Dining With Denise Neil

Longtime Wichita cooking club featured in New York Times

The Thursday Afternoon Cooking Club of 1928 poses in front of what is the 2003 Symphony Showhouse in College Hill. The club has been meeting since the late 1800s and they meet once a month when a different hostess serves lunch and shares the recipes with its members.
The Thursday Afternoon Cooking Club of 1928 poses in front of what is the 2003 Symphony Showhouse in College Hill. The club has been meeting since the late 1800s and they meet once a month when a different hostess serves lunch and shares the recipes with its members. File photo

A 124-year-old Wichita cooking club is getting some national press.

The Thursday Afternoon Cooking club, a group originally formed in 1891, is the featured story on the front of the New York Times’ food section Wednesday. The story was published online on Tuesday.

The club is made up mostly of retirement-age women, and becoming a member requires a nomination and a vote. Each month, three of the members host and cook a luncheon that’s served following age-old etiquette rules. The Eagle featured the group in a 2003 story, back when the club was a sprightly 112 years old. (A photo of that story in The Eagle, taken from the club’s scrapbook, is featured with the New York Times piece.)

The Times was alerted to the club by an e-mail sent by Mary Ellen Randall, 69, a 15-year member. Her son lives in the New York area and suggested to his mother that the New York Times would love their story. He was right. Mary Ellen got an almost immediate response to her e-mail.

Earlier this month, the group was visited by reporter Kim Severson, a New York Times’ food writer based in Atlanta, and a freelance photographer from Oklahoma City. The duo spent two days visiting with the members, poring over their scrapbooks and attending one of their monthly meetings, which took place at the home of longtime member Barbara Mohney.

Mohney, whose great-grandmother was a founding member, served “a cold yogurt soup studded with avocado and chopped cucumbers and a crisp green ‘fiesta’ salad with cold chicken tossed in lime-cilantro vinaigrette. Dessert, served in covered dishes donated by a member who died, was a strawberry pot de crème whose secret ingredient was a box of lemon Jell-O,” the article read.

“I thought it was very nice coverage, and that’s kind of a relief,” Mohney said with a laugh. “You worry, ‘Will she think we are a bunch of crazy old ladies on the prairie?’ But she treated it with respect.”

The club’s outgoing president, Melody Moore, said that she asked Watermark Books to order several copies of Wednesday’s Times so that club members can save them.

The group enjoyed its visit from the paper and loved the story, which painted them – and Wichita – in a favorable light, she said.

“I thought it was a lovely article,” she said. “Our friends who know about it are so excited.”

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