Ascension Family Celebrates
Acension Family Celebrates is a plastic spiralbound recipe collection from the Ascension Lutheran Church in Green Bay, Wisconsin. If we want to split hairs it’s located in the Village of Allouez, which is contained within the Green Bay Metropolitan Area. Allouez appears to have their own government, court, and community identity despite having Green Bay addresses, and despite the whole of Green Bay being not much bigger than your average West Coast suburb. Out west we have neighborhoods with their own identity and sometimes their own post office, but this village within a city deal entirely foreign to me. Hopefully there’s a good Wisconsinite out their who can sort things out for me.
Ascension Lutheran traces its roots to a small missionary church established in the Allouez community in the early sixties. The congregation grew quickly and was formally incorporated a few years later. The cookbook celebrates twenty-fifth anniversary of the congregation’s organization (hence the title). In those first twenty-five years Ascension Lutheran grew to a thriving congregation of some eight hundred members. In the intervening years Ascension has grown further, with nearly five hundred families and over twelve hundred baptized numbers. In addition to the normal churchy stuff that churches do, Ascension Lutheran manages an outreach ministry called Home Sweet Home that furnishes apartments for (formerly) homeless community members.
There’s not a whole lot of history in the cookbook itself, beyond a brief paragraph on Ascension Lutheran’s founding. The book is printed in a navy blue in a simple Palatia-style font, with a matching blue plastic spiral. The cover and the chapter dividers are all illustrated by members of the congregation, including a handful by children. Beyond that there are a couple of introductory inspirational poems but otherwise very little filler; none of the usual cooking tips or teaspoon-to-tablespoon conversion tables.
The cookbook was prepared by Cookbook Publishers, a Kansas-based publisher that has been printing community cookbooks since 1947. They credit their founder R.M. Evans with transforming the industry from contract printing to an organizational fundraising tool. They also lay claim to being the first such publisher to replace typewritten recipes with professional typesetting. Their website charts the industry from the days of the traveling salesman through to the digital age. After several reinventions, Cookbook Publishers is still in business nearly seventy-five years later.
Ascension Family Celebrates is a treat to cook from. While it doesn’t appear that Allouez is a particularly exclusive community, the recipes tend towards more upscale ingredients. Not lobster and caviar upscale, but a wider variety of recipes for steaks and ribs and beef roasts than I typically find. There are still plenty of casseroles, but this cookbook is decidedly past peak Jell-O. Salads are primarily raw vegetables or pasta in a creamy dressing; not a lot of Jell-O but a crazy amount of mandarin oranges.
Where this cookbook really shines is brunch: there’s a whole chapter for it. And not just pancakes and omelets, but a variety of quiches and breakfast casseroles and French Toast in a pan suitable for entertaining or a brunch potluck. These days most churches just serve coffee and donuts, but I wonder if once upon a time Ascension had a Sunday brunch. (I don’t even get coffee and donuts – just the occasional root beer float)