Someone’s in the kitchen
Published 10:27 am Saturday, May 28, 2011
BY MERLE MONAHAN/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
ZUNI—When Christine Eley was about 12, she could cook an entire dinner for her family of six.
It took a little more time and practice before she qualified for her current job — preparing meals for as many as 200.
Eley works in the kitchen of the Southeast 4-H Center in Wakefield. She started as a helper, and worked her way up to cook.
“I love to cook,” Eley said. “I just feel lucky that I was able to get a job here.”
A grandmother of eight, she learned to cook for more than six at the time “but we don’t go for a lot of fancy things,” she said.
Eley grew up in Ivor, and by the time she was 12, was cooking dinner for her family almost every night.
“Both my parents worked at Smithfield Packing Co. in Smithfield and it was already dinner time before they got home,” she said. “Since I was the oldest girl, and we got home from school earlier than my parents came in from work, it was my job to cook dinner.”
“We had things like fried chicken or fish with vegetables, either fresh from the garden or ones that I had helped mama can, depending on the time of year,” Eley added.
She doesn’t cook a lot of desserts, although she does make rice pudding and sweet potato pie.
“But my cakes come from a box,” she said.
“It is much different cooking at the 4-H Center than it is at home,” Eley went on. “For one thing, there is more to prepare, and it all has to be ready to serve at the very same time.”
Cooking dinner for a crowd is one thing, but preparing for a reception is quite another. For instance, dinner is usually served buffet style, while for a reception, food tables are filled with more and fancier foods and often spread around the room.
Eley loves her work. She gives a lot of credit to her supervisor, Gladys Rowland.
“She gave me a chance to advance. She taught me a lot,” Eley said.
NAME: Christine Eley
OCCUPATION: Cook at Southeast 4-H Center in Wakefield
FAVORITE FOOD: Chicken
LEAST FAVORITE FOOD: Pork
WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU REMEMBER COOKING: Eggs
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR WORST COOKING EXPERIENCE: When I was about 12, I tried my hand at making bread. It was a complete failure, didn’t rise. I had to throw it out.
WHAT IS ONE INGREDIENT YOU CAN’T COOK WITHOUT AND WHY: Salt. I think it gives everything a better flavor.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU HAVE LEARNED ABOUT COOKING: When you make a mistake, correct it if you can. If not, learn from it. You won’t make that mistake again.
WHO IS THE BEST COOK YOU HAVE EVER KNOWN AND WHY: My grandmother, Willie Mae Patterson. She cooked everything from scratch, never used a recipe and her meals were the best I ever tasted. She taught my mother to cook, and my mother taught me, so my meals are a lot like hers, although I don’t think anybody can match her country cooking. She just had her own way of cooking, especially about seasoning her dishes. She could tell by just looking at a pot of soup, for instance, exactly how much salt it needed.
IF YOU COULD EAT ONE THING FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, WHAT WOULD IT BE: Fish
1 pound hamburger
1 cup bread crumbs
1 green pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
4 Tbls ketchup
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together well and turn into a loaf pan. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour.