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The main ingredient is love

With Valentine’s Day approaching it seems just the right time to profile Linda Hughes.

It was love for family that inspired the Vandalia woman to create a cookbook entitled “The Main Ingredient is Love.

To Hughes, food and family go hand in hand.

“All special occasions in my family are all laced with lots of love and, of course, food,” she says. “Baptisms, confirmations, graduations, marriages, Sunday dinners were always special, family reunions, holidays, and even funerals are all accompanied by the breaking of bread — together.”

The idea of a cookbook came to her through her nieces, says Hughes who works as the PR/Marketing manager for the City of Dayton, Department of Aviation.

“Several of my nieces have recently married and started families of their own and they are always asking for recipes and directions on how I cook certain things,” she says. Soon the recipe book began to take on a life of its own.

” I thought a cookbook compiled of Aunt Linda’s favorite recipes would make a great Christmas gift for my entire family,” says Hughes. “Not only does my cookbook have recipes but it has lots of family pictures and lots of memories. I started this endeavor the end of July of last year and finished by cookbook by the first of November.”

We asked Hughes about her love of cooking and family:

Q. What were the steps involved with creating a cookbook?

A. Someone shared the blurb website with me ( Blurb offers book templates for many types of books. I followed simple instructions on the site. Downloaded the program and I was ready to get started.

I then made a list of the recipes that I wanted to include — only recipes that I had actually cooked myself. Next was the fun task of writing out the ingredients and instructions. This project was more work that I had anticipated: I was taught to use a pinch of this and add a dash of that but now I had to make the recipe and try to measure out the ingredients to give clearer instructions.

I took pictures along the way and uploaded the pictures to my program. This became my weekend project.

Q. Where did you get your recipes?

A. Most of my recipes were never written down — just passed down to me from family and friends. Over the years I’ve added my own twist to things according to my own personal taste and/or to make up for parts of the original recipe that I had forgotten.

Q. What advice do you have for someone who might want to create a family cookbook?

A. Have lots of patience, but its reward is well worth the efforts. This is not only a great way to preserve recipes but a way to preserve family traditions and memories.

Q. What’s your favorite cookbook?

Of course my favorite cookbook is my own! I’ve never been good at following directions. I like knowing the basics then I like to make up the rest as I go along. That being said, I’ve never purchased many cookbooks.

Q. Who taught you to cook?

A. All of the women in my family were great cooks. As a family we always gravitated toward the kitchen for everything. I think I picked up on more of the cooking that was going on than I intended to at the time. My dad had six brothers and they were all pretty good in the kitchen as well.

My aunts and my grandmother would make Betty Crocker hang up her apron. Everything they did was from scratch and seemed effortless. The idea of baking a cake from a box mix, for example, was illogical to them when all of the ingredients were already on the shelf. I so wish I had paid much more attention to all of the things they cooked. Lately the Food Network has been a great teacher.

Q. What is it you love about cooking?

A. I love that you can take any recipe and make it your own. Add a pinch of your own taste and personality to each dish. My grandmother used to say “you have to put socks and shoes on a dish – dress it up.”

Q. What are some of your specialties?

Some of the dishes that my family usually request of me at family gatherings are collard greens, sweet potato pie, and bread pudding and cheese cake.

Q. Who do you cook for?

A. Mostly I cook for my family. I only have one cousin that lives in Dayton and her grandson. They were my taste testers as I created my cookbook. For family gatherings I cook and carry. I’m originally from Toledo, Ohio. This past Thanksgiving was held at my nephew’s home in Columbus, Ohio. My contribution to the meal was the turkey, dressing, candied sweet potatoes, collard greens, and all of the deserts prepared for 30 guests.

Q. Do you cook for fellow employees at the airport?

A. Every now and then we have an event or potluck that I will cook for and bring food in to work.

Q. What’s your favorite food at the airport?

A. We have lots of great restaurants at the airport. We recently opened Chick-fil-A which has always been one of my favorites.

Q. What recommendations do you have in terms of food for folks who are flying out of Dayton or flying in general?

A. If you purchase food or beverage at one of the airport restaurants after you come through the security check point you are allowed to take your food items with you onto your plane.

Q. What are your favorite ingredients?

A. A few of the basic staples in my cupboard are apple cider vinegar, sugar, and cayenne pepper. For me those simple seasonings will wake up any fresh vegetable or meat dish.

Q. What advice do you have for new cooks?

A. It’s hard to mess up most recipes. Let your stove and oven work for you. It’s easier to add to a recipe than to take away from it, so add your spice and seasonings slowly and let taste dictate how much you need. Be patient – don’t rush your cooking. Some pots need time to simmer.

Q. Can our readers access your cookbook and some of those recipes?

A. My cookbook can be found at Simply search for my name or the title of my cookbook: “The Main Ingredient is Love!” Blurb will print to order and ship the book to you.

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