Last year, she went to live at Ridgeview Health Services and the books fell into disuse, but they still held treasured family memories.
“She always cooked every Sunday, and we would all eat together,” her daughter-in-law Regina Phillips remembers. “She has always been a wonderful woman and a wonderful cook. She just loves everybody.”
This year Regina took those cookbooks and consolidated the family favorites into one book.
“Those books were so old the pages had yellowed with age,” Regina said.
Regina spent some time compiling the recipes to surprise her mother-in-law, but eventually saw potential to expand the gift. When Kathlene worried over what to give as gifts to her numerous relatives and caregivers, Regina decided to have 100 of the books printed for her mother-in-law to give as gifts. She also decided to get her involved in the production of it.
The cover, featuring Kathlene’s head photoshopped onto a cartoon body was all Kathlene’s idea, brought to life by family friend, River Barton. She wrote a note inside the book, dedicating it to her sons, Jimmy and Robert, as well as her husband, Lester. She also wrote her secret for cooking for her family.
“I hope you enjoy this book and try some of my recipes,” Kathlene wrote. “The special ingredient in all my recipes is love.”
On the facing page is a tribute to the 89-year-old, written by her sons. They call her a “true symbol of strength and perseverance” and “one of the best cooks around (maybe even the best).”
The old, handwritten books are now a neatly-bound, commemorative cookbook containing 122 recipes, mostly cakes, and it comes highly-endorsed.
“I like my cookbook better than Paula Deen’s,” Kathlene said with a laugh.