Family-inspired Cookbook Savors Tradition

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Donna Eichholz compiles her family’s memories and recipes from her mother, Judy Byck, in a heartfelt new cookbook

Photography by CLAIRE BARRETT

WHEN DONNA EICHHOLZ’S mother, Judy Byck, sold her townhouse on East Perry Street in the fall of 2022 and relocated to Jackson Woods, she brought along her collections — art, baubles, trinkets, treasures from travels — and comforts of home. Those also included her perhaps most prized possession: the trove of recipes that fueled holiday celebrations, special occasions and everyday life.

The move came on the heels of the pandemic, a period that further deepened Eichholz’s appreciation for family gatherings and inspired her to record the memories in a cookbook titled, “Together is the Best Place to Be: Recollections and Recipes Honoring Judy Byck.”

“During this time, many people longed to go on cruises — explore Alaska, Hawaii and many faraway tourist attractions,” Eichholz writes in the introduction. “Gathering inside around the family table at Thanksgiving was where I wanted to be!”

Old hand-written recipes on a gold tray

Indeed, the first chapter of the nearly 300-page tome is all about Byck’s — or Mimi’s, as her family calls her — Thanksgiving lunch, from the turkey to the sides, like oyster dressing and sweet potato casserole with coconut and pineapple, to the pumpkin pie and lemon bisque. Subsequent chapters include contributions from other relatives, each highlighting their personalized takes on Southern staples like Byck’s son David’s authentic oyster roast and shrimp boil. 

Eichholz also devotes several pages to reflecting on their shared heritage — a fascinating history that traces back several generations to Amelia and Joseph Rosenheim, who was honored as a President Emeritus of Congregation Mickve Israel, and Jennie and Lewis Kayton, who built and lived in the mansion that now houses Hotel Bardo.

An older woman standing in front of an antique buffet full of china
Judy “Mimi” Byke

Byck’s parents owned Town and Country women’s clothing store (now home to Gallery Espresso). Byck and her late husband Sylvan — a philanthropist and businessman who helped found the Savannah Waterfront Association, First Chatham Bank and the 200 Club — later moved next store on East Perry Street, where they entertained friends and family for decades.

Through pairing her family’s recipes with vintage images and stunning new still-life photography by Claire Barrett, Eichholz hopes the book becomes a tangible treasure box. “It is my intention for this container to transport our family back to those simple, family moments where we can relive our memories of joy, love and nostalgia,” she writes. “A reader is able to get to know our matriarch, feel her depth of character and go along the journey of our family.”

Here, Eichholz shares a taste of just one of hundreds of recipes inside the book. For those who want the keepsake of the Savannah lore for themselves, copies are available for purchase at select local retailers, including Cents and Sensibility, Hannah E., Jones & Bull, Moss & Vine, Tapley’s Mercantile & Antiques and The Paris Market.

A pound cake on a crystal plate
Mimi’s Sour Cream Pound Cake
Cookbook cover

Mimi’s Sour Cream Pound Cake

“This dessert is my favorite. Our family has enjoyed it for years, and the photograph is also one of my favorites.”  — Donna Eichholz

2 sticks butter
2 2/3 cups sugar
6 eggs
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces sour cream
3 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon vanilla

Do not preheat the oven.*

Cream the butter and sugar well in a standing mixer with the paddle attachment.

Add 1 egg at a time, combining well before adding the next. In a bowl, stir the baking soda into the sour cream.

Beat the flour and sour cream mixture into the butter mixture, alternating until both have been incorporated.

Beat in the vanilla.

Pour the batter into greased mini loaf pans or baking pans of your choice.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour, and do not open the oven to check during that time.

Reduce the heat to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and continue baking for 25 minutes.

Let cool for 20 minutes in the pans before removing and plating.

*TIP: A pound cake is dense and heavy, and requires longer baking time. By not preheating the oven, the cake batter has more time to heat up gradually, resulting in a more evenly baked cake and a crisp crust. 

Emily McCarthy Savannah magazine cover

Find this feature and so much more in Savannah magazine’s May/June 2024 “Leading Ladies” issue.