Historical society cookbook project under way

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Think back to some of your fondest memories of childhood. For some, it’s those summer journeys down the lane to the spot where the blackberries were ripe and ready for the picking. Remember how Grandmother could fill up her basket, working rings around the youngsters? And those blackberry cobblers (still warm from the oven, served with a generous dollop of homemade ice cream) were like a little taste of heaven.

Others recall the gold-green flesh of juicy scuppernongs, plucked from the vine; fresh figs, ready to be turned into delicious preserves for the breakfast table, and vine-ripened tomatoes, wonderful with a knife and a little salt, a perfect accompaniment to pink-eyed, purple hull peas (also fresh from the garden) and cornbread (baked in a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, naturally).

And there were those wonderful made-from-scratch cakes and pies we enjoyed for holidays, birthdays and dinner-on-the-grounds at church. For many of us in the south, it seems, some of the most vivid memories of days gone by center around food – growing it, gathering it, preparing it and (oh, joy!) eating it.

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A Taste of Butler County

The Butler County Historical and Genealogical Society (BCHGS) is honoring those &uot;edible memories&uot; with the compilation of a new cookbook, A Taste of Butler County.

&uot;This is our organization’s 40th anniversary year and we wanted to celebrate the occasion with a cookbook featuring family recipes from our members,&uot; said the BCHGS’s Annie Crenshaw, who is serving as editor for the project.

BCHGS President Barbara Middleton has been a big help to her in this endeavor, Crenshaw says.

Barbara has gathered recipes and called people, asking them about old family recipes, stories and photos. Her church, Spring Creek Baptist, did a cookbook last year so she was familiar with what needed to be done,&uot; Crenshaw explained. Members Lucille Reeves and Gloria Hartley are lending their typing skills to the project.

Crenshaw, who compiled her own family cookbook in 1997-98, is using the Crenshaw cookbook as a model for the historical society’s book. It will contain more than just grandma’s favorite &uot;receipts&uot;, she says. &uot;We will have the stories, memories and photos of the people and families behind the recipes.&uot;

Food and memories

&uot;Growing up on a farm, you helped with work or you didn’t eat. No pain, no gain. We loved every minute of it,&uot; Crenshaw said.

&uot;There are so many wonderful stories families have to tell…plowing with a mule, gathering eggs, milking cows…hunting and fishing tales. All these memories are ones we want to document in our new book,&uot; she explained.

She is delighted with the enthusiastic response she has gotten from society members.

&uot;We have some great recipes – over 300 – and great stories. Winnie Gafford sent us a wonderful photo and story about a wood stove that’s been in her family for three generations, and Gayle Hogelin has some touching memories about 'Grandma’s Raisin Cake' (the cake sounds good, too). And we have &uot;Aunt Belle’s Pound Cake&uot; – which calls for lots of eggs and real butter,&uot; Crenshaw said.

Since the descendants of Butler Countians are far flung these days, Crenshaw says the recipes have come in from everywhere &uot;from Utah to Texas and Maryland.&uot;

They range from very traditional – (&uot;old-fashioned slow-cooked real Brunswick Stew&uot;) to contemporary (&uot;we have modern microwave recipes, too.&uot;)

Hankering for recipes

According to Crenshaw, it won’t just be ordinary citizens’ treasured recipe and food memories featured in the new cookbook. The county’s most famous native son will be represented, too.

&uot;We are even going to have some of Hank Williams’s family recipes in the book. One of Hank’s cousins in Georgiana tells how Hank’s mother, Miss Lillie, used to make meatloaf in a coffee can – now, that’s an old-fashioned southern recipe! Naturally, Hank’s favorite food was fried chicken…we’ll have that classic recipe for you to try,&uot; Crenshaw said, adding, &uot;Hank’s daughter, Jett Williams, is also sending us a recipe.&uot;

A labor of love

Crenshaw is obviously enjoying her role in the BCHGS’s latest special project, which wraps up member submissions this week.

&uot;Food always makes a memory. You can smell something in a neighbor’s kitchen and be struck by a memory because it reminds you of your aunt’s tea cakes or your grandmother’s apple pie. You know how it is!&uot;

The society hopes to have the finished cookbook available for purchase by this fall.

The next BCHGS quarterly meeting, featuring the program &uot;Interesting and Unusual Facts Of Greenville and Butler County History’ is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 25 at Greenville’s City Hall. Visitors and guests are welcome to attend. Membership in the society is $12 per year, and includes four issues of the society’s magazine. Membership information and dues may be sent in to P. O. Box 561, Greenville, AL 36037.