Photography: Rhiannon Lee Photography/Courtesy Jacqueline Cavender
Photography: Rhiannon Lee Photography/Courtesy Jacqueline Cavender

Jacqueline Cavender is doing her part to give the boot to severe illnesses with her cookbook.

The passing of a loved one leads folks to do all sorts of things, be it fundraising through an event, reevaluating one’s own priorities, or myriad other emotional activities. For Jacqueline Cavender — a member of the Tyler, Texas-based Cavender’s Boot City family — her mother’s cancer diagnosis and subsequent death drove her to publish the revealing and personal cookbook As the Spur Stirs: The Art of Bringing a Western Family, Friends & Food Together to benefit the American Cancer Society and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

“I just thought, What can I do to make a difference?” Cavender says. “Well, I could chair an event and raise X amount of dollars in a certain area of Dallas or Tyler or Houston or wherever. But then I thought, Don’t just bring together a group of people that would never be together. Raise awareness for cancer! Whose family has not been touched by cancer? And then there is cystic fibrosis . ... I just tried to figure out what I could do to make a difference. I have a platform at Cavender’s where I could sell [a cookbook] and all the money would go to charity.”

As the Spur Stirs collects recipes and anecdotes from a who’s who of the American West and American South. King of Country George Strait pitched in with his take on King Ranch Chicken. The great Texas chef Dean Fearing passed along recipes for his signature tortilla soup and jalapeño grits. First Lady Laura Bush, singer Amy Grant, fashion designer Abi Ferrin, rodeo champion Ty Murray, and many more high-profile individuals shared treasured recipes.

Photography: Rhiannon Lee Photography/Courtesy Jacqueline Cavender
Photography: Rhiannon Lee Photography/Courtesy Jacqueline Cavender

According to Cavender, it’s more than just formatted, typeset instructions for, say, mother-in-law Patricia Cavender’s chicken spaghetti. As the Spur Stirs is personal, for her and the volunteers essential to the project’s completion. “They’ve entrusted their family’s secret recipes with us,” she explains. And, in fact, this isn’t just a cookbook — it’s an invitation into the lives of the contributors. “If you read the stories about the people that contributed the recipes, I mean, these are real people with real stories,” Cavender says. “That’s part of the entertainment of it.” A couple of her favorite elements among the 450 recipes in the cookbook are “my claim to fame” and “your mother’s words of wisdom.” What’s it like to get that kind of info not just from your mother and family members but also from people like Celine Dion, Dennis Quaid, and Kathy Ireland? “I mean, you can’t get any better than that!”

As family-oriented as the Cavenders are, it’s no surprise which recipes Jacqueline singles out as her favorites. “I guess I would say my mother’s [and] my mother-in-law’s recipes. I laughed the other day because I have a [peanut butter cookie] recipe of my mother-in-law’s that I received when my husband and I were first dating [see below]. It was on a blue piece of paper, and I’ve carried it for the last 20 years in my little cookbook file. The other day I called her, and I said, ‘I don’t know if I’m sad or I’m happy. I took out the cookbook to use it, and I guess I took your recipe from the cookbook. My little blue sheet of paper — I’m not using it anymore.’ ”

Grandmother’s Peanut Butter Cookies from Patricia “Mimi” Cavender

(Makes 4 dozen)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups peanut butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Sift flour, baking soda, and baking powder together.

Combine melted butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in a large bowl, and mix well. Add peanut butter, eggs, and vanilla extract, and mix well.

Add dry ingredients gradually, and mix well.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Flatten dough with a fork to make a crisscross pattern.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Remove wire rack to completely cool.

Recipe adapted and excerpted with permission from As the Spur Stirs: The Art of Bringing a Western Family, Friends & Food Together (Favorite Recipes Press, 2015) by Jacqueline Cavender. The book is available for sale at, at Cavender’s Boot City stores, and at

From the August/September 2016 issue.


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