- Associated Press - Monday, April 19, 2021

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - In online reviews, clients praise personal injury attorney Davis Rice for being “a pit bull” who refuses to settle for less than he thinks workers deserve for falling off a ladder or otherwise getting hurt at work.

None of them, though, mention the quality of his macaroni-and-cheese, topped with buttered breadcrumbs and baked for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Rice’s recipe was among the breakout hits in the Joye Law Firm’s cookbook, first issued in 2013 and now undergoing an update. Once completed, the e-book detailing how to prepare partner Mark Joye’s ranch dressing, a financial manager’s cherry cookies and the human resources director’s bacon-enhanced Brussels sprouts, among other dishes, will be shared with the 7,000 or so people on the South Carolina firm’s contact list.

According to Joye spokeswoman Nicole Cerullo, “We thought this was like a reminder that attorneys are people, too.”

The original inspiration for the cookbook was the regional reflex to express gratitude with food. Cerullo said clients pleased with the outcomes of their cases are prone to send sweets to the office, and “sometimes we pester them until they give us the recipe.”

Joye’s marketing department proposed compiling those rounded-up recipes with staff favorites as a promotional effort.

But the cookbook project took on new significance during the pandemic, since the recipes helped connect employees working remotely. Staffers might see each other only on Zoom, but they could recreate at home the potato salad or sweet potato pudding that their colleagues once brought to office potlucks.

For that reason, self-published cookbooks surged during the pandemic. Aimee Blauvelt of Morris Press Cookbooks, the nation’s leading publisher of DIY cookbooks, said the uptick in home cooking may have contributed to the genre’s growth, but “the tremendous spike” likely has more to do with a craving for togetherness.

“Cookbooks are more alive than they were five years ago because people want to be together,” Blauvelt said.

Over Morris Press’ 88-year history, churches and charitable groups have been the company’s most frequent customers. For instance, Morris Press recently helped a Humane Society chapter assemble recipes for pet treats.

Still, corporations have at least dabbled in the community cookbook space. Alison Kelly, who oversees the Library of Congress’ collection of group-produced cookbooks, found several amateur cookbooks featuring white-collar culinary advice.

Among the library’s holdings are “No Fault Cooking,” published by the American College of Trial Lawyers, “Beyond Chips: A Collection of Chocolate Recipes from IBM’ers Around the World” and “The Fannie Mae Legal Department Cookbook: From Torts to Tarts and Suits to Nuts.”

More poignantly, Blauvelt said many nursing homes have created cookbooks through Morris Press since the start of the pandemic.

In almost every case, the recipes weren’t attributed to residents: Instead, Blauvelt theorizes that registered nurses and other employees wanted to demonstrate their knack for caregiving. She imagines the cookbooks reassured families who weren’t allowed to visit with their loved ones before COVID-19 vaccinations were available.

“The Joye Family Favorites Cookbook” doesn’t have quite so high an aim. The PDF is distributed freely as advertising material, not sold for a fundraiser. Even so, Cerullo said it doesn’t mean any less to the employees and clients who participated in the project. “It was a labor of love,” she said.

Their pride in their cookbook and the team behind it is so great that Cerullo said Joye hasn’t ruled out printing the next edition.

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