Oddly, Pearl Smith before she cooked anything else, mastered the art of making rolls and cobblers. They became her specialty, especially for church dinners and Sunday dinner for her family. However, her favorite meal to fix is soup beans and cornbread. “Everybody likes beans and cornbread,” she said with a chuckle.
Pearl was taught to cook by her Aunt Margaret, who raised her after Pearl’s parents were killed in a car accident when she was a baby. “She was the one who taught me to make rolls,” Pearl said, explaining that the secret to making a good roll is how you knead the dough.
“You knead it very lightly. The least you mess with it, the better they will be,” Pearl said. “A lot of times, the dough is over kneaded, and the rolls are tough.”
Pearl also noted that when making rolls, make sure your yeast is good.
She worked for many years at First United Methodist Church, where she began cooking for groups. She also cooked for functions at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City. “I used to cook for the United Methodist Men once a month. Some other men in the community also attended the dinners. One of their favorite meals was soup beans, cornbread and cole slaw,” she said.
Later, she and her husband, James, started their own catering service, which they called the Rose of Sharon. “We catered for weddings, receptions, birthdays, anniversaries,” Pearl said. After James became sick, the catering was cut back; however, Pearl said she still does some catering. James was also a chef, cooking for a number years at the Elizabethton Elks Club.
She and James had been married for 60 years when he died last September. They were the parents of seven children — five boys and two girls, which meant Pearl did a lot of cooking for her family. Two of the sons are deceased. Pearl and her husband also adopted a son, William Weems, who is now grown and a newlywed. In addition to her children, Pearl has 17 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
She is a longtime member of the Phillippi Baptist Church, formerly serving as president of the church choir.
Although Pearl doesn’t cook as much as she once did, she still prepares quite a few meals. Pearl is a volunteer cook for a local hospice group.
One of her more popular dishes is chicken salad, which she is often asked to prepare for parties and other special occasions. She is sharing her chicken salad recipe this week with STAR readers.
Party Chicken Salad
8 pounds of chicken (1/2 dark and 1/2 light), cooked until tender
4 cups salad dressing
1/2 cup mustard
4 stalks of celery, chopped
3 cups of pickles, chopped
Salt and pepper to season
1/2 tablespoon garlic
4 boiled eggs, chopped
1 pound of grapes
Pulled cooked chicken off bone, chop very fine. Also, chop onion and celery very fine. Mix in salad dressing, mustard and pickles. Add seasonings, and mix until all the ingredients blend together well. Stir in chopped eggs and mix well.
The chicken salad can be poured into a mold or placed on a tray or platter. Decorate with grapes and nuts if you like.
This week’s column was written by Rozella Hardin, editor of the Elizabethton STAR.
To submit your own recipes or suggest a person for “Chef’s Corner,” email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 297-9077.