April 12, 2024

Cookbooks: Catalysts of Culinary Journeys

Category: COVID-19

Author: Earvin Johnson, Culinary Director

For numerous chefs, there exists a pivotal cookbook that served as the catalyst for their culinary journey. This single book ignited an idea, unlocking a passion for cooking they may not have realized they possessed. Cookbooks transcend mere collections of recipes; they serve as windows into cultures, histories, and personal narratives. With each page turn, a new adventure, tradition, or innovative technique unfolds.

Every recipe and cookbook, whether passed down through generations or reimagined, enriches our culinary culture at The Summit at Chenal Valley Senior Living. Exploring culinary resources nurtures and evolves our love for food and cooking.

A delicious plate of fried rice with tender chicken and colorful vegetables, a perfect blend of flavors and textures.

My current cookbook collection comprises 20 books, ranging from soul food cooking to gluten-free, BBQ grilling, and paleo diets. Some are modern, while others are cherished heirlooms passed down through two generations. Among them, my favorite is the African American Heritage Cookbook, which highlights and explains black heritage cooking in the South.

I appreciate cookbooks that not only provide recipes but also delve into the mood and feelings behind the dishes.

One of my favorite dishes, passed down from my mom when I was ten, is smothered fried pork ribs. During my time at Olive Garden, I created a dish called Swaganara, a fusion of their chicken and shrimp carbonara with tortellini mix and tomato bruschetta.

This recipe holds a special place among my favorite dishes.

Southern Collard Greens

Beef BBQ brisket, cheesy baked macaroni, collard greens with corn, and a tangy red cabbage salad. A delicious feast awaits!


  • 12 hickory-smoked bacon slices, finely chopped 
  • 2 medium-size sweet onions, finely chopped 
  • 3/4 lb. smoked ham hocks 
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped 
  • 3 (32-oz.) containers chicken broth 
  • 3 (1-lb.) packages fresh collard greens, washed and trimmed 
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar 
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar 
  • 1 tsp. table salt 
  • 3/4 tsp. pepper 


  1. Cook bacon: Cook bacon over medium heat in a 10-qt. stockpot for 10 to 12 minutes or until almost crisp. 
  2. Cook onion: Add onion to stockpot, and sauté for 8 minutes. 
  3. Add garlic and ham hock, and sauté for 1 minute. 
  4. Add remaining ingredients, and simmer: Stir in broth, collard greens, apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper.
  5. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook 2 hours or until desired degree of tenderness. 

Generational recipes or new culinary creations can spark nostalgia and inspire our cooking journey. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a home cook, we all have that one foolproof recipe. Don’t overlook the power of beloved cookbooks and their stories. Keep sharing and savoring the diverse flavors that await us.

The Summit Senior Living in Little Rock, AR offers independent senior apartments, assisted living, and memory care with a variety of services and a range of floor plan options. Amenities include restaurant dining, 24-hour bistro, concierge service, housekeeping, events and entertainment, personal care, transportation services, and more. Centrally located near St. Vincent’s Infirmiry with convenient access to major shopping centers and attractions, including Chenal Country Club, The Promenade Outlets, Pinnacle Mountain State Park, Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, and Big Damn Bridge.

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