Phyllis Pellman Good
, though, appears on no culinary show; nor does she
own a catering company, restaurant or magazine.A slight, 57-year-old Mennonite with round glasses, Ms. Good
has created books full of instruction for dishes like ham loaf and cheeseburger soup based on recipes from women around the country.
has sold approximately seven million copies of her
"Fix-It and Forget-It" series, published by Good Books
, many of them in unfussy spiral-bound editions, which make them better suited to using than displaying.The newest book of the five, "Fix-It and Enjoy-It!," which was published in April, has an initial print run of 500,000 copies, 50 times the number for the first book, "Fix-It and Forget-It," when it was introduced six years ago. Ms. Good
shuns New American cooking for what might be called unfashionable American cooking.Her
books dispute the perceived notion that cooking is a pastime and food a powerful expression of status and style.
never considered a meal as a means to making an impression.She
learned how to make dinner when she
husband, Merle, were graduate students living in Morningside Heights in Manhattan."The one clear memory I have is that I wanted to make chicken corn soup," she
began to study her
mother's recipes but found true inspiration in a Betty Crocker cookbook.
"It spelled things out clearly, and that's when I began to feel more secure," Ms. Good
recalled in the kitchen of her
home in Lancaster, Pa.
"The step-by-step aspect to the books," she
added, "the inclination to make it look easy, all grow out of my not knowing what to do at the stove."
The recipes in Ms. Good's
books are not her
own, but are solicited from women, many of them in quilters' groups.Ms. Good
selects the ones she
likes best and dispatches recipes to be tested by 1,100 volunteer home cooks around the country who prepare 3 to 12 recipes each.Ms. Good
has a long connection to quilters through a quilt shop she
husband have owned with others in Intercourse, Pa., since the late 1970's.
All contributors are credited.For example, beneath a recipe for Peach Baked Oatmeal in "Fix-It and Enjoy-It!"
...Ms. Good and her husband founded the publishing company Good Books in 1979, after having started a journal, Festival Quarterly, devoted to Amish and Mennonite cultural life.
Though none of the cookbooks convey a religious message, the Goods have done well with other books like "20 Most Asked Questions about the Amish and Mennonites," which sold 300,000 copies. (That few people are acquainted with the differences between the Amish and the Mennonites, who are generally more integrated with the larger world, irritates Mr. Good
, a ninth-generation Mennonite who grew up in Lancaster.) Nothing in the Goods' 400-title catalog, though, has approached the success of the cookbooks, the first of which Ms. Good wrote with the company's design director, Dawn J. Ranck.
...Since that book's release, the company's sales have grown tenfold, said Mr. Good, a novelist and playwright who self-publishes some of his work.
From 70 percent to 90 percent of the company's approximately $10 million a year in sales come from the cookbooks, which are priced under $20.
The first cookbook in their series came about not through any calculation of what kind of book the public might want.When another book on the couple's fall 2000 list fell through, they decided to create one on foods that could be prepared in a slow cooker.
"It was a substitute," Ms. Good
explained, "the idea thrown together just as our catalog was going to press."
In its first 10 months the book sold about 125,000 copies, in large part, Mr. Good
said, because it was placed in the appliance section of stores like Sam's Club, next to the slow cookers themselves.
In 2001, Mr. Good
began to take out advertisements in regional publications and later occasionally in USA Today
paid for promotion at Barnes & Noble
and in 2003 took out a full-page advertisement in People, but the books did not receive extensive publicity.
believes, however, that the books have succeeded at least in part because people connect to them emotionally.
"People take comfort in the fact that the recipes come from other people's homes, from the fact that they come from people who are working and feeding their families," she