Meet the strong, independent women who shaped my life, taught me to love southern cooking, and inspired me to write this blog. I’ll always be grateful to them for teaching me the way. They are the Cooks Before Me.
There wasn’t anything Momma couldn’t do. She was an artist by trade, and studied abroad to earn her Masters degree in Administration. Momma taught art to thousands of middle school students, coached square-dancing, painted gigantic murals for businesses, and sewed all of my prom dresses in high school. She cooked like a professional chef, and loved to entertain family and friends with heirloom dishes like Momma’s Pot Roast and Hearty Beef Stew. She created my birthday cake in this photo and even made our matching dresses. Above all, Momma was the sweetest and most giving person I’ve ever known.
Granny Tag was a prankster and a fun-loving woman. She was the cook at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Asheville for many years, making favorites such as Creamy Chicken & Rice Soup and Granny Tag’s Prune Cake. Before that, she taught children of all ages in a one-room schoolhouse. ‘Tag’, as her friends affectionately called her, was smart, savvy, and definitely sassy. One time, she let my brother and I put Tide detergent in the church dishwasher instead of regular dishwashing liquid. It filled the entire kitchen with bubbles, and we were entertained for hours! There’s never been anyone like Granny Tag. She was a mess in this world.
Granny Mac was a country girl who taught me how to make Cat Head Biscuits, Goulash, and all types of congealed jello salads. I would sit on a stool in her tiny kitchen and watch her hands at work. We would play in her huge garden, pick green beans, and shuck corn together. Granny worked as a cook in the kitchen of the local elementary school. She had six children and raised most of them by herself since my grandfather died very young. Her family meals were enormous, and to this day, I’ve never seen as much food on a table as Granny Mac could serve.
Mareta was my mother-in-law, and the first person to show me how to fix a turkey with dressing. Actually, I learned how to cook an entire Thanksgiving meal from Mareta, including her delicious Sweet Potato Casserole and Cranberry Pecan Salad. Mareta was called ‘Myrt’ by her family and friends, and known for her lively spirit. You always knew where you stood with Myrt ’cause she never held anything back. She was the Granny who all the kids wanted to hang out with, and the inspiration behind many of our family traditions.