The Making of SerVe

In the spring of 2017, with the 100th anniversary of The American Legion Auxiliary just over two years away, TALA Unit 1879 in Fort Collins, Colorado, launched a big idea.

As the first campus-affiliated unit of the Auxiliary, we sought to bridge generations around a timeless fundraiser: the community cookbook—featuring recipes from the archives in a contemporary format.

VINTAGE COOKBOOKS: First, we collected American Legion Auxiliary community cookbooks from all eras and all states. (Click for map of books.)

Our "archives" grew to almost 90 books—some donated, others purchased from online auctions.

Using a spreadsheet, we organized more than 600 of our favorite recipes by era, category, and state. Half were tested (twice!) and 220 made the final cut.

HOME TEST KITCHENS: 75 enthusiastic volunteers nationwide tested the classic recipes.

Some testers had quite a challenge! There was some translating to do...

  • What's a "warm oven"?
  • What's today's equivalent of "10-cents' worth of pork" from the 1920s?
  • What if I can't "grab an old fat hen from the yard"? Will frozen chicken breast do?
  • How do I measure "butter, size of an egg"?
  • What's a good substitute for oleo?

Round 2: Using notes from the first round of testing, we rewrote each recipe in a standard format. Another round of testers ensured our accuracy.

Testers often sent photos of their process and finished products.

COOKBOOK EXPERTISE: Award-winning cookbook publisher Carol Ann Kates taught us tools of the trade.

Our members contributed their areas of expertise: accounting, writing and editing, web design, publication design, events, marketing, ecommerce, and more.

John Eisele Photography and Stacy Moore Photography took photos and also helped us develop our own skills in food photography.

Other services were provided in-kind, such as legal advice from Santangelo Law Offices.


Through a series of events, we gathered veteran stories, tested recipes, and generated excitement for the book. For example...

S**t on a Shingle at The Office Lounge

Veteran Storytelling at LoCo Coffee

Good Food & Gratitude Luncheon at CSU

Cobbler Fundraiser


We arranged the book by era and included brief histories of America's involvement in wars and conflicts since World War I...

...along with food stories from veterans, interesting anecdotes, and household tips from vintage books that inform us of the past.


We acknowledged the original recipe contributor, book, year, and state with each recipe:


For more about the types of programs we've decided to support, click here.

SPONSORS: Printing costs of a coffee-table book were manageable with support from sponsors who had faith in our vision. We can't thank them enough! Find them here.