SEARCY — It all began with 4-H.
At age 5, each of the Williams siblings — Benjamin, 22; Meredith, 19; Stephanie, 16; Emma, 15; and Daniel, 13 — began cooking as part of their early 4-H training. Over the years, each improved upon his or her culinary skills, and three of them have gone on to win national titles for their cooking abilities.
On May 1, the best of the best recipes from these five young cooks will be offered to the public in the form of a cookbook. A Treat for the Week … and More: Cooking with the Williams is a 160-page hard-bound book featuring more than 150 recipes, colored photographs and story lines about such things as 4-H, Arkansas agriculture, the military and autism.
“In addition to the recipes, you can learn all about our family,” said Ruth Williams, the mother of the siblings. Bill Williams is their father.
“These are things that have been, and are, important to our family,” Ruth said.
“The recipes are all excellent recipes,” she said. “They are national winners, state winners and county winners. Under each of these winning recipes, there is information on what contest it won, and they are all marked with a blue ribbon.
“Others are family favorites or those we have received from others that have become our family favorites.”
Meredith, Stephanie and Emma have won national titles. Meredith, who attends the University of Central Arkansas and plans to become a pharmacist, won the National Spam Kid Chef Champion in 2010. She has won several state titles as well, including Miss Arkansas Rice 2012-2013, and was named state 4-H president in 2012.
Stephanie, a junior at Harding Academy in Searcy, won the National Healthy Kids Challenge in Dessert in 2011.
Emma, a ninth-grader at Harding, won the National Healthy Kids Challenge in Main Dish in 2012.
Benjamin and Daniel have won state titles in competitions at the Arkansas State Fair.
Benjamin, a senior majoring in wildlife biology at Arkansas State University, won the Odom’s Tennessee Pride Sausage Contest in 2007. He was the first of the siblings to win a ribbon at the Arkansas State Fair. He won second place in the Gold Medal Cookie Competition.
“That was the start of our fair experience,” Ruth said.
Daniel, a seventh-grader at Harding Academy, won the 2013 Arkansas State Fair Karo Sweet Treats Contest.
Ruth said the cookbooks will sell for $23.99 and will be available at www.cookingwiththewilliams.com and at specialty retailers throughout Arkansas. Information about Cooking With the Williams is also available on Facebook.
“It will be out just in time for Mother’s Day,” Ruth said. “It would also make a nice gift for brides.”
She said the idea of a cookbook presented itself about four years ago at the request of a producer at KATV Channel 7, where the siblings had been, and still are, featured on a regular Saturday segment titled “Cooking With the Williams.” They will begin their seventh year on the show in October.
“At that time, we said ‘no’ to a cookbook,” Ruth said. “But the producer kept telling us how many comments they were getting from their viewers wondering about a cookbook, that we finally said ‘yes’ 2 1/2 years ago. So it’s been a 2 1/2-year project.
“I hope and pray that the cookbook will be pleasing to our readers. … It’s for the family with a working mother who wants to eat at home and serve a good, nutritious meal that tastes good,” she said. “The directions are simple enough for the novice cook. but the results should please even the most seasoned cook.”
The younger members of the Williams family are still involved in the Lions Pride 4-H Club in Searcy. Their extracurricular activities include softball and track for Meredith, Stephanie and Emma, and track and swimming for Daniel.
The three are still competing in cooking contests and plan to participate in cooking competitions at this year’s White County Fair and the Arkansas State Fair.
Earlier this month, Stephanie won first place in the senior division of the Arkansas Cattlewomen Association’s Arkansas Beef Council Cook-off, and Daniel won first place in the junior division.
“Ben and Meredith are busy with their college lives,” Ruth added.
The entire family is active in their church, First Baptist of Searcy.
“You will find Scripture throughout the cookbook,” Ruth said. “We want God to be honored in all that we do. This would be nothing without his hand in it.”