Carrying on holiday traditions

Published 11:13 am Saturday, December 20, 2014

by Merle Monahan/Contributing Writer

It would be hard to find anyone who loves the Christmas holiday season more than Frances Joyner.

From the shiny silver garlands and bright holiday lights — which came to light when she was younger right after Thanksgiving — to the wonderful aromas emitting from the kitchens of her grandmother, Anne Hatch, now deceased, and her mom, Anne Joyner, the 36-year-old Wakefield native has always shown her “joy of the season” by her full participation in family and community functions.

“It has been this way as long as I can remember,” Joyner said. “On Christmas Eve, my sister, Beth, and I would come home from church to the wonderful fragrance of a turkey baking at home, or the unmistakable aroma of the traditional Virginia ham at my grandmother’s.

“You see, our families always collaborated during the holidays,” she said. “Mom would cook one of the main courses while my grandmother would cook another. Then we’d gather either at my grandparents or our home for the dinner.”

Joyner added that her Christmas family gatherings have been observed for at least four generations.

“My great-grandmother, Rebecca Edwards, was, as far back as I can remember, with us every Christmas until her death several years ago.

“She had a lot to do with the tradition, especially her recipes,” Joyner went on. “We still use them.”

The young educator, who attended and graduated from Tidewater Academy, worked as a school principal after her graduation from college until last year, when she returned to her hometown to take the position of Head of School at Tidewater.

Joyner makes her home at her grandmother’s residence in the house she has “always loved,” she said.

With all the great cooks in her family, it is only natural that she would join them, Joyner added with a smile.

“I learned so much from my grandmother and my mom,” she continued. “In fact, my grandmother was a real Southern lady, who taught me many of the social graces.

“I love to give parties and “Other Mother” — our name for her — would oversee as I learned the basics. She never hesitated to give her approval, or disapproval, on everything, from the centerpiece on the buffet table to the placement of all finger foods.

“‘If you don’t do it right, don’t do it,’ she’d say.”

Today, Joyner said, she hosts as many as three to four parties during the holidays, for which she does most of the cooking.

“I have a party for my family and friends, one for my staff and the academy board and other little neighborhood get-togethers.

She added that with her schedule, however, sometimes getting things done is a little hectic, “but I have several wonderful patrons who help me with the school functions.”

“And mom often helps with baking,” she remembered with a grin.

“In fact, Mom says she’s used to baking a double batch of cookies at one time and doesn’t mind, because when my dad, C.B., was working, he’d come in from work and eat most of the first batch.”

NAME: Frances Joyner

AGE: 36.

OCCUPATION: Head of School at Tidewater Academy.

FAVORITE FOOD: Cheese and anything from Maggiano’s

WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU REMEMBER COOKING: Fudge in home economics class at Tidewater Academy.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR WORST COOKING EXPERIENCE: I never have had much luck making cakes with frostings and glazes, so I now just leave that to the professionals to master and produce for me.


WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU HAVE LEARNED ABOUT COOKING: Patience and having lots of great cooking gadgets to assist, especially a Pampered Chef garlic press. They are awesome.

WHO IS THE BEST COOK YOU HAVE EVER KNOWN AND WHY: I have two: my grandmother, Anne Hatch, because she could make the most amazing Southern meals and baked goods from scratch; and my dear childhood friend, Anna Fleming-Padgett, who never follows a recipe, but can produce the most scrumptious and filling appetizers and meals.


Savannah Hot Crab Dip

by Paula Deen

2 Tbls fresh lemon or lime juice
3 Tbls of Worcestershire sauce
6 cloves roasted garlic, or 2 cloves non roasted garlic, minced.
¼ cup green onions, minced, optional
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¾ cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated Pepper Jack cheese
1 lb jumbo lump crabmeat, free of shells
1 tsp Paula Deen hot sauce
½ tsp dry mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grate one cup of Pepper Jack cheese and toss with crabmeat. Add Parmesan cheese, green onions, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, garlic, salt, dry mustard, pepper and bind with mayonnaise. Stir gently until mixed and bake for 40 minutes. Serve with crackers or toast points.

Ginger Snaps

by my grandmother, Anne Hatch

¾ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
¼ cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 tsp soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt

Directions: Cream shortening and sugar. Add molasses and egg, beat well. Sift together flour, and other ingredients. Add to first mixture. Mix well and chill for one hour. Roll ½-teaspoon-sized balls in sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for six minutes at 350 degrees.