, an arts committee member. 

A fellow committee member suggested making a cookbook.

"It was something that we could do without having to be in the same room," Navara said.

The Goodland Gals and the original cookbook

The original Goodland Gals smile for an undated photo. From left to right: Kasey Knoebel, Sara (last name not available), Nancy Simmons, Anna Papour, Agatha Norton, Anne Hess, Colleen Nuccio, Marie (last name not available), Linda Van Meter, Marion Cheney, Debby Pappy, Sara Jane Foltz and Deb Klosik.

It was not the first time Goodlanders ventured into cookbook making to help fund community projects and events.

In 1999, a group of women who called themselves the Goodland Gals started meeting every week in their homes. They shared stories, laughed and supported each other.

"We would mostly make some kind of dessert," said Linda Van Meter, a former Goodland Gal and a member of the arts committee.

Van Meter said the Gals collected and shared recipes, and came to the conclusion they should make a cookbook. In 2006, the Gals collected recipes from friends and family members — some whom had died — and published the "Goodland Gals and Pals Cookbook."

Back then, Van Meter said, many people lacked access to internet and email so a great deal of the recipes received for the cookbook were written by hand. The Gals had to type each recipe in a form that would later be sent to a company that printed cookbooks.

"It was an entirely different process than what these ladies have just done," Van Meter said.

"I spent several years sitting by a card table selling these cookbooks, and I'm sure they will sell (the new cookbook) in a matter of months."

The new cookbook: 'Goodland Cooks and Chills'

Goodland Civic Association's arts committee members look at the camera while wearing navy blue Goodland Cooks aprons. From left to right, Tara O’Neill, Celeste Navara, Chris Willets, Judy Wittwer, Jane Ann Smith, Linda Van Meter, Sherri Morrison and Noreen Seegers.

Fast forward to 2020, the committee made a call out for recipes for a new cookbook, and the response was overwhelming.

Full- and part-time residents from different parts of U.S. sent hundreds of recipes, and committee members filled out forms for each one on the cookbook publisher's website. 

Other recipes came from the "Goodland Gals and Pals Cookbook," including some that were submitted but never printed.

The book is divided into eight sections: appetizers and beverages, soups and salads, vegetables and side dishes, main dishes, breads and rolls, desserts, cookies and candy, and "this and that."

Chris Willets, a committee member, said the cookbook is more than just a list of recipes and instructions.

For her, it is about family history and tradition.

When Ben Ward, Willets' son, was in third grade, his class was tasked with creating a cookbook. Each student had to find a recipe from a U.S. state, prepare it and bring it to class for everyone to try.

While helping her son, Willets found an old recipe book from a bed and breakfast in Alaska among others that her grandmother had saved. They selected a blueberry coffee cake recipe.

After the class project, Willet and her family incorporated the cake into their holiday traditions and family gatherings, dubbing it "Ben's Blueberry Coffee Cake."

When Hurricane Irma made landfall on Marco Island in 2017, most of the cookbooks of Willet's grandmother were destroyed but a few others were saved, including Ben's cookbook from third grade.

"I feel happy to be able to share it with our friends and neighbors so maybe they can incorporated to their special occasions," Willet said. "Recipes are about sharing love and making new memories with friends and family.

"The best family memories are usually around the table."

Goodland Civic Association presents a $1,500 check donation to Our Daily Bread Food Pantry on Marco Island on Dec. 8, 2020. From left to right, Chris Willets, Noreen Seegers, Liz Pecora, Tara O’Neill, Celeste Navara, Jo Anne Lundquist, Nancy Kot, Sherri Morrison and Vicki Johnson.

Helping feed those in need

The income generated from the book sales will be used for community projects and events, according to the committee. 

Last Tuesday, the association donated $1,500, a portion of the sales, to Our Daily Bread Food Pantry on Marco Island.

"Food insecurity is on the rise during the pandemic," said Sherri Morrison, a committee member. "It just breaks my heart that some people don't know when their next meal will come."

The cookbook, which includes historical photos of Goodland and cooking tips, is on sale for $15. A gift set, which includes a Goodland Cooks apron and a wooden spoon, is $30.

"To see the whole community come together and share their recipes and their stories — it was really heartfelt." Morrison said. "This book came from the heart."

To buy the cookbook, call committee members Tara O'Neill at 239-200-2501 or Sherri Morrison at 239-776-1372, or buy it in person at Kirk Fish Company427 Papaya St., Goodland.

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