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Classics in a Cookbook: Tales From Your Kitchen

The following report is filed by our intern, Ashley Oates.

You’re driving home and thinking of a delicious dish to whip up as soon as you hit the kitchen. It’s been a great day, and you feel like cooking something amazing. Should it be the braised beef with sautéed asparagus? Or maybe a summery pasta dish, teeming with fresh vegetables? Either way, once you get home, you’re digging into your recipe box or trying to adapt something from the Les Halles Cookbook, mainly because you don’t have any cippolini onions.

This is where Debby Barney comes into the picture.  Her home business, Tales From the Kitchen, takes your muddled recipe and cookbook collection and turns it into a pristine, spiral-bound cookbook of your favorites.

How did she come up with this ingenious idea? Necessity. She began collecting recipes while living on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, with her then-husband, a chef. After moving to Dallas and unearthing her collected recipes and photos from years past, Barney began to sort the items into categories. “I made four separate books,” she says. “I literally cut and pasted these recipes, hand-stamped the page numbers, and added a table of contents and index. These were very organized, straightforward books.” When Barney showed her friends and family the books, the spark was lit.With the purchase of a Mac, Barney set to work. “At the time, I was very computer illiterate. I hardly knew how to do more than send an e-mail.”

Since then, she’s made a few strides. She learned the programs and began creating attractive books. For four years Barney has been capturing the cream of the crop of recipe collections, and it seems Dallas clients have a lot of the same ideas. “Probably the most used is the Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookie recipe.” Barney says. “The one where years ago a woman had lunch at Neiman’s downtown, and when she received her bill, she noticed a charge of $250 for said recipe.” Has Dallas tired of that recipe? Not a chance. It must be because that cookie is ridiculously good, or as a city, we take pride showing who’s boss of the bakery.

Hundreds of books later, Barney’s still making Dallas clients happy. “I’ve definitely had some interesting Dallas clients,” she says. “I’ve been involved with the Junior League of Dallas, University Park Elementary school, and with the Hyer Elementary School’s Hollyday Bazaar.” Among her other clients, Barney has compiled cookbooks for children of former White House staff, and Marianne Staubach, former Dallas Cowboy’s quarterback Roger Staubach’s wife.

In the past, Barney received recipes that were somewhat foreign to her. “I’m an East-coaster originally, and I’m not so familiar with some of these southern items: Hominy? Divinity? Hummingbird cake?” Of course, now she knows all about Dallas’ love of cakes, brisket, and casseroles. As any good cook or gourmand knows, old, family recipes are difficult to read. Scrawled haphazardly while stirring gravy or as the oven timer rings, the recipe card often requires deciphering. But Barney says she’s not afraid to tackle the challenge. “There have been a few times when I’ve had to call mom and ask her what the heck something is!”

To begin designing your ultimate cookbookery, head over to

Dallas’ Top Five Recipes

1. Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies

2. Texas Sheet Cake

3. Barbecue Brisket

4. Johnny Mazotti

5. Wassail/Spiced Tea Mix

8 comments on “Classics in a Cookbook: Tales From Your Kitchen

  1. Johnny Mazotti? I googled this and Johnny Marzetti that my dear old mum used to make and it looks like they are the same. I’ve just never heard of “Mazotti”. Johnny Marzetti has a Wikipedia entry, so I’m sticking with that one.

  2. I’m a St. Louis, Missouri fan! I liked my cookbook so much, I had one made for my soon-to-be-married daughter and each of her six bridesmaides!

  3. Debby’s cookbooks are a family treasure! Her one of a kind custom book, which includes family photo’s, creates a cookbook that can be passed down through the ages. Thank Debby!

  4. I placed an order with Debby for 20 books for my parents 50th wedding anniversary. The cookbook was presented at the celebration, and turned out to be the most special gift given. Then each member of the family was given their own special book.

  5. We grew up having “Jean Marzetti” which is a pasta – hamburger – tomato soup and cheese recipe. Yummy!

  6. “Johnny Marzetti” recipes sent by cooks in Houston , Kentucky & So. Carolina are in my
    ” Favorite Recipes From Southern Cooks ”
    Published in the late 1950′s – early 1960′s
    So it is an old favorite !