Someone’s in the Kitchen

Published 8:44 am Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Jane Bailey cooks for the senior citizens group at her church. -- Merle Monahan | Tidewater News

IVOR—Jane Bailey had no trouble cooking for her family of three, but she was a little apprehensive when she agreed to prepare a monthly lunch for a group of nearly 40 senior citizens.

“The senior citizens club at my church was about to dissolve after 13 years for lack of a leader,” she said. “I just couldn’t let that happen, so I offered to take over.”

Bailey has been there for five years and has no plans to leave.

“I give God the credit because when I started, I really needed His help,” she said.

Bailey thinks she has settled in nicely, even though her duties are a little more than she expected.

In addition to preparing and serving lunch to an average of 30-some seniors each month, she must secure a speaker for the meeting and set up and decorate tables. Meetings are held on the first Thursday of each month, except July, because the meeting date falls too close to the Fourth of July.

Bailey gets help. Two seniors help in the kitchen and with the cleanup after the meal.

Bailey, who taught school for 32 years, said she has always liked to cook and try new recipes.

“I’m not much for experimenting, but I do like to change from the norm,” she said. “I’d pick out a recipe that looked good and try it out on my husband. If he liked it, I’d use it again. Otherwise, it went into the trash.”

Bailey said her husband, Earl, also cooked, but he favored desserts.

“He liked to bake cakes and cookies, things like that,” she said.

Jane Bailey, on the other hand, likes preparing the whole meal.

“When we both worked, I was the first one to arrive home from my job, so I had dinner on the table when he came in,” she said.

Bailey’s husband passed away several years ago, and her son no longer lives at home, so meals now are a little sporadic.

Despite her reservations, Bailey enjoys working with the seniors.

“Our membership is not limited to our church members,” she said. “We have some who come from as far away as Dinwiddie and Franklin, as well as Windsor, Wakefield and Zuni.”

As for her meals, everyone seems to like them.

In fact, at one meeting where attendance was down, those who were there took leftovers home for dinner.

NAME: Jane Bailey

AGE: 63

OCCUPATION: Retired after 32 years as an elementary schoolteacher




WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR WORST COOKING EXPERIENCE: I had spent hours making lasagna. It really looked good. But when I took it out of the oven, somehow I dropped it. The cooking dish broke in a million pieces and lasagna covered the kitchen floor. Needless to say, we had something else for dinner, but I was so distraught, I could hardly eat

ONE INGREDIENT YOU CAN’T COOK WITHOUT AND WHY: Sugar. I think a little pinch brings out the flavor in foods

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU HAVE LEARNED AB OUT COOKING: Have all ingredients ready before you begin cooking and don’t rush

WHO IS THE BEST COOK YOU HAVE EVER KNOWN AND WHY: My mother, Cora Leadbetter. We lived on a small farm in Goochland County and raised most of our food — pigs, chickens, eggs and vegetables and Mama really knew how to cook all of it. She never used a recipe and had her own way of measuring — a pinch of this and a dash of that — but everything she cooked was good. Plus, she cooked on a wood stove. I marveled at the way she could stretch what she had prepared for a family of six and feed as many as four to six extra people, who always seemed to pop in on us Sunday at mealtime. I learned a lot from her, although I do use a cookbook and a measuring spoon. I never quite mastered her way of measuring.

IF YOU COULD EAT ONE THING FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, WHAT WOULD IT BE: Chicken. You can fix it so many different ways

Chicken Casserole


1 whole chicken, or 4 chicken breasts

2 cups broth (saved from cooking chicken)

1 can of cream of chicken soup

1 can of cream of celery soup

1 (8 oz) package of herb dressing

½ stick butter


Boil chicken and reserve broth. Debone chicken and cut into bite-size pieces. Combine and mix all ingredients, adding salt and pepper to taste. Spread into large casserole dish and bake in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes.