Taos SOMOS publishes first literary cookbook


SOMOS' first literary-culinary fundraising cookbook, "Storied Recipes" – shortshort (true) stories and the recipes that flavor them – is out.

It contains a variety of recipes that range from chile rellenos to a failproof high-altitude cake.

Bonnie Lee Black, a former New York chef and caterer, writer and UNM professor, who edited the book, said the cookbook project was born last January at an open house SOMOS gave at its new headquarters. SOMOS, the Society of the Muse of the Southwest, also known as "the literary heart of Taos," is a nonprofit organization that has been in existence for 30 years.

"During a brief fundraising/brainstorming session, a light bulb went off in my head, and I immediately thought of a fundraising cookbook," she said.

Black teamed up with Lorraine Ciancio and Linda Michel-Cassidy, who were also at the SOMOS meeting, to see this idea through. "From the beginning, this has been a collaborative, community effort," said Black.

The first stage of the project was to put out a call for submissions, which yielded 84 stories with accompanying recipes from SOMOS members and friends.

"And that is precisely what makes the book special," said Black. "It contains not only a valuable and diverse collection of recipes, but also the personal or family stories that make those recipes come alive."

Later, the stories and recipes were edited and grouped into categories, such as "Meaty Matters," "Goin' Fishin'," "SW Favorites," "Veggie Medleys," and "Sweet Stuff," to name just a few. Recipes and stories were representative of the diverse cultural, social and geographical backgrounds of the contributors.

"They are storytellers of all stripes who love to cook as well as write," said Black, adding that the stories and recipes come from all around the globe: from London to Venice, from Africa to Qatar, from Greece to New Zealand, and of course Italy.

Black said that the organizers were struck by the breadth of the submissions they received. "They came from men and women, young and old; poets, playwrights, novelists, biographers, memoirists, and all the rest." Among them are native Taoseña Annette Arellano, who submitted a heart-warming and funny story about her grandmother's sopapillas; Jean E. Stevens, a California transplant, who tasted her first smoothie in 1967, contributed her "Life-Changing Smoothies"; while Bill Christmas, a retired physician who has lived in Taos for the past eight years, provided "Christmas' Christmas Brioche."

"It is my belief that Storied Recipes will strengthen bonds and create a sense of unity for all Taoseños," said Stevens.

Black submitted her own "Kidney Stew," a story and recipe from her recently published memoir- with-recipes, "How to Cook a Crocodile," about her life in the rain forest of Gabon, Central Africa, teaching health and nutrition. Finally, the cookbook went into the production stage.

Ciancio was the production manager and Michel-Cassidy worked with her husband, Dan Cassidy, to create the cookbook's photography, as well as coordinate with the SOMOS board. The cover photo is by Geraint Smith and the design by Lesley Cox.

"Putting this community fundraising cookbook together has been a lesson in volunteerism and teamwork for us," said Black. "We're very indebted to all the contributors for taking the time to submit their stories and recipes to this worthwhile project."

"Storied Recipe"s was published with CreateSpace and the help of an all-volunteer production team, including Ciancio, Rebecca Lenzini, who owns Nighthawk Press, Barbara Scott, of FinalEyes, and Black, who edited all of the submissions and worked closely with the contributors.

"All together, it took around nine months to have the book ready," said Black. "Books are a lot like babies."

The cookbook is the most recent publication sponsored by SOMOS. The organization already publishes "Chokecherries: A SOMOS Anthology," edited by Ciancio, which is an annual chapbook that collects the work of those who participate in a Writers' Series during the calendar year.

"We look forward to many more years of tradition, new ideas, and exciting writing as we continue to be a home for lovers of words, reading, and now, food," said Alan Macrae, president of the SOMOS Board. "Whenever and wherever you open this book, I hope you will admire, encourage, and support the written word as it exists in this small mountain town."

SOMOS will be hosting a book-launch party Friday (Oct. 5), 7- 9 p.m. at Hotel La Fonda on Taos Plaza. Contributors will read their stories and bring dishes made from recipes in the book. Admission is free.

"Copies of 'Storied Recipes' will be available to buy," said Black. "They'll make perfect Christmas gifts."

For information, contact SOMOS, located at 223-D Paseo del Pueblo Sur, across from Smith's, at (575) 758-0081 or www.somostaos.org.