Reading, 'Riting And Recipes: The Great College Cookbook Of The Southwest
January 09, 2013
Photo by Tracy Greer
Can you smell the green chile? From the "Great College Cookbook of the Southwest."

PHOENIX -- Around Thanksgiving a friend posted a photo of an often-used cookbook page. "The splatters mean it's delicious," was a comment on the image.

I'm not much of a cook, but I instantly knew my most-splattered recipe: Green Chile Enchiladas from the "Great College Cookbook of the Southwest."

The cookbook was written by two New Mexico State University students, Kelley Coffeen and Rob Bezy, in 1994. Coffeen was getting a master's degree in Family and Consumer Science, and Bezy was the boyfriend of her sister.

It was Coffeen's sister who kicked off the idea for the book. The Coffeens had grown up in Yuma, Ariz., and her sister, an undergrad at NMSU, would often call Coffeen to get recipes for mom's Mexican food.

"It was always Mexican food," Coffeen said. "I thought, 'there should be a college cookbook with Mexican food,' but there wasn't."

The book has simple, inexpensive, college-friendly recipes for meals, snacks and cocktails -- with an entire section devoted to enchiladas, huevos rancheros, pinto beans and more.

It also has a healthy dose of southwestern college references. Several of the recipes have been renamed to things like "Aggie Red Enchiladas," "Sun Devil Eggs" or "Lumberjack Freeze." All the state schools in New Mexico and Arizona are included.

I told Coffeen that I still use the cookbook today, and that I discovered through Facebook it had something of a cult following among those of us who were at NMSU in the 90s.

"I'm so glad, I love to hear that," she said. "A lot of students got it in college and use it today, that's one of the most fulfilling things for me."

Today Coffeen wears many hats at NMSU -- doctoral candidate, course instructor, department advisory board member -- and has published several more Mexican-inspired cookbooks.

Though she's working with a Toronto-based publisher now (her next book, "200 Easy Mexican Recipes," will be out this spring), the promotional story of Coffeen's first cookbook is quite the tale.

"Great College Cookbook of the Southwest" was simple and self-published -- it's plastic-bound and has no photos -- and had a total run of about 2,500 copies. But a guest appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America" helped propel its popularity.

Coffeen thought the show's chef had no personality, so she literally went to her phone and called ABC in New York until she got through to the show's food segment producer.

"Jane Bollinger, I'll never forget her name," Coffeen said. "She answered, I gave her my spiel. I called her every week for the entire summer."

She made the hard sell right before the back-to-school season, and it worked. Coffeen and Bezy took a whirlwind trip to New York for the Sunday morning broadcast before Labor Day. Then they ordered another print run of a thousand books.

And one of the three recipes featured on "Good Morning America?" Those green chile enchiladas I know so well.