By Sarah Begley
September 30, 2014

When most children hear “school project,” they think cardboard dioramas and baking soda volcanoes. But others? They aspire to greatness.

Such was the case with one Miss Lauren Wu, 10, of San Carlos, Calif., who asked every U.S. governor for his or her favorite recipe. Twenty-six said yes. (Twenty-seven if you count Hawaii, who came in past the deadline.) The below cookbook is the result.

“American Cooking” speaks to the nation’s deeply engrained culinary traditions—Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley submitted a recipe for crab cakes; Florida Gov. Rick Scott sent two variations on Key Lime pie.

But it also reveals much about the personal and professional priorities of those governors who did not participate. If Chris Christie found time to send his blueberry French strata recipe on April 1, while he was deep in the muck dealing with Bridgegate scandal, what excuse do his non-participating peers have?

Miss Wu, however, is not one to hold a grudge. “The governors are all very busy,” she says, “and I don’t know, I’m sure they get a bunch of emails every day.”

She embarked on this project to learn more about cooking, and has already tried a number of the recipes at home. So far, her favorite has been Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead’s chocolate chip cookies. “We usually have chocolate chip cookies at our house,” she says, “but these were different—they were really fluffy and good.”

In the above video, she watched her friend and TIME staffer Joel Stein try his hand at Christie’s strata. As for O’Malley’s native dish, Wu says, “The crab cakes weren’t my favorite, because I’m not a huge fan of crab, but they were good still.” Plenty of experimentation remains ahead: “There are a lot of good options. Maybe I’m gonna try Maine’s blueberry pie, or maybe Florida’s Key Lime pie. I’m probably gonna try a pie of some sort.”

Wu intends to participate in the program that invited her to do this optional project again next year, when she will be in sixth grade. By then, there’s no doubt she’ll have the clout to get recipe submissions from the likes of Angela Merkel and Kim Jong-un.

American Cooking

 

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