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Cookbook marks SSJIDs districts centennial year
Margo Van Voorst, an employee at South San Joaquin Irrigation District, holds a copy of the commemorative cookbook. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The Bulletin
A recipe book has become an inside joke among the women employees and general manager of South San Joaquin Irrigation District.
During a special appearance Thursday for the monthly program at the Manteca Historical Society Museum, Jeff Shields said that when his female staff proposed printing a commemorative recipe book to celebrate the water district’s centennial celebration, he told them he thought it was “a goofy idea.” He even said that to his wife that evening while they were enjoying the scrumptious dinner she had prepared, he laughed.
Of course, his wife said the recipe book was a great idea, Shields said with a laugh.
But his female office workers are the ones having a good laugh over his “goofy” comment.
The 152-plus book may not be selling like hot cakes – yet – but the project has generated a lot of buzz among customers of the district including many local farming families who were more than enthused to share some of their gastronomical family favorites to this effort. The rest of the recipes came from SSJID staff, including many of the men, as well as district board members and friends in the Manteca, Ripon and Escalon areas that SSJID mainly serves.
The entries range from tried-and-true recipes that have been with the contributors’ families for generations, to quick meals for the busy mom.
And there’s something for every ethnic palate, personal taste, and for every family and office occasion, from the formal to an extemporaneous gathering al fresco. Busy moms will find plenty of recipes to help tide them over during hectic days. In fact, one entry called “Settlers Beans” from Toni Raymus of Raymus Homes in Manteca, comes with this note: “Great potluck dish. Freezes well for up to six months. Just reheat and serve.”
The spiral-bound book, which is illustrated with nostalgic Victorian-style pictures of different varieties of fruit, also contains multicultural favorites such as Portuguese sweet bread – there are a few variations offered – and several Mexican, Dutch, and Italian comestibles fit for both small and large gatherings.
By all accounts, the book was a fun project for the SSJID employee committee that started working on it in September when they sent out recipe solicitation letters to farmers and district employees. Announcements were also placed in the employees’ and customers’ newsletters.
Robin Giuntoli, a member of the six-member cookbook committee, said they came up with the idea of a commemorative recipe book because “a lot of events here at work revolve around food.”
She added with a laugh, “A lot of people here love to cook and we all love to eat.”
It was also a way to get the district’s customers involved in the centennial celebration.
“We figured it would be something where they’ll find somebody they know” when they leaf through the pages of the recipe book, Giuntoli added.
“We got close to 300 recipes. Surprisingly, none of them were exactly the same so we didn’t throw anything out,” she said.
 A lot of them came from “old-school farmers who don’t have computers and don’t want one” and sent their recipes the old-fashioned way – handwritten.
There were only 700 copies of the recipe book that were ordered so anyone who wants to have a commemorative piece of SSJID history should run, not walk, to the district office and obtain a copy. Cost is $6 each. Not all of the copies will be available for sale; some were set aside for special giveaways. Those who are planning to attend the Wednesday, May 27, open house celebration at the district office from 4 to 7 p.m. could buy their copies at that time, too.
The celebration, to be held at the SSJID main office at 11011 East Highway 120 just east of Highway 99, will include a formal program with local dignitaries starting at 5 pm., followed by tours of the facilities, a scavenger hunt with prizes and gifts, and appetizers showcasing the best restaurants of Manteca, Ripon and Escalon.
Proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to area food banks, Giuntoli said.
To contact Rose Albano Risso, e-mail or call (209) 249-3536.