Someone’s in the Kitchen

Published 9:27 am Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Marie Stephenson shows a chocolate meringue pie that she made.

WINDSOR—When Marie Stephenson learned to cook from her mother, she learned another important lesson that she still practices today — share with others.

“Mama and I would be in the kitchen making a cake and she’d say, ‘You know, our neighbor is sick; we need to make her something for supper.’ Before you knew it, there would be two cakes in the oven.”

“She was like that,” Stephenson added. “I remember one Christmas, she made and gave away 10 pound cakes during the holidays. And she always brought a homemade cake to her doctor when she had an appointment.”

Stephenson values her mother’s kindness and continues to share her pies, cakes and other creations with her neighbors.

The active retiree said she started cooking with her mom when she was about 10.

“Mama was very patient with me,” Stephenson said. “I learned how to cook like she did, although I do use a recipe. Mama cooked a lot from memory and she never made a mistake.”

Stephenson helped her mom cook until her mother became ill. Preparing the meals for the family, including her mom and sister, became Stephenson’s responsibility.

“I really like to cook,” she said. “Mama is no longer with us, but I do most of the cooking for my sister and myself, although my sister is a pretty good cook as well. I don’t work as much as she does, though, so it’s easier for me to make the meals.”

The two women team up for Christmas and make dozens of treats for their neighbors — pies, cakes, fudge and chocolate-covered peanuts to name a few. Last Thanksgiving, Stephenson and her sister cooked and delivered an entire dinner to two sick friends.

“My sister had received an 11-pound turkey as a gift for the holidays,” Stephenson said. “It was way too much for us, so I cooked the turkey with all the trimmings and divided it right down the middle. Then we brought an entire meal to our friends just in time for dinner.”

NAME: Marie Stephenson

AGE: 66

OCCUPATION: Retired from human resources department at Virginia Department of Transportation. Now part-time in the human resources department at Citizens National Bank.



WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU REMEMBER COOKING: A pineapple cake when I was about 10

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR WORST COOKING EXPERIENCE: When I was making the pineapple cake, I made the icing too thin, so I put it in the freezer. Well, it ran all over the inside of the freezer, making the biggest mess, which I had to clean up. In all my years of cooking, I’ve never made another pineapple cake.

ONE INGREDIENT YOU CAN’T COOK WITHOUT AND WHY: Black pepper. I just think it brings out the flavor.

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU HAVE LEARNED ABOUT COOKING: Have all of your ingredients in front of you before you start and read your recipe carefully.

WHO IS THE BEST COOK YOU HAVE EVER KNOWN AND WHY: My mother, Mary Belle Stephenson. She could make the best fried chicken, and her vegetables were always seasoned perfectly. She could do this and never measure anything the way we do. She also very seldom followed a recipe. Sometimes we’d ask her for a recipe, and she would just jot it down from memory. We could read it, but it would be hard for anyone else to understand it. But I think what made so many people love her is that she was always cooking things for others, her neighbors, friends and family. She always cooked more than we needed — I remember one Christmas, she made and gave away 10 cakes.


Marie Stephenson’s recipe is:



4 Tbls. cocoa

4 eggs, separated

1 large can evaporated milk

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 Tbls. melted margarine or butter

½ cup warm water


Dissolve cocoa one tablespoon at the time in warm water. Add four beaten egg yolks, milk, sugar, vanilla and butter, and mix well. Pour into an unbaked pie shell and bake at 400 degrees until set.

For meringue, beat egg whites with ½ teaspoon of vanilla and ¼ teaspoon of cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Then add ¼ cup sugar, one tablespoon at the time and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Spread over top of cooked pie and bake for about 15 minutes in 250-degree oven until meringue is brown.