By Jasmine Jones
This story was first published in the June 2022 issue of “The Best Years.”
Church and civic group cookbooks tell the stories of their community and the people who shape them. Each recipe in these cookbooks is more than a list of ingredients and steps: It is a written legacy of the individual who submitted the dish, their family and history. This monthly series will highlight one of these legacies and give readers the chance to create the recipe themselves.
Marilee Roethemeyer began attending Emanuel United Church of Christ in Jackson when her husband, Sam, became the pastor in 1988. Roethemeyer immediately became involved in the church. She taught Sunday school and confirmation classes. She directed the choir. She delivered her husband’s sermons if he was sick. She helped with the prayer shawl ministry, the quilting group and several circle groups.
“It might be easier to say what haven’t I done [at the church],” Roethemeyer says.
Sam retired in 2013, but Rothemeyer remained involved in the church.
Emanuel United Church of Christ’s congregation was originally established as the German Evangelical Emanuel Church of Jackson in 1867. The strong German background in the church is something Roethemeyer connected with, as both sides of her family are “German as far back as you go.”
The church became the Emanuel United Church of Christ after a 1957 merger between multiple churches created the United Church of Christ denomination. Their current sanctuary was built in 1927 at 304 E. Adams St. in Jackson. During the spring of 2003, a strong tornado ripped through the center of town, threatening to destroy the church.
Emanuel United Church of Christ was directly in the tornado’s path, but once it arrived, Roethemeyer says the tornado “hopped over” the steeple. Cars in the church’s parking lot were totaled, but the church was left almost untouched. Roethemeyer says only the shingles on the roof had to be replaced, while many neighboring buildings were left destroyed. The cross at the top of the church’s steeple was turned by the tornado and is evidence of the church’s survival.
In 2018, the church created a cookbook as a fundraiser. At her family’s request, Roethemeyer submitted her ice cream cake recipe to the cookbook, the recipe she makes at almost every family birthday and holiday celebration. She likes the recipe because of its adaptability. Everyone she loves can eat the cake, since it can be adapted to accommodate peanut allergies and diabetes.
Roethemeyer is a retired registered nurse. After her family moved to Southeast Missouri from Illinois, she taught fitness and wellness classes to individuals over the age of 55 years old. Roethemeyer enjoyed working with her students and said she felt like she got “paid to play.”
Roethemeyer loves church cookbooks, because the recipes are easy to make and delicious. She says she still makes a recipe she found in a church cookbook 45 years ago.
“[We need church cookbooks because] you don’t want to lose your traditions. You eat something, and you think of somebody. You want to keep that, and you want your children to know [those traditions], and you want your grandchildren to know [those traditions],” Roethemeyer says.
Recipe as written in the 2018 Emanuel United Church of Christ Cookbook:
Marilee’s Ice Cream Cake
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (melted)
½ cup chocolate chips
¼ cup butter or margarine
²⁄³ cup sugar
1 small can of evaporated milk
8 ounces Cool Whip
I use mint chocolate chip ice cream, but any kind will do.
In food processor or blender, grind 14 Oreos. Mix blended Oreos with some melted chocolate. Spread in the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan (which has been sprayed with Pam). Make fudge layer next. Heat ½ cup chocolate chips, butter, ²⁄³ cup sugar and evaporated milk on medium, and stir continually until it is all melted and starts to thicken. This takes a little time. Get ice cream out before starting the recipe so that the ice cream will soften some. Spread the softened ice cream over the cookie crumb mixture. Put in the freezer for 15-30 minutes. This will give the fudge additional cooling time. Take the ice cream out of freezer and spread as much or as little of the fudge as you like over the ice cream. Cover with a layer of Cool Whip or additional ice cream. You will have some extra fudge to use when serving or drizzle on top. Freeze. Keeps well in freezer. Take out at least ½ hour before serving.