Neighborhood enjoys Brown’s kitchen

Published 9:43 am Friday, September 12, 2014

by Merle Monahan / Contributing Writer

BERLIN—Flossie Brown learned two things from her mother when she was growing up that she still practices today. That is how to sew and how to cook.

Flossie Brown - Merle Monahan | Tidewater News

Flossie Brown – Merle Monahan | Tidewater News

She sews for her livelihood and she enjoys it. But Brown also loves to cook and everyone in her neighborhood knows it.

“I live by myself, so I don’t need to cook in such big quantities, but I always have something cooked on hand if someone happens to drop by,” she said.

“That’s another thing I learned from mama. She always cooked more than we needed in case we had company.”

Brown, 57, was born and raised in Southampton County and still lives in her family home on Unity Road where she grew up. She said her younger sister died when she was six, so Brown grew up as an only child.

She attended the county schools, and after graduation became certified as an educational assistant at Paul D. Camp Community College.

Shortly after her graduation, however, her father became ill and Brown stayed home to help her mother care for him. Brown continued to live with her mother after her father’s death and upon her mother’s passing she said she felt no need to move.

“I love it here,” Brown said. “I have great neighbors and two very close cousins who I see every weekend.

“In fact,” she added, “these cousins and I take turns cooking for each other every Sunday after church. One week we’ll eat here and the other two we’ll eat at their homes.

“I usually have something countrified, like fried chicken, corn on the cob and biscuits, while they do things a little different.

“But change is good,” she added with a laugh.

Brown has just been made deaconess at her church, St. Luke’s on St. Luke’s Road, and has gotten even more involved there, she said.

“This is the church I’ve attended all my life and I’m proud to be chosen as a deaconess,” she said.

As for her cooking, Brown said she learned everything she knows about it from her mother, who was one of 14 children.

“When you’re from a big family, you’re expected to learn to cook and mama was one of the best, I think,” Brown said.

She added that her mother’s sisters could cook as well, and one, Lillie Young, won the Pillsbury cook-off for her apple cobbler during the 1950s.

“I don’t mean to brag, but I think mine is better,” she said with a shy grin.

The young seamstress said she started helping her mother when she was very young and by the time she was eight she could prepare a meal for her parents and herself, and clean up the kitchen.

“That’s another thing mama insisted on, clean up after yourself.”

This is evident today with Brown as she sits in her neat little kitchen and talks about her mother’s talents.

While she talks, Brown shows off an Indian garment she has just made for a member of the Nottoway Tribe of Virginia. Brown also is part Indian as her great-grandfather was a full-blooded Nottoway.

“I used to watch mama sew and cook and I took a few classes in school, but that’s all the training I’ve had,” she continued. “I think these traits just come naturally to some people.

“You just have to like what you’re doing.”

NAME: Flossie Brown

AGE: 57

OCCUPATION: Seamstress



WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU REMEMBER COOKING: Fried corn bread, when I was about 8

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR WORST COOKING EXPERIENCE: Once when I was frying chicken I had put too much lard in the pan, and when the chicken started to fry the lard began to bubble over. I quickly pulled the pan off the heat and spooned some of it out. I was fortunate that nothing caught fire.


WHO IS THE BEST COOK YOU HAVE EVER KNOWN AND WHY: My mother, Bernice Brown. She was one of 14 children and they all had to help with everything, including cooking. Mama learned to make a lot out of very little, you might say. She cooked everything from scratch and often substituted one ingredient for another. I remember once when she was making gingerbread she found that she was out of ginger, so she just used other spices instead. We called it spice bread. I was very close to my mother and helped her in the kitchen all the time. That’s where I learned everything I know about cooking.




1 cup softened butter

2 cups sugar

3 cups self-rising flour

4 eggs

1 cup milk

2 tsp. lemon flavoring

Directions: Cream softened butter and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Add flour and milk. Mix well. Add lemon extract and mix well.  Pour batter into greased tube pan and bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 45 to 60 minutes, depending on oven. Cake is done when it springs away from sides of pan. Cool in pan.



4 eggs

2 ½ cups sugar

1 stick butter, melted

3 Tbls all-purpose flour

1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk

¾ lb grated coconut

1 small box instant pudding mix

2 tsp. lemon extract

3 unbaked pie shells

Directions: Combine coconut, eggs, sugar, flour and butter and mix well. Add milk and mix well. Add instant pudding mix and lemon extract and mix well. Pour into pie shells and bake for 35 to 45 minutes in 350-degree oven. When toothpick inserted in center of pie comes out clean, pie is done.