A Cookbook with a Local Twist

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A love of cooking started two Southampton women on a path that eventually led them to write a book about “locals,” and their traditions and family recipes.

“Our Southampton: Family Stories and Food Traditions” didn’t start out about life on the East End. Nina Kennedy and Jackie Scerbinski originally decided to co-author a cookbook after opting last spring not to pursue several business ideas, mostly centered on cooking. “It started out that I wanted to cater,” Ms. Scerbinski said during an interview in her home on Friday.

Ms. Kennedy, who had recently purchased a panini machine, then suggested that she and her friend should create a niche panini party catering business. But, eventually, the two agreed that writing a book about food would be a better use of their talents.

“We ended up scrapping the catering idea … we didn’t want to kill people,” Ms. Scerbinski joked.

Once they figured out that writing about food was in their future, the two women decided to ask Southampton natives their favorite recipes in the hopes of putting together a community cookbook. But the stories they heard from the locals ended up being even more interesting than the recipes themselves—so they decided to expand their idea into a book that would cover the gamut of life in Southampton.

“Our Southampton: Family Stories and Food Traditions” is just that, a book that features stories from more than 75 locals that Ms. Scerbinski and Ms. Kennedy interviewed from June to October

last year. The book is filled with stories from the people who remember the village before it become famous as the exclusive hub of the monied Hamptons.

The ladies said they wanted to avoid writing a dull history of Southampton, instead focusing on smaller stories from people that have lived through the change from sleepy town to the glamorous summertime home of the rich and famous.

“There is a lot of history in the book,” Ms. Kennedy said. “But I wouldn’t call it a history book.”

Visiting four or five interview subjects a week, the ladies soon dubbed their new project “our great adventure.” Travelling around and meeting all sorts of different people and listening to their stories became an exciting part of the experience.

During the course of researching local spots, Ms. Scerbinski said she and Ms. Kennedy got to meet people and visit places they had never dreamed possible. In addition to meeting and talking with several survivors of the Hurricane of 1938, they got a guided tour of the Shinnecock Indian Reservation and a behind-the-scenes peek at Zaluski Farms.

“The farm stand was a favorite thing for me,” Ms. Scerbinski said. “All those beautiful fruits and vegetables … that place was like a dream.”

Citing the actual process of information gathering as the most interesting part of her experience, Ms. Kennedy reported that she and her first time co-author were amazed and moved by the stories they heard. She predicted that others will also enjoy reading the fruits of their efforts.

“If you’re into great, humorous, touching stories, you’ll love this book,” Ms. Kennedy said of her and Ms. Scerbinski’s efforts. “And it turned out to be an unbelievably rewarding experience for us, too.”

So far, the book has sold about 200 copies in the first three weeks of availability. It is flying off the shelves of local establishments such as Hildreth’s Department Store, Catena’s Market, Herrick Hardware, Shippy’s Pumpernickels Restaurant and Zaluski Farms.

“We’ve already sold 20 copies,” Vic Finalborgo of Catena’s said on Monday. He reported that the book has gotten a very warm reception at his Main Street market.

Mr. Finalborgo said he thinks the reason the book has gotten off to such a successful start is because the message is one of unity, and not divisiveness. “I just thought it was nice the way they showed that so many people have so many things in common here instead of focusing on the divisions and how we’re different,” he said. “It’s nice to have somebody pull all that together into a common thread.”

So far, marketing the book has been a relatively easy task for Ms. Kennedy, who is an advertising consultant, and Ms. Scerbinski, who is a tenured professor of retail and marketing at Kingsborough Community College of City University New York. “Everywhere we’ve gone, they have bought the book,” Ms. Kennedy reported.

Now the women said they are eager to start on their next “great adventure” and will soon start pounding the pavement in search of subjects for a follow-up book. “There are so many more stories out there,” Ms. Scerbinski said. “We can’t wait to get out there and hear them.”

“Our Southampton: Family Stories and Food Traditions” retails for $14.95. To order a copy, visit one of the local shops, or e-mail oursouthampton@optonline.net.

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