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Bryn Mooth’s “Clara Project” Serves Up Joy

Written by in Profiles

News Feature Leads to Heart Warming Reunion

Bryn Mooth calls the work that she is most proud of the Refrigerator Projects. “They’re rare beasts, these jobs. Special. Worth showing off (and writing about in your newsletter), she says, adding that their benefits are numerous. “They may challenge you to work above what you think you’re capable of. They harness your deepest creative energy. They often involve collaborating with people you’re interested in. They garner great feedback from clients, collaborators and the public.”

Her Refrigerator Project? The Clara Project.

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In October of last year, our friend and blogger Bryn Mooth (writes4food.com) began sharing the recipes of Clara Shenefelt Williams from the 1930s that Bryn had found for sale in an antique shop in the nearby town in Milford, OH. Bryn knew nothing of the recipes’ creator when she bought the collection, but she was drawn to the hand-written (or typed) recipes on love-worn and smudged paper index cards. At the suggestion of her husband, Bryn decided to create “The Clara Project” in order to share this trove of Midwestern-accented recipes with her readers and fans. Several of the recipes have been featured on our blog.

In her introduction to The Clara Project, Bryn wrote:

Once a week, I’ll draw one recipe card from the deck, prepare the dish, photograph it (and the recipe card), and share it here with you. … Part of the fun will be the randomness of the draw, though I reserve the right to a couple of mulligans if I pick something icky (I’ll let you know when I pass on a recipe), and to ingredient substitutions if the recipe calls for cauliflower or brussels sprouts (which are banned in our house, sorry) or items that aren’t readily available as they were in the 1930s (like salt cod or smoked tongue).

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Since she began The Clara Project Bryn had long hoped that one day someone who knew Clara Williams would hear about her project and reach out to her. Well, to Bryn’s astonished delight, it happened. Clara William’s daughter Jan read a June 19, 2013 news feature on the front page of the Food Section of the Cincinnati Enquirer, and wrote to Bryn:

“I am Clara Williams’ daughter, her only child. She & Roy lived in Hamilton from 1966 to 2009 when they both moved to Mt. Pleasant Retirement Village and celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary on August 21, 2009. Dad died a few months later at the age of 96…”

In her email, Clara’s daughter shared background on her mother and father and told me why she came to sell the cards after her father’s death in 2009. Go to Bryn’s blog to read the entire email and learn more. Since the story, numerous other national media outlets picked up on the Enquirer’s feature through syndication, including the influential Grub Street blog operated by New York Magazine. Clara’s delicious recipes are suddenly well known.

For our many friends and fans who enjoy Bryn’s blog, vintage recipes (on paper!), and good cooking in general, we encourage you to visit Bryn’s website and sign up to get updates on The Clara Project. I assure you, there are NO “mulligans” (e.g. duds) among them.  While Bryn sometimes makes suggestions that bring old recipes up to modern taste (Spry Pure Vegetable Shortening, thankfully, no longer exists), the heart and soul of these recipes still belong to Clara Williams. I have tried several — and I recommend Clara’s Potato Chip Cookies. Never has a humble cookie done a woman so dang proud.

Viva la Clara! (And thank goodness for Bryn.)

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