Someone’s in the Kitchen: Melinda Rogers

Published 11:54 am Saturday, March 8, 2014


Melinda Rogers -- Merle Monahan | Tidewater News

Melinda Rogers — Merle Monahan | Tidewater News

ZUNI—Melinda Rogers was born in Kentucky and has lived in Florida, but she didn’t really learn to cook until she and her husband settled near Zuni in 1994.

“My mom did cook, but I don’t think she liked to, so I didn’t learn much from her,” Rogers said. “Of course, I cooked for my husband and two kids, but I hardly knew the basics.”

Rogers said it was after she and her husband broke up that she decided to get a job. She wanted something where she could work during the time her daughter was in school, so she could be home with her afterwards.

“I applied at the Southampton School Board office and was hired as a substitute cafeteria worker.

“Afterwards I sat in my car and wondered why I had chosen this kind of work, she said. “I knew I couldn’t cook that well.

“But it was one of the best things to happen to me,” she added with a smile. “I was assigned to Riverdale and there I met Pearl.”

Rogers said Pearl was the main cook at the school and there wasn’t anything she didn’t know.

“I was like a ‘duck out of water’ and Pearl sensed that. She sort of took me under her wing, and actually, it’s because of her that I love to cook today.”

This was in 2008, Rogers went on, and she has since mastered the basics and much, much more.

“I love to cook, but actually, baking is my thing. I’m a little partial to pies.”

She added that since her family is now smaller – her son, Michael, lives in Kentucky – she doesn’t prepare big meals, but there always is dessert, such as her famous peanut butter pie.

“My daughter, Taylor, loves it,” she added with a smile. “It’s a good treat whenever she has a sleepover here.”

Although Rogers’ schedule keeps her from visiting much, she is always one of the first to bring a pie or cake to the home of a bereaved family, or to special events in the neighborhood.

The single mom has also taken on yet another job as a rural mail carrier and doesn’t get to work at the school as much, she says. But she’ll always give credit to Pearl for teaching her to cook.

“She changed my life,” Rogers said. “I never knew how much fun it is to be able to come up with your own creations or to have someone ask for one of your recipes.”

NAME: Melinda Rogers
OCCUPATION: Rural mail carrier.
FAVORITE FOOD: Anything Mexican.
WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU REMEMBER COOKING: Making rolls. They didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR WORST COOKING EXPERIENCE: I once tried to make a cake in the shape of a butterfly for a birthday party. The cake was edible, but it looked more like just a set of wings than a butterfly.
WHAT IS ONE INGREDIENT YOU CAN’T COOK WITHOUT AND WHY: Salt, because it brings out the flavor.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU HAVE LEARNED ABOUT COOKING: Patience. Always take your time or you’ll make a mistake.
WHO IS THE BEST COOK YOU HAVE KNOWN AND WHY: Her name is Pearl and she was the main cook in the cafeteria of Riverdale Elementary School. When I went to work there, she took me under her wing, so to speak, and taught me almost everything I know about cooking. She was an old-fashioned cook, and could make some of the best tasting food. She also was economical. Having to work within a budget was a challenge, but her meals were always good. She also taught me there was more to cooking than just turning out a good meal. You also must clean up afterwards. This is something I’ll always remember: when you need to clean up high, use a ladder and do it right, and when the floor needs to be cleaned, get on your knees with a bucket and mop. She was the greatest – actually taught me to love cooking.
IF YOU COULD EAT ONE THING FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, WHAT WOULD IT BE: Sweet potato corn bread. I don’t know how to make it, but I ate some once in a Williamsburg restaurant and it is delicious.

Peanut Butter Pie
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese
1 cup peanut butter
½ cup sugar
2 cartons frozen whipped topping
1 chocolate crumb crust
2/3 cup chocolate fudge topping

Directions: Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add peanut butter and sugar and mix well. Fold in one carton of cool whip and pour into crust. Microwave fudge topping until hot. Spread over pie filling, making sure to spread to edges of crust. Cool, then use other carton of whipped topping to cover pie.

6 to 8 tart apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
¾ to 1 cup sugar
2 Tbls all-purpose flour
½ to 1 tsp. cinnamon
Dash nutmeg
2 Tbls butter
Pastry for two-crust, 9-in pie

Directions: Combine sugar, flour, spices and dash of salt. Mix with apples. Line pie plate with pastry and fill with apple mixture just to top of crust. Top with second crust, cutting slits for steam. Bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes, or until done.

Pie Crust:

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 ¾ cups butter-flavored Crisco
1 Tbls sugar
1 tsp salt
1 Tbls vinegar
1 egg
½ cup water
Directions: Mix dry ingredients, add Crisco and mix well. Add water, egg and vinegar. Mix well. Roll dough thin for crusts. Makes four.