I’ve been reminded often during the past few weeks of one of the reasons I love being a Southerner. There is illness in our family, and we have welcomed family and friends and assorted loved ones who have come to visit, often with food in hand.
I like to think it’s a Southern thing, this business of comfort food. It’s not at all like the “Beware of Greeks bringing gifts.” We know these folks. We’ve been in their kitchens. We have eaten their vittles and begged their recipes.
Our patient has little appetite and was heard to mention to a visitor that he had lost some weight, but his caregivers were gaining. One day, he asked for a piece of candy the neighbor Lois makes. We knew what he meant — potato candy — although I haven’t made any in years, not since our girls left home.
It’s kind of messy to assemble, but the stove is needed only to boil the potato. Lots of confectioners’ sugar is involved, and mixing that with the starchy potato is an experience within itself. Spreading the peanut butter over all that can be a touchy situation, but it’s worth every bit of energy when you take that first bite.
We gave Lois a call, and she delivered. The patient was quickly satisfied with just a bite, and I had to hide what little remained after all those present had sampled it. Some present had never seen such a delicacy, so there were requests for the recipe.
Although I had it in my head, they wanted it in print from a reliable source, since I’m not noted for being a great cook. I flipped through a few old cookbooks to no avail, and promised to hustle up a batch to be sure I could still mess up a no-fail concoction.
One of my cookbooks that caught my eye has surely become a collectors’ item. It’s the second of two cookbooks printed by a group of young women who organized themselves as the Woodstock Junior Woman’s Club in the early 1960s.
Their first cookbook was unique in that the recipes were illustrated and handwritten by one of the members. A copy of that rests in the Special Collection at Woodstock Public Library.
A second cookbook was printed after a few years. The young women weren’t so young anymore and they had changed the organization’s name to Woodstock Woman’s Club. The title they chose for this book was “Busy Woman’s Cookbook.”
It contains ads, making it a more lucrative fundraiser. Some local businesses with ads included Keenum’s Pharmacy, Western Auto, Etowah Bank, Woodstock Quik Shop, Dunn’s Super Market, Dawson Parr Department Store, Coor Ray Heating and Air and Reeves Greenhouse.
That brought back some priceless memories, but the best memories lay in the names of the cooks who submitted recipes. There was even my mother and her Cracklin’ Bread, and Edith Sims and Sara Morgan and Mary Lou Reece.
I have to wonder if Joyce and Sandra and Cindy and Karen still cook, and if they would give me advice about their recipes.
The first section of the book contains recipes from dignitaries of that era … Mrs. Herman Talmadge, Mrs. Sam Nunn, Mrs. Jimmy Carter, Mrs. Lester Maddox, Mrs. Richard Nixon, Mrs. Trammell Carmichael and Mrs. Thomas Roach. This was when women had little identity apart from their husbands.
Some local cooks signed their recipes in this way, but others broke the glass ceiling by using their own first names. At least one member identified herself in both ways.
I noticed our neighbor Barbara Crowe was listed as president of the club that year. I know from recent experience that she is still cooking. Her recipe for cheese straws is in the book. And I’d say Janice Barton is still making pecan pies, and I know for a fact Jane Miller still mixes up those fresh peach cobblers.
What a tasty trip down memory lane. But no recipe could be found for potato candy. So I’m off to the kitchen to see if I can make my own. I know if I run into trouble, Lois is close by. She’s a true Southerner.
Juanita Hughes is retired head of the Woodstock Library.