Hobbs shares Ground Peanut Candy recipe

Published 7:48 am Wednesday, April 28, 2010

ZUNI — Helen Hobbs says she reads cook books like she would a novel.

“I love to cook and they’re that interesting to me,” Hobbs said. “In fact, my husband, Joe, and I used to travel a lot. We’ve been to Europe and to all but three of the United States and I’ve collected at least 150 cook books, in every style and shape.”

“And,” she added with a smile, “I’ve read every one of them from cover to cover.”

The 83-year-old grandmother has been cooking since she was a young girl, when she’d hang around in the kitchen with the family cook.

“Estelle (Banks, a neighbor) was so patient with me, and she taught me so much,” Hobbs said. “She would not only tell me how to do things, but she’d show me as well.”

Hobbs is the daughter of Eva and “Buddy Boy” Johnson, founders of service stations in the Zuni area. Hobbs has lived in the same area most of her life; she lives within a few miles of the home where she spent her earlier years.

“I have many fond memories of that place,” she said. “My mother didn’t cook a lot, but she did like to make her family’s recipe for fruit cake. Every fall, she and her three sisters would all get together to make them.”

“In those days, making a fruit cake was almost an all-day job,” Hobbs continued. “When I’d get home from school they would still be working on them, so I‘d watch and help as much as they’d let me. I loved it.”

In her later years, she made the cakes, but had to stop because it was too much.

Although Estelle did most of the cooking for the Johnson family when Hobbs was growing up, Hobbs said she did her share after her marriage.

“I cooked for my family, of course, but we often had family gatherings and I would prepare a couple dishes to take,” she said. “Then my mother insisted that my brother and I and our families eat a meal with her every Sunday, so I helped by taking something, like a dessert.”

Hobbs still makes desserts. Known to show up at a church function, the home of a sick friend or any event where she can help, Hobbs is famous for her peanut butter or ground peanut candy.

Today, after nearly 61 years of marriage, Hobbs cooks every day. She can whip up a meal for her son Gayle, his wife Faye and their family in record time when they visit.

Name: Helen Johnson Hobbs.

Age: 83.

Occupation: Retired.

Favorite food: Chicken.

Least favorite food: Beef.

What is the first thing you remember cooking? Peanut butter fudge.

What has been your worst cooking experience? When I was learning to cook, I peeled potatoes and put them on to boil for mashed potatoes. Then left them unattended. Of course they burned and I had to start over using another pot. That’s because it took me all day to clean the pot I burned.

One ingredient you can’t cook without and why? Onion. I think it gives foods a better flavor.

What is the most important thing you have learned about cooking? Follow your recipe and don’t leave what you’re cooking unattended.

Who is the best cook you have ever known and why? The lady who cooked for my family when I was growing up, Estelle Banks. She was an old-fashioned cook, made biscuits with lard and seasoned vegetables with side meat. But everything she cooked was good. I used to stay in the kitchen with her for hours—she’d let me help even if I made a big mess that she had to clean up. I learned a lot from her, though, and cooked a lot like she did until I had to start cooking healthier — in other words, less salt and fat.

If you could eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? Chicken.

Helen Hobbs’ Recipe:

Ground Peanut Candy


2 cups roasted skinned peanuts, ground medium texture

2 cups sugar

2/3 cup, or small can evaporated milk

1 T apple cider vinegar

2 T margarine or butter

Dash of salt


Bring sugar, milk, salt and vinegar to rolling boil. Boil for five minutes only. Remove from heat. Add ground peanuts and margarine and stir quickly. Pour into 9-by-13-inch pan and cool on rack until cool enough to cut into squares. Makes 30 to 40 squares.