Chef’s Corner: Mildred Chambers is a self-taught cook specializing in country cooking favorites9:44 am | August 6, 2012
Eighty-eight-year-old Mildred Chambers doesn’t cook as much as she once did, but when she takes a notion to do so, this self-taught cook can still whip up a meal of tasty country favorites.
The daughter of James and Maggie Sigmond Nelson, Mildred was one of eight children and grew up in the Chinquapin community of Bluff City.
When she was growing up, young women were often “hired out” to handle domestic chores when a wife or mother in the community was coping with an illness.
She once worked for the family of Floyd Thomas, whose wife was recovering from a severe case of the measles in addition to providing care for her two young children.
What Mildred remembers most vividly from the experience was the fact that Mrs. Thomas made the best biscuits.
Mildred said she was somewhat hesitant when she had to make the biscuits for the Thomas family because she knew she could not match those made by Mrs. Thomas.
When she married Raymond Chambers, the couple moved to Tiger Creek and lived there for 55 years as they raised their family.
They rasied five children: Judy Johnson, Ed Chambers, Terry Chambers, the late Harvey Chambers and the late Montie Chambers. Mildred has six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
“When I take a notion to cook, I can cook about anything,” Mildred said, although she added that she no longer cooks as much as she used to.
She considers herself a plain cook of some country cooking favorites. She always cooked for her family, and still cooks each day for her son, Terry.
She explained that her son works for the City of Elizabethton, but commutes each day to his home in Honaker, Va. Before making that long drive, he always stops by to visit and enjoy a home-cooked meal.
She cooked meals for her late husband during the years he was a resident in a local nursing home. “He had a good meal every day for those 14 years,” she said.
Mildred said she enjoys socializing and that she has always had the knack for making friends. She enjoys attending events and participating in activities at the Elizabethton Senior Citizens Center.
Mildred, who will be 89 years old on her next birthday, enjoys tending flowers in the gardens outside her home. Her gardens produce many stunning flowers that have been known to attract the attention of passersby as they travel past her home near the Covered Bridge and the Doe River.
Note: With gardeners starting to harvest plenty of summer squash, now is the perfect time to try this recipe.
2 cups squash, chopped
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten well
In a bowl, stir and mix the egg, cornmeal, flour, squash, onion, salt and pepper until thoroughly combined.
Heat the oil in a large skillet or a Fry Daddy electric fryer. Drop spoonfuls of the squash mixture into the oil. Cook until golden brown. You may need to turn Squash Puppies to ensure even frying.
This week’s column was written by Bryan Stevens, assistant editor of the Elizabethton STAR.
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