TRAVERSE CITY — Maxcie Latimer doesn’t pull out a novel or magazine when she has trouble sleeping at night. She grabs a cookbook instead.
The 84-year-old is an avid cook who loves to play around with recipes, adding a little of this and a little of that. But she insists she is no gourmand in the kitchen.
“I’m a down-to-earth cook,” said the Traverse City resident. “I’m not a gourmet cook, I just enjoy basic cooking.”
Latimer said she taught herself to cook with some help from an older woman who was like a grandmother to her. She gave Latimer a lesson in the basics and Latimer took it from there.
Latimer has put her culinary skills to good use at Grace Episcopal Church in Traverse City, where she began cooking 10 or 15 years ago. She’s been a member there for 42 years.
“If you’ve had something to eat here at Grace Church, chances are Maxcie prepared it, plated it or orchestrated that meal or snack,” said parish administrator Ann Hackett.
During Holy Week alone, Latimer planned, shopped for, prepared and cleaned up after the Maundy Thursday supper for 80 people, the Easter Vigil refreshments for 90 and the Easter Sunday breakfasts for 200 or so, Hackett said. “She had an army of volunteers to help, but Maxcie arranges every event including funeral receptions and weekly batches of soup for the Jubilee House and Wednesday evening Lenten series soup suppers,” she said.
Funeral luncheons usually include meat and cheese sandwiches, along with a variety of salads and cookies tossed and baked by Latimer, who also coordinates the luncheons and finds volunteers.
Latimer also has been the chairman of the church’s annual cookie walk held the first week of December.
“One year I made 150 dozen cookies,” she said.
Latimer especially enjoys stirring up the weekly soups for Jubilee House, an outreach ministry that provides daily living needs and support for anyone in need. Every Wednesday for the last two and a half years she has been creating kettles of soup for the ministry, housed next door to Grace Episcopal Church on Washington St.
“I learned to take a recipe and do my own thing with it, just ask the people at Jubilee House,” she said.
She said the soups are often inspired by leftovers. For instance, she planned to turn leftover meatloaf into a soup by adding beef broth, onion, celery, red and green pepper, and “lots of seasonings.”
“I was brought up in the generation where you don’t waste food,” she said. “I also remember when I was a little tiny girl the housekeeper always had a stock pot going and she would throw whatever we had into it.”
Latimer also helps with the Friday lunch for area homeless people once a month.
“We serve things like fish and a vegetable or my favorite recipe, baked spaghetti. We have a good crew and we like to experiment,” she said.
This year, Latimer helped put on a traditional Jewish Seder Passover dinner at the church. The menu included a Moroccan lamb stew, a traditional apple and walnut salad, and honey cake.
“It was new and our church had to do a lot of research for it, which was fun to do,” she said.
She said cooking at the church is a nice way to be involved with the parish.
“It’s a good way for new members to get involved and old members to come back,” she said.
Latimer finds inspiration from her cookbook collection as well as tearing out recipes from magazines and the newspaper.
“I look at a recipe and think that sounds good and will give it a try,” she said.