STEP Project- Cookbook

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For my STEP project, I wanted to pursue an artistic endeavor alongside my grandmother, Elena ‘Maia’ Naum. With my grandmother, I created a cookbook called Cooking with Maia which included traditional Romanian meals. All proceeds from the cookbook go towards Eastern Lighthouse, a Romanian non-profit based in Cincinnati that donates to Romanian orphanages in Romania.

Prior to my STEP project, I assumed that I was a bad cook and would be doomed to eating pasta for the rest of my life. However, these past two summers, I learned that cooking takes dedication and that anyone can do it. From my experience, I gained a new passion for cooking and realized the importance of maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet, especially while in college. Additionally, I learned the importance of using natural foods and learned how to incorporate Romanian spices into my meals.

Through my project, I learned how to use a camera as I took pictures of each meal for the cookbook. At the very start of the project, my pictures were not great, however, after using SkillShare and watching videos on how to use my Canon EOS M50, purchased through STEP, I slowly understood how to change aperture, lighting, and framing. I am very proud of my growth throughout this project and it is very rewarding to see my progression through pictures.

Through my STEP experience, I self-published my cookbook through Amazon. The publishing process through Amazon was easy and straight-forward as I was able to obtain an ISBN number for free. Additionally, I was able to upload the PDF of the cookbook to Amazon, and through the process, I have become a published author. I am very grateful for the relationships and opportunities gained through this experience and I never would’ve had this experience if it wasn’t for STEP.

Throughout the process of creating and publishing the cookbook, I grew much closer to my grandmother as we cooked together. I learned a lot about Romanian cuisine as we created recipes ranging from ardei cu branză (bell peppers with feta) to sarmale (Romanian cabbage roll). My grandmother described the importance of each recipe and together, we were able to create an experience for others to try.

Furthermore, I would like to thank my sister, Helen Sotropa, who helped a great deal with the design of the cookbook. Helen is a fashion student at Parsons who has a background with different design software, such as InDesign. Thanks to Helen, the cookbook ended up looking very professional and presentable. My relationship with her strengthened during the making of the cookbook as we both learned more about our Romanian heritage and cuisine.

My transformation through STEP has allowed me to develop a better understanding and appreciation for Romanian culture while working on my speaking and writing skills. Although this project was a lot of work, I am very proud of the final outcome and result of the experience. I cannot wait to make this cookbook available for purchase and further give back to the Romanian community by donating all proceeds from the book to the St. Leontie orphanage in Radauti, Romania.

Cooking with Maia is now available!

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