Monday, September 30, 2013

My Aunt Minnie Lou from Tangipahoa

Yesterday I attended my Aunt Minnie Lou Hutchinson's 90th birthday party!  She is an inspiring person with a reputation for  good works for her family and her community.  The birthday party was held at the Methodist Church in Tangipahoa, Louisiana where she has been a member for her entire adult life.  The party was preceded in a church service where she was honored.  She was one of seven children and sister to my mother.  The sisters were close in age and in spirit throughout their lives and so my cousins were always close to me.

Her birthday party was a grand affair.  Almost all of her family members were there including children,  grandchildren and great grandchildren.  The room was also packed with friends and other relatives who came to wish her well.
Aunt Minnie Lou and husband, Uncle Harvey were married 53 years when Harvey passed away in 1997.  They had four children:  Harvey, Wallace, Montie Sue and Nelwyn.   She is the grandmother of nine and the great grandmother of twelve.

Harvey & Minnie Lou
Ready for an Event
Minnie Lou and Harvey were always quite the pair!  She and Uncle Harvey were community and church leaders and active in Eastern Star and The Masons.  She still belongs to the Daughters of the American Revolution and the United Daughters of the Confederacy.  Her chapter of UDC was in part responsible for renovations and upkeep of Camp Moore, a Civil War site, that is now a national park and museum.  Up until recently she was an officer in the group. Although she never said, I always felt that my Mom was secretly jealous of the beautiful evening gowns and active social life that her sister enjoyed.

Their lives were not elaborate.  They ran a dairy farm.  Both would wake before dawn each day to milk the cows and then repeat the process at day's end.  After the farm was sold, because of construction of Interstate 1-55 through the middle of their property, they settled into semi-retirement.  Uncle Harvey had a desk job for a while.
In 1964 she was hired as the Town Clerk for the newly incorporated Village of Tangipahoa and served in that capacity for over 43 years.  

With the Governor
As Town Clerk,  she did everything from field complaints to managing water bills for the residents. When she retired most of the community showed up to pay honor  this tireless community servant. A retirement dinner honored her as a person and as a dedicated employee.  In her photo albums this picture of her with Governor Bobby Jindal was found.  He joined the community in celebrating her work.

Finding herself with spare time after retirement, she became a traveler and visited her sons who live in other states.  She enjoys having an active part in their  milestones of births, graduations and weddings.    She is very proud of her family's many accomplishments.

Aunt Minnie Lou now lives with one of her daughters.  Age and some health problems have slowed her down a bit.  She no longer lives in the lovely house the hill, which was a wonderful childhood memory for me.

In my mind, this grand lady always took an interest in me and my family.  I suppose many of us have or had an aunt like this.  When I was a young bride she would call to chat with me and would always identify herself as "Aunt Minnie Lou from Tangipahoa."  My husband asked me once:  "How many Aunt Minnie Lou's do you have?" I looked forward to those  calls and I know if I call her up right now she would want to talk about my family.  Aunt Minnie Lou is like that.

House on the Hill
As a child, another good memory was her showing up at our house during the summer and telling me to "get your things because you are coming with me to Tangipahoa for a vacation."

Fond memories were those!  I remember the fresh milk straight from the barn on those summer mornings.   I actually learned to drive there.  My Uncle Harvey would put his auto, "Leaping Leena," in neutral and I got to steer as we coasted all the way down the hill and into town without changing gears.  There were parties on the lawn which always included  games and delicious cake.  I believe I even got my first kiss at one of the later parties.  I was never a great swimmer, but going to swim in the Amite River was also on the agenda.

I still remember the "dinner on the ground" events at their church.  If I were visiting on a Sunday, we would attend Sunday School and church services afterward.  Sleeping "in" on Sunday was not tolerated.   In the hot part of the day we would play endless games of Monopoly or just roam around the farm.  Playing in the barn loft was a favorite way to pass the time. The cousins also had a playhouse and a small wading pool that Uncle Harvey had built.

We could roam around all day in the safety of the clean country air.  They were the first of those I knew who owned a hi-fi system and had a huge collection of 45's.  Uncle Harvey would play the music and dance with us.  Aunt Minnie Lou tolerated all the commotion from the kitchen as she prepared great meals of fresh vegetables on those summer evenings.

Food conjures up memories and people and places for me.  Aunt Minnie Lou took part in the publication of two cookbooks by the members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.  Here are two recipes.  One is hers and the other recipe is found in the same cookbook.
Aunt Minnie Lou
as a young woman

Banana Nut Cake

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
two mashed bananas
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup chopped nuts
 2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix sugar, shortening and eggs.  Stir in other ingredients.  Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees F.  Cool in pan for a few minutes before cutting.

Confederate Cannon Ball Punch *

Juice of 6 lemons
 1 1/2 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons bitters
1 qt. Claret wine
1 qt. dry sherry
1 qt.brandy
1 qt. brandy
1 qt. whiskey
1 Quart club soda

1.  Combine lemon juice, sugar and bitters.
2.  Add the balance of the liquids are stir.
3.  Serve chilled or over ice.
Source:  UDC cookbook recipe by J.A Winkler, retired Commander Camp Moore

*I have always gotten a kick just out of reading this recipe.  I have often thought it a misprint and that it was supposed to be a cup of each of the liquors.....Oh well....Sounds like a punch with a real punch.

Daughters Montie Sue & Nelwyn
with their Mom
Sons Harvey & Wallace

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Central Legend-One of the Good Guys

Russell Jacobs aka
Rusty Rooster
We went to Louis DeAngelos Italian Restaurant  to sit in a radio audience where our friend, Russell Jacobs, was the main attraction.  He was interviewed on Central Legends, a live radio show.  Central Speaks Station 910AM features members of the community who have had a positive effect on the city.  Central Legends is broadcasted live from DeAngelo's  on Sullivan Road weekly on Thursday evenings.  On this particular evening, the bar and half of the restaurant patrons were "Rusty Rooster" fans!  The wait staff team was extremely accommodating as we took over the place. Hosts Les Bueche and Dave Freneaux discussed the history of Central with Rusty, and never at a loss for words, he answered and commented with great style!  I am sure the radio audience was able to share the good nature of the interviewee.  He has been a respected member of the Central community for over forty years and is a well known face to many.

Les Bueche,
 Dave Freneaux, Rusty 
Rusty was chosen as a Legend because he was  instrumental in the incorporation of the City of Central.   Central was once part of the city of Baton Rouge, but as their numbers grew they decided to become their own entity with their own schools for local children.  Since the incorporation in 2005, it has grown to be the 13th largest city in the State of Louisiana.  Central's school system has become one of the highest performing districts in the state.  The city is thriving with privatized services and a surplus in the city coffers.  Rusty had a huge part in the incorporation process as he, among others, spearheaded the effort and personally collected many of the signatures needed.

The interviewers asked Rusty questions about his personal life as well as his efforts to make a Central a city.  The Rooster  grew up in a single parent household with a working mother and two devoted sisters, Sharon and Patricia.  A neighbor helped by making sure the kids had their clothes ready, their Bible lessons studied and their shoes shined for Sunday. Sharon has confessed that as siblings, they fussed and argued, but in adulthood they are "thick as thieves" as they see each other many times a week and have even traveled together with their spouses.  It was not an easy life  for this family, but love prevailed and all got good backgrounds of positive morals and values.

Sweethearts after all these years

Attending public schools of Baton Rouge, he was a 1967 graduate of Istrouma High School where he excelled in athletics and leadership.  He married his high school sweetheart, Susan.  They have three  sons and several treasured grandchildren.  A daughter was lost in infancy and this tragedy led  to the closeness of the family and a strengthening of their faith.

Rusty valiantly served in the Army during the Vietnam War from 1969 to 1971. He spent 15 months in Southeast Asia fighting for our country.  He has kept in touch with his service buddies, with whom he formed strong bonds.  He has attended a few battalion reunions over the years.  He was honored recently, for his service  by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.  Before his army days, he studied briefly at Louisiana State University, but his true calling was working with his hands.  He began working as a carpenter after his discharge.  He was good at it and decided to strike out on his own.  With an enduring entrepreneurial spirit he formed his own company.  Jacobs Building began in 1985 and continued operating un 2010, when the doors were closed.

Rusty in the Army
When Central became a city, Rusty became the first President of the Central Chamber of Commerce.  According to a friend of his, he served his term with dignity and positive leadership.  Jacobs Building left a legacy of many structures in the Central area.  Rusty reminisced that his company seemed to specialize in building or remodeling churches.  They built and/or remodeled thirteen area places of worship.  His dedication to his business and his employees was legendary, too.  When diagnosed with pneumonia, he informed the doctor that the pneumonia might be bad, but things would really get bad if he didn't "make his payroll."  At that point the medical expert allowed him to leave the hospital long enough to meet his obligations to his "people."

Gov. Jindal presenting medal
When the residents decided to leave the jurisdiction of Baton Rouge and become their own city, Rusty helped lead the charge.  He helped with the collection of 7,000 signatures required to be incorporated as a separate entity.  Then, because of a spelling error in the original petition, they had to do it a second time.  Rusty was there both times.  He went door to door and also manned posts at local businesses entreating the citizens to again sign the petition that was the first step in incorporation.

In retirement Rusty is an active Facebooker.  In one post he made it known that in spite of health warnings, he loves to eat bacon.   In a time when we are told that bacon is unhealthy, he has been a staunch supporter of the piggy product. He recounted that he has people all over the world sending him cartoons about bacon, t-shirts with bacon logos, bacon flavored foods and he has become a self-proclaimed proponent of the delicious food!  When you think of bacon, think of Rusty Rooster!

In spite of health issues for Susan and himself, Rusty remains the bright spot on the radar for many people.  He has an undying faith in Christ and lives his faith.  He is generous, supportive and can always be counted on for a smile and a word of encouragement.  He's a true friend to many. As one person pointed out:  "He is one of the good guys!"

I was so impressed to be in the company of a legend that I asked him to autograph my napkin.  Here it is:   Marilea with Rooster autographing napkins for us!  What a fun evening.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Rotisserie Chicken Wisdom

Today we drove our retired selves to town to Sam's Club to purchase rotisserie chickens.  You see, we normally keep these in our freezer for quick meals on nights when we are too busy to cook.  We could purchase them locally, but they are about $3.00 more each when we buy them in our own community.  Therefore, we spend about $3.00 worth of gas to save that amount in food purchase.  

Those of you who belong to discount clubs can relate to the feeling of getting some good deals.  It helps to rationalize the money one spends while there.  I have digressed...We went for the chickens and they were not ready.  We were sad to see the shelf bare, but encouraged that the chickens would be ready in about ten minutes.  I staked out a spot in the queue while hubby went about the store seeking bargains on staples.  It was during this wait time that I gained the wisdom I am about to impart.  Seems those waiting with me, for the never ending ten minutes, wanted to chat.  I love talking to people and after all we had the common interest of "chicken love" in common.

One man told me that he gets rotisserie chickens to serve company.  He splits them into quarters, places them on his grill, slathers them with BBQ sauce and serves them up to his friends as a home cooked grilled delicacy.

A woman in a motorized shopping cart was waiting for her chicken because her granddaughter was coming to have dinner with her.  Said granddaughter was also waiting in the carpool line to be picked up by grandmother who was waiting for her chicken.  (BTW:  She got the first one off the spit!)  The rest of us made sure of that.  I hope she made the carpool line in time!

An 81 year old woman (she confided her age to me) was purchasing three chickens to take to a wake.  Her Godson had been murdered this weekend and she was helping with the food for the family of the deceased. She also told me that she buys these chickens each week for her own kitchen.  She is a widow and advised me that I could cut a chicken into two halves, eat one and freeze the other half.  I admired her upbeat spirit as I knew she must be grieving the loss of a loved one.

Another one in the chicken line, told me the best thing to do with rotisserie chickens is to remove all the  edible parts, chop and make chicken salad. This practical person confided that she never eats the skin as it is too fattening.

A young mother said her husband loves roasted chicken and she was going to surprise him with that for supper.  She said she will try to pass it off as her own cooking, but he always knows.

Another person in the line was wearing a souvenir t-shirt from Boston.  I asked him if he had visited there recently as I had.  He replied:  "If I had money to visit Boston, I wouldn't be waiting in line for $4.88 rotisserie chicken!"  I had to laugh as I had just returned from Beantown a week prior to today.

Hubby and chicken fed spoiled dog
During the writing process of this post, a friend reminded me that rotisserie chicken, when sliced, makes great sandwiches.  At our house, we eat one for supper, then share with our picky eater dachshund.  Another suggestion came from my hubby who said he likes to add the sliced chicken to canned marinara sauce and serve it with cooked pasta.

The possibilities and variations on this item are seemingly endless.  I am thinking that as I write this, there are other uses for rotisserie chicken of which I am unaware.  I do hope that my readers will share with me.  Make a comment or send an email. I appreciate all responses.

I have now run out of Wisdom on Rotisserie Chickens, but must confess that my period of waiting for this delectible discount club treat reminded me that folks have bonds and abilities to make the best of almost any situation.  I loved talking to those who taught me so much about human nature and chickens today.  I was surprised that they would impart information to a stranger, but pleased, nevertheless.  

Our Sam's Club venture was supposed to be clandestine because we were also on a trek to stock up on white wine.  Our cover was blown and we were "busted" as we ran into a long time friend who commented on all the junk food and alcohol in our cart!  In fact, the cashier said she would meet us in the parking lot with a cork screw.  We lied and said we were purchasing the wine for gifts.  So $349.00 later we drove home with our rotisserie chickens.  Oh well, we tried.

Here is a recipe I prepared just yesterday with a rotisserie chicken.  Disclaimer:  It's very fattening and a true comfort food!  I adapted it from a recipe I came across on Facebook....don't judge, please.

Easy Chicken Spaghetti with Lots of Cheese and Butter

4 to 5 cups chopped cooked chicken (from a rotisserie chicken)
10 ounces spaghetti (broken into small pieces, boiled and drained)
2 cans cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup (10oz. condensed size)
8 ounces sour cream
1/2 cup chicken broth (canned or made from bullion cube)
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning (substitute oregano and thyme)
1/4 cup dried parsley
Salt, pepper to taste
about 1/2 cup bread crumbs

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease (or spray with Pam) a 9" by 13" baking pan.
2. Combine all ingredients, except bread crumbs, in large mixing bowl.
3. Pour mixture into prepared baking pan and top with breadcrumbs.
4. Bake, covered with foil, for about 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for another 30 minutes.  Let set for about 5 minutes before serving.

Add a tossed salad and bread for a satisfying meal.  Makes 6 generous servings and freezes well.

TIP:  To prevent the foil from sticking to the casserole, spray the side next to the food with Pam.  Place the foil "shiny side out" to ensure the best heating process as the shiny side reflects heat.

For those of you who follow the Weekday Rambler:  I thought you would like to see how my sous chef has grown.  She is three years old, now and helping her Daddy make brownies at her house.