Picking up a cookbook in a thrift store failed to turn Michael Butcher into a chef.

Picking up a cookbook in a thrift store failed to turn Michael Butcher into a chef.

Instead, he became something of a sleuth and local historian.

And that's how Butcher, a 37-year-old videographer, came to be preparing "Fried Apple Sandwich with Boston Brown Bread and Cream Cheese" in the kitchen of his Indianola Avenue home last week as wife Dawn, 2-year-old daughter Liberty, newborn son Blake and sister-in-law Jennifer Elliott looked on.

Mike Butcher was anticipating a visit from Rick Meyer of Charlotte, N.C., whom he had never met in person but had spoken to on the phone.

What culminated in that small kitchen last week began when Butcher, who majored in video production at Columbus State Community College, picked up a leather-bound cookbook at the nearby Volunteers of America Thrift Store.

Peeking inside "The Home Circle Dietitian," which was published in 1925, Butcher made a surprise discovery.

"It was written by a Clintonville woman," he said.

Not just any Clintonville woman.

Ella Mae Ives was a co-founder of the Clintonville Woman's Club and onetime state director of the Women's Christian Temperance Union.

In addition to the volume Butcher found in the thrift shop, Ives was the author of "The Dispatch Cook Book," published by The Columbus Dispatch in 1928, and numerous other dietary and cookbooks. She was director of the radio cookery department for The Dispatch in the 1920s and '30s, according to a 1999 story in the paper.

"A home economist who graduated from Miami University, she had a daily radio show called 'Homemakers Program' that the paper sponsored on stations WAJU and WCAH," the story said. "In later years, the show was broadcast by WBNS and WCOL."

Ives died on Nov. 4, 1980, at age 90.

At the time of publication, the author's address -- noted inside the cover of the book that Butcher discovered -- was 95 W. North Broadway.

"I was like, 'That's just around the corner from my house,' " he said. "I thought, 'I've got to buy it.' "

Then he began to think that the 84-year-old work, with the unwieldy subtitle "A Comprehensive Cook Book Containing 1,200 Excellent Recipes, a Large Number of Menus, Valuable Charts and Special Articles with Particular Attention Given to Foods for Children," shouldn't grace his humble kitchen.

It should belong to the author's family.

Working from the photographs inside the book of Robert and Betty Ives, children of Walter H. and Ella Mae, Butcher eventually discovered the daughter's married name and from that an address for her on Overbrook Drive. He spoke with the current residents, who said they had purchased it through a real estate agent who had grown up with the sons of Betty Ives.

It was through the real estate agent that Butcher obtained a telephone number for Rick Meyer in Charlotte, where he's in the paper packaging business.

"I felt kind of weird calling him," Butcher said.

Listening to the message on his answering machine, Meyer didn't know how to feel.

"Oh, what does this guy want to sell me?" he recalled thinking.

Once the purpose of the call became clear, Meyer felt grateful, and drove to his hometown last week to take possession of the book.

Practically all of his grandmother's descendants have a copy of her opus, a 750-page cookbook, but this volume seemed to be rarer, Meyer said.

He has exceedingly fond memories of Ella Mae Ives, having grown up in a home a mere 300 yards from hers.

"We spent every Saturday night with my grandmother," Meyer said. "I knew she was a great cook, and my mother picked up on that.

"She was a wonderful lady. We just loved her to death."

Meyer added that, growing up, he had no idea of the local celebrity his grandmother had enjoyed.

"Today she'd really be a celebrity ... but back then I don't think people thought about it that much," he said.

Meyer's brother, Lance, who lives in Pickerington, has a son, Brandon, who has been fascinated by family history from a young age.

"After I take it home to show to my wife, I'll probably end up giving it to him," Meyer said of the book. "He'll just flip out."

For his part, Butcher said that he greatly enjoyed reuniting the book with the author's family.

"It was a lot of fun," he said. "My wife says I'm stubborn. I like to think I'm persistent."

"I commend you for your effort," Meyer told Butcher.

Butcher paid $5 for the book.

"The best five bucks I've probably ever spent," he said.

As for that Fried Apple Sandwich with Boston Brown Bread and Cream Cheese: "It was tasty," Butcher said.

Maybe he became something of a chef after all.

kparks@thisweeknews.com