The woman behind the scenes is Lee Ann Fleming, the food stylist for the film. She hails from Cruger, Miss., 15 miles south of Greenwood, the city where the bulk of the film was shot. Fleming and her husband, Steve, have lived in the small town for 31 years.
Fleming is a middle-school English teacher. “I live in hormone hell,” she quipped.
In addition to her love of education, Fleming gets to indulge in food through her weekly column in The Greenwood Commonwealth newspaper. She has been writing for nearly five years.
Fleming got started in the kitchen at age 8 when she received her first cookbook. “I just love to cook, and I love food,” she said.
Fleming said she has friends who don’t like to cook. “They kind of think I’m an oddball, but I kind of think they’re (oddballs) — so there you go,” she said, laughing.
So how did this small-town teacher get to be a part of one of this year’s most successful films?
When the film’s property master was searching for someone who was keen on Southern cuisine, Fleming was recommended for the job. “She called me one day and we talked,” Fleming said. “She said ‘The job is yours, if you want it,’ so that’s how it happened.”
Once hired, Fleming took a year off work to focus on the film. “It was a lot of hard work, but I don’t mind working hard,” she said. “It made me so happy.”
Fleming said she was told what food was requested for the scene, and she would prepare it. While the crew might have been able to indulge once director Tate Taylor yelled, “Cut,” some of the stars weren’t so lucky.
“The actors and actresses really didn’t eat my food. It was kind of like a prop,” Fleming said. “The only thing they really ate were my homemade rolls and my tomatoes. They were very health-conscious and worried about their calorie intake. But that’s not really conducive to Southern food, is it?”
Fleming said she spent so much time working at home that she wasn’t able to spend time with the cast, but she has seen the film twice. Of seeing her food onscreen, the behind-the-scenes star said, “It just made me so happy. That’s all I could think of — it just made me happy.” Out of all of the dishes she made, Fleming said her absolute favorite was the notorious “Minnie’s Chocolate Pie.”
She said her work on the film has opened up “so many doors.” She has been interviewed by countless media outlets, appeared on television shows, and will be releasing her second cookbook. Her first, “Recipes and Remembrances,” includes articles and recipes from her first three years of writing for the newspaper.
“It was such a great experience. I like new and different experiences,” she said. “It was hard work, and it just about killed me, but everything that has come from that and all the people I have met have made it worthwhile.”
Cheesecake Pecan Pie
1 (15 oz.) package refrigerated piecrusts
1 (8 oz.) package. cream cheese
4 large eggs, divided
¾ cup sugar, divided
2 teaspoon vanilla, divided
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup light corn syrup
Unfold and stack 2 piecrusts together. Gently roll or press together and fit into a 9 inch pie plate according to directions; fold edges under and crimp.
Beat cream cheese, 1 egg, ½ cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and salt at medium speed with a mixer until smooth.
Pour into piecrust and sprinkle with pecans. Stir together corn syrup, 3 eggs, remaining ¼ cup sugar, and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla and pour mixture over pecans.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 50 to 55 minutes until set.