By Bonnie Tawse
What's a cookie table? Funny you should ask! The cookie table is a tradition beloved by residents of Youngstown, Pittsburgh, and parts in between. It has its roots in a time when wedding cakes were far too dear for newly arrived immigrants to purchase. Instead, family and friends showed their love for a bride and groom by baking from scratch hundreds (sometimes thousands) of cookies and other small sweet treats to be shared at the reception.
The Belt Cookie Table Cookbook (June 30, 2020) collects forty-one cookie recipes from authentic Mahoning Valley cookie tables and cookie cooks: cookies from different cultures, cookies with different textures, spices, shapes, and backstories. Simple cookies, ridiculously indulgent cookies. Cookies that aren’t really cookies at all but slices of yeasted breads or more like candy, but are lumped into the cookie category because they are delicious and someone’s great-grandmother brought the recipe with her when she came over from the Old Country.
The cookie table tradition carries with it the understanding that not only should you always eat as many cookies as you can at the party, but that you should to take a bag or a box home with you as well as a way of sharing that love with your family and friends. With a foreword by Beth Kracklauer, food and drinks editor for the Wall Street Journal weekend edition and a proud Pittsburgh cookie enthusiast, this book can let you join the community too. Buy it with Car Bombs to Cookie Tables: The Youngstown Anthology for the full experience!
Bonnie Tawse is a writer and home baker committed to exploring the connections between food, community, and culture. She has co-hosted a Nordic Dinner series, is a former Atlas Obscura Field Agent, and helped establish children’s organic gardens in parks all over Chicago. Her writing has appeared in TimeOut Chicago Kids, Chicago Parent, and for institutions such as the Cultural Landscapes Foundation and the Lurie Garden. She holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from CU Boulder, and her fiction has been published in ChickLit 2, Asylum Arts Annual, and Sniper Logic. She lives in Chicago with her husband and two sons and recently spent one year visiting and celebrating 52 Bakeries in 52 Weeks.
"For the past five years, a small press called Belt Publishing has been bringing out intriguing nonfiction books about the Midwest; now they've started a new series called Belt Revivals to publish classic Midwestern fiction as well as nonfiction."
"Five years after its launch as a regional press specializing in nonfiction books about the industrial Midwest, Belt Publishing is growing rapidly and gaining visibility in the marketplace."
"Small presses across Appalachia and the Rust Belt consistently publish, to little fanfare, incredibly diverse work — books that are lush, gritty, surprising and so very true. Perhaps the best example, or certainly the best place to begin, is Catte’s “What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia.” This edgy, meticulous work of nonfiction from Cleveland’s Belt Publishing dispels many myths about the region."