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Jefferson Park, Portage Park, Norwood Park

Recipes Wanted: ‘Taste Of Portage Park’ Community Cookbook Aims To Unite Neighbors Through Food

"Taste of Portage Park" will celebrate the area's diverse culture and traditions — and it needs your recipes.

A recipe for kielbasa and sauerkraut, a popular smoked Polish sausage dish, is featured in the first-ever Portage Park community cookbook.
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PORTAGE PARK — A new community cookbook needs your favorite recipes.

The “Taste of Portage Park” cookbook, created by community groups I Love Portage Park and Six Corners Association, needs recipes from Portage Parkers and residents from surrounding neighborhoods. Organizers aim to celebrate the area’s diverse culture and traditions, uniting the community through food.

Ruth Wasiukiewicz, a longtime Portage Park resident and organizer with I Love Portage Park, came up with the idea for the cookbook in 2019 after creating similar projects for schools and real estate companies.

“Food is everyone’s language. Everybody loves food,” Wasiukiewicz said. “If you can share your history, your culture, traditions … it’s a bonding experience, I think.”

Wasiukiewicz proposed the idea at a farmers market and received about 20 submissions, but efforts to gather more recipes stalled because of the pandemic, she said.

Now, she’s trying to revive the project. Her goal is to collect about 150 recipes by next month so production on the book can begin. The cost of the cookbook will depend on the final number of recipes received.

Wasiukiewicz said she submitted a few recipes for cold salads and kielbasa and sauerkraut.

Some other submissions include Roselle’s lime and sugar velvet crepes, contributed by Portage Park restaurant Bistro 6050, along with honey mounds and slowcooker chicken cacciatore, submitted by local residents.

Kari Machunas, who has lived in the neighborhood since 2015, submitted a healthy recipe with grains and fresh produce from her garden. She said her husband encouraged her to get involved with the project, which was a good fit since she loves to cook and be involved the community.

“I’m really into the idea of bringing the community together through projects,” Machunas said. “I love to cook, [and] I like to incorporate things I grow myself.”

The book should be ready before Christmas, and it’ll make a great holiday gift, Wasiukiewicz said.

Proceeds will benefit Friends of Portage Park and other nonprofits that have done important work in the area, she said.

Community cookbooks began in the United States in the 1880s. In 1864, “A Poetical Cookbook” by Maria J. Moss was created to raise money for injured Union soldiers during the Civil War, according to The New York Times.

Since then, institutions like churches, libraries and local governments have relied on community cookbooks to raise money and share recipes. They have gained popularity again during the pandemic as a way to connect people.

Recipes for appetizers, beverages, soups, salads, breads, main dishes, desserts and more will be included.

People can submit recipes online through the submission form. Organizers ask that folks specify ingredients, exact measurements, recommended brands and cooking times. Photos of the dish are optional. Advertising for local businesses will also be available.

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