To celebrate their 125th anniversary, The Ladies’ Village Improvement Society has released a cookbook full of locally-inspired and delicious recipes to honor their East End heritage.
Cookbooks have always been important to The Ladies Village Improvement Society (LVIS), an East Hampton institution for more than a century. “Dating back to 1896, the LVIS cookbooks have reflected the culture of the East End, adapting to the changing mores and habits of a community composed of year-round residents and summer folks who turned into weekenders with the advent of the Long Island Expressway,” explains past president Anne Thomas. So it was only fitting that, when asked how
they wanted to honor their 125th anniversary this year, members felt a cookbook would be the best fit. “The resounding response was, ‘publish our 13th cookbook,’” says Thomas, who serves as the 125th anniversary committee chair, as well as on the cookbook committee.
Founded in 1895, the LVIS is “dedicated to preserving the beauty of East Hampton,” says Mary Talley, the organization’s public relations chair. She explains of its founding: “There were 21 women who formed the society, and they were soon active in raising funds to address critical issues facing the community.” That included initiatives like ensuring power lines were placed underground and maintaining the town’s historic elm trees.
Since that time, membership has grown to include some 300 volunteers, who continue to help fundraise in numerous ways, including hosting the annual July fair at LVIS’ Gardiner Brown House on Main Street. “The money goes towards the care and maintenance of 3,500 trees that line the streets, eight acres of Village greens, 24 acres of a sanctuary called the Nature Trail, and $150,000 in scholarships awarded to high school seniors,” says Talley, who is also the 125th anniversary committee vice chair and on the cookbook committee.
This spring, just as the members hoped, the newest LVIS cook- book, The Ladies Village Improvement Society Cookbook: Eating and Entertaining in East Hampton, was released. Written by New York Times food and wine reporter Florence Fabricant—with photos by Doug Young and design by Fabricant’s daughter, Patricia (their seventh collaboration!)—the cookbook features more than 100 different recipes from members, as well as a slew of celebrities and culinary icons, like Jaques Pépin, Ina Garten, Martha Stewart and Alex Guarnaschelli. Plus, you’ll find some favorites from local restaurants and vineyards, like the 1770 House and Wölffer Estates.
“Over the decades, the scope of the various LVIS cookbooks has expanded, as the local population has become much more diverse,” explains Fabricant. “At the same time, a snapshot of what people like to cook and eat has changed dramatically on the East End of Long Island, as it has elsewhere. For this cookbook to have broad appeal, it had to reflect the evolution, not just of dining and eating, but also in terms of what local farmers grow and what fisherman and baymen harvest.”
Recipes range from grilled Montauk tuna to East End clam pie to heirloom tomato bisque and peach tartlets—and even drinks like a watermelon Moscow mule and a rosé cocktail. The recipes, many which feature “improvements”—or easy changes and swaps you can make—are divided into sections based around 20 different, often seasonal, menus, with themes like “Lunch Around the Pool,” “The Farm Stand Reopens,” and “Autumn Catch.” The cookbook appeals not only to foodies but also history buffs who will love seeing the old photos of LVIS members and events, and learning about the history of the organization. Here, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite, summer-ready recipes from the cookbook.