Serve with a generous dash of love

RouladeForget cake stalls, sausage sizzles, chocolate wheels and face painting as key fund-raising initiatives at your local school fete. Creative parents around the country are now behind a growing push to produce beautifully bound cookbooks, with the proceeds plumping up their respective school’s coffers.

But these ambitious projects go beyond the mere business of raising money, says Georgina Senes, who began work on the manuscript for Kincoppal-Rose Bay’s School of the Sacred Heart’s sumptuous Cuisine du Coeur three years ago.

”I wanted to create something tangible that could be passed down from generation to generation that reflected the values of the school,” says Senes, an ex-KRB student, whose three daughters, Millie, 8, Jemima, 7, and Poppy, 5, attend the school.

”Cooking is a way to show your love for family and friends. This cookbook helps preserve history and memories, and creates a lovely legacy for the school.”

Senes says as well as being a treasured timepiece for the school community, the book has helped contextualise KRB and its culture through food. ”This book is a keepsake, says Senes, who co-created the book with the help of two other school mums, Jos Budge and Bree Parker. ”The fact that we raised money was a bonus. But it was less about fund-raising and more about creating something that would be archived and handed down.”

The treasurer of KRB’s parents and friends’ committee, Anne O’Neill, says the school has sold more than half of its initial run of 3000 books since it was published in February. O’Neill says that after selling 1500 books at $50 each, the publishing and printing cost of $75,000 has been repaid. She says the school hopes to raise at least $70,000.

School mum Sue Shaw, whose son Mitchell graduated from Scots College, in Bellevue Hill, last year, was one of three core parents behind the creation of The Lion’s Share, which contains 300 pages of ”recipes, words and images from the Scots College community”.

Shaw says the hardcover book acts as a ”silent prospectus” for the school, which she says has a strong sense of community.

”Getting the book together required a lot of work but we wanted to do it properly,” Shaw says. ”I’m proud of what we achieved. It’s nothing like the old ring-binder version that was produced 20 years ago. It’s an heirloom and could happily sit next to a Bill Granger or Jamie Oliver on a bookshelf.”

Shaw says the college paid $120,000 to Murdoch Books to produce 5000 copies of the book, which was published in October 2012, which they sell for $55 a pop. Shaw says the school is on track to sell out of all its copies within two years. Principal of Scots College, Dr Ian P.M. Lambert, says The Lion’s Share has been ”fantastic for the college community to share and celebrate the rich tapestry of Scots’ heritage”.

But it’s not just parents at private schools who are prepared to put in two or three years working on such projects.

Although the Parents & Citizens’ Committee at Bondi Public School didn’t want to fund the cookbook proposed by parent Emma Balfour three years ago, the ambitious mum, a successful model, arm-twisted principal Michael Jones, who shared her vision, to loan her the money out of the school’s purse.

Balfour, whose son Elliott, 8, attends the school, says the $12,000 it cost to publish A Year in the Kitchen Garden: The Bondi Public School Cookbook was repaid within a week of it going on sale last October. The book has since gone on to raise about $10,000 for the P&C.

As well as a collection of foolproof recipes, such as as ”Danma’s” Passionfruit Flummery or Andrew’s Moroccan Chicken, the book contains personal anecdotes about the origins of each dish and why it’s special to each family.

As work on the project progressed, Balfour says she collaborated with various professionals within the parent community who were willing to share their particular skills set and contribute to the team effort with tasks that ranged from editing or art design to buying ingredients or testing recipes.

”We wanted the book to be a little less formulaic than a lot of the other school cookbooks that are out there,” Balfour says. ”We didn’t want it too glossy or shiny. We wanted it to be a bit more homespun, which is why it’s full of drawings done by the children.”

Bondi Public School was the first NSW demonstration school for the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation and Balfour says she hopes other schools will use the book as a template.

As well as containing recipes from Matt Moran, Terry Durack, Dietmar Sawyere and Simon Johnson, the book focuses on vegetables grown in the school garden.

”The book has worked to improve the children’s connection with the environment and, in turn, the food they consume,” she says.

Principal Michael Jones says as well as being financially profitable for the school – it has raised about $10,000 thus far – cobbling together a cookbook had had a unifying aspect to the community.

”Both the garden and the cookbook have done wonders for our school and the community,” he says. ”A gardening or a cooking lesson becomes a science, history, mathematics or English class. The children produce wonderful writing and amazing art after a gardening class. Parents tell me their children go home to cook and are willing to try different food because it’s their best friend’s nan’s recipe and it’s in the book.”

Other schools that have similar success stories include Melbourne Grammar, Crown Street Public School and Bronte Public School, which have all sold out, as well as Woollahra Public School, which launched The Woollahra Kitchen on election day and Geelong Grammar, which donates part-proceeds to the Good Foundation, a non-profit company delivering Jamie’s Ministry of Food in Australia.

Order the school cookbooks online. Check school websites for details.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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