The text below is an excerpt from the article, “Dishing up history: Chicago woman donates ‘priceless’ collection of cookbooks to culinary program,” by Marc Ramirez. The story was featured on the front page of the weekend edition of USA Today on May 26, 2023.

To read the full article, click here.

Front page of the May 26, 2023 edition of USA Today, featuring a photo of City Colleges Chancellor Juan Salgado and Sandra McWorter Marsh.

Bouillabaisse is a dish best made for a crowd, so maybe it’s no surprise that after decades of cooking, the Provençal fish stew remains Sandra McWorter Marsh’s favorite recipe, a testimony to the lifelong Chicago resident’s passion for feeding others.

“It was always so pleasing to the palate,” Marsh said. “And it never seemed to fail.”

Marsh, a retired graphic designer who turns 82 in June, found joy in the cookbooks she collected through the decades, taking recipes and molding them to her whims. But health problems, namely a debilitating brain tumor, would finally render her beloved cookbooks unusable. Earlier this year, she and her brother, Abdul Alkalimat, donated the collection – nearly 1,800 in all – to the Washburne Culinary & Hospitality Institute at Chicago’s Kennedy-King College, one of the nation’s oldest culinary schools.

More than a collection of recipes, the books are a reflection of history, dating from the early 1930s to the late 2000s and showcasing the knowledge, technique and ingredients of bygone eras.

“Cookbooks are really cultural artifacts,” said Alkalimat, professor emeritus of African American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The books range from classic titles and multivolume sets to regional recipes and homespun pamphlets foraged on Marsh’s many travels.

“It’s an encompassing of culinary traditions from the last 70-plus years,” said Adam Carey, who chairs Kennedy-King’s library department. “That’s why this collection is so incredible.”

The collection of cookbooks is open to the public for viewing at the Kennedy-King College Library.