Dayton ISD staff collaborate on pandemic-inspired cookbook

The cover art for the Dayton ISD cookbook was the inspiration of April Hamilton.

What do you do when life gives you lemons? You write a cookbook, or something like that.

This past spring while the world was in quarantine due to COVID-19, Dayton ISD Superintendent Dr. Jessica Johnson was looking for something to take all the negative vibes that her teachers and staff were feeling and turn it into something positive. With the help of the Superintendent’s Administrative Assistant Kim Lambright and Asst. Administrative Assistant Dorrie Lang, they came up with the idea of putting together a cookbook with input from Dayton ISD’s administration, teachers and staff members. 

The book that came out of this idea contains around 500 recipes and took over five months to put together. It was a tremendous labor of love and goodwill on the part of Mrs. Lambright and Mrs. Lang as they received emailed recipes, photos of handwritten recipes, and some recipes with just “numbers” for ingredients.

The problem with receiving just the number of ingredients is that you have to make phone calls, send emails, and/or track people down to see if these “numbers” should be ounces, cups, or teaspoons, etc. It is amazing how many of us have family recipes memorized, and when someone asks us to write them down, we do, but we leave all of the details out, which is what actually allows recipes to taste good, even if it’s a “little dab” of this, or a “finger pinch” of that. For all of the recipes that were sent in as photos, Mrs. Lang typed out those recipes. There were quite a few of the picture recipes.

In the Dayton ISD cookbook titled “In This Together: A Collection of Treasured Recipes,” there are six categories of recipes: Appetizers, Soups and Salads, Sides, Entrees, Desserts, and Coach Jeff Nations’ favorite, Memorable Meals from Men. There are also four additional sections of the cookbook: “More Quotes from Our Staff,” Notes, New Recipes (blank pages to add new recipes to your book), and Kitchen Conversions. It seems the writers have thought of everything.

One of the most talked about sections is the “Quotes from our Staff” portion of the book. Staff members discuss the different recipes that they chose to send in for the cookbook. It’s fun to see from where some of the recipes actually came. Several are from grandparents and old family recipes that have been in families for generations. Some of the recipes even helped staff members make it through college on a cheap budget.

The diversity of the cookbook and all of the recipes is both amazing and wonderful. You can find recipes from all corners of the globe and know that people have made them with love and respect. Maybe the most important recipe of all is the Cornflake Crunch. If you grew up in Dayton and ate in the cafeteria, you know exactly why this may be the most important recipe of them all. What a treat it was to go through the cafeteria line and realize that at the end of the counter that there was Cornflake Crunch made just for you.

There was a lot of collaboration among different groups to finish the cookbook. The art department crafted all of the illustrations, and there was a contest among all of the staff and faculty to name the book. The winner was April Hamilton who coined the name “In This Together: A Collection of Treasured Recipes.” This title holds true since Dayton ISD used beloved recipes to bond, comfort, and stay strong during the quarantine.

There has been quite a bit of positive energy in the Dayton community about the cookbook, and people outside of the school wanting one, but there are no plans at this time to make it available to the general public. So, if you have a friend, neighbor or just a person you happen to know that is a member of the Dayton ISD family, ask them about the cookbook, and maybe you will get lucky and they will cook you a meal from one of the many recipes in the book.

And remember, when life gives you lemons, make Cornflake Crunch!


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