Avid cook turned lifelong recipe collection into a cookbook
After a lifetime of gleaning recipes from chefs and kindred cooks from around the world and developing recipes of her own, Drucella Smith thought her collection might be as interesting to others as it was to her. So she decided to write a cookbook.
Smith, who lives at Franke at Seaside with her husband, Ed, self-published “Drucella’s Secret Recipes” at the end of 2010. Morris Press Cookbooks printed 225 copies, and a little to Smith’s surprise, they all sold within five weeks. “They were inhaled, really,” Smith says, recalling the experience.
First, she dropped off a few books at the library at Franke, which is in Mount Pleasant. Smith then met with the administration of the retirement community to let them know of her intentions: to split the proceeds between Franke’s subsidized living and First United Methodist Church on the Isle of Palms. Then a blurb about the book appeared in Franke’s newsletter. It was a spark.
“I think a good many (people) out of kindness or thinking that it was going to charity would buy one,” Smith concedes. “Then they started reading it. People have said they read it like a book, not like a cookbook ... cover to cover.”
In turn, those people started buying the cookbook for family members and friends. The stockpile soon ran out.
This June, Smith came out with a revised, enlarged edition and another printing of 225 books. The 221-page cookbook offers a few hundred recipes, variations included, and covers a range of categories from appetizers to main dishes, cookies and candy. There’s a bonus plastic insert that can be placed on the counter and used as a book stand.
Smith sells the books for $20 by phone, 881-1158, or via email at email@example.com. There is an additional $4 shipping cost.
Smith first got the travel bug in the late 1950s, when she worked for an airline as a secretary for a high-level manager. She continued to travel extensively later on while employed at an engineering firm that was a subcontractor for NASA.
“Anytime I had a minute ... I was going anywhere I possibly could,” she says. “Sometimes I would take my family, and sometimes not.”
Smith says she learned early on how she might obtain a chef’s special recipe.
“I went to a restaurant and I ate something I really, really liked. I told the server how wonderful it was. All of a sudden the chef appears and said, ‘The server said you wanted to see me.’ I said, ‘Yes, I did. This is the best (dish) I’ve had in my entire life.’
“Well, when a chef comes out of a kitchen, summoned by a customer, they expect the customer to be complaining that something was wrong. It’s pretty rare that someone says, ‘I have to talk to the chef because this was so fantastic.’ So I said, ‘Could you give me the recipe?’ And he was delighted.”
As for the “secret” recipes, which appear randomly throughout the book: It means the recipe was given to Smith with the promise that the source not be divulged — perhaps to protect “signature” recipes from leaking out to competitors.
Smith spent all of her life in the Cleveland area until 18 years ago. That’s when she married her second husband, Ed, who was living in the Lowcountry. Former neighbors in Ohio, the two started dating after the death of Smith’s first husband.
Smith has pursued her passion for cooking throughout her life. That included taking gourmet classes and entering a number of recipe contests, some of which she won.
Once she was invited to a pineapple contest in Hawaii. While her “Hawaiian Sun Tan Pie” didn’t capture the grand prize, she still feels the payoff was a handsome one: an all-expenses-paid, two-week trip to the islands.
She still enjoys cooking, too, even though the couple can get all of their meals at Franke. (A ham and bean soup was on her stove one day last week.) She especially loves making hors d’oeuvres.
“I do it for fun, I do it to please people, and I have a husband who loves to eat,” Smith says. “Those are good reasons ... and I can still do it!”
Caprese on a Stick
Makes 25 to 30
1 pint grape tomatoes
8 slices deli mozzarella cheese, sliced ¼-inch thick
25 to 30 extra-long toothpicks with frills
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
Slice 25 to 30 grape tomatoes in half. With small cutter (the size of the center of the tomato) cut 25 to 30 round pieces of mozzarella cheese. Place 1 cheese round between the 2 halves of each tomato. Skewer with long toothpick or skewers.
Mix oil, vinegar and sea salt. Baste tomato skewers and allow to marinate for at least 1 hour. Turn occasionally. Sprinkle lightly with minced basil before serving.
Tips: Try to purchase grape tomatoes of the same size. If you need these in a hurry, just baste and marinate in Italian salad dressing for a half-hour.
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