Wednesday, November 25, 2020

52 Ancestors - GRATITUTDE: How I Learned to Cook

Here in the South, we don’t eat breakfast on Thanksgiving morning. Nope. We starve ourselves so that we can make ourselves almost sick enjoying the most important meal of the year: turkey, dressing and gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn pudding, cranberry sauce, collards, green beans, jello, rolls, and pumpkin pie. If you’re the cook, you have to get it right. A dry turkey can be forgiven, but the rest must be ON POINT.

When I was growing up, I looked forward to Thanksgiving dinner at my grandparents’ house because my grandmother was an excellent cook.

I wrote on the back of this photo: Grandma should not have
walked in front of the camera.
Left to right: Grandma Lucille Davis, Uncle Orvin Jr (Davis),
Aunt "Scoop" Davis, just a sliver of cousin Barbara Davis,
me with that fine perm, cousin Glenn Davis

To this day I still enjoy using her recipes, but surprisingly what skills I have at preparing Thanksgiving food came NOT from her but from ladies at my church.

In the 1980s and 90s, many of the churches hosted community Thanksgiving meals. At Cradock United Methodist Church, the Methodist Women and Methodist Men were in charge of our community dinner. We didn’t run out to a Cosco or Sam’s Club to purchase pre-packaged entrees and salads; we cooked from scratch. I don’t remember how many turkeys we roasted and carved in order to feed well over 200 people each year.


Some of the ladies in the 
Silver Anniversary Circle
Front: Cookie Muter
Back: Margaret Williams, Margaret Spruill, Sue ?,
Frances Deyerle, Marian Garrett

The Silver Anniversary Circle, of which my sister and I were among the youngest members, prepared all the sides.

Margaret Williams taught me how to make gravy. 

Betty Lewis and Margaret Spruill stood alongside me as we cut loaves of bread into cubes for homemade croutons for the dressing – no bag of Pepperidge Farm turkey stuffing at Cradock’s annual Thanksgiving Feast!


I copied the recipe - I guess we 
made this recipe at least 4 times!
For my family I have to 
reduce it, obviously.
Measuring sage. Mashing potatoes. Shuttling gravy boats to the buffet table. It was always a flurry of activity in the kitchen at Cradock Church. And always laughter. 

I have long forgotten the many casseroles and lemon meringue pies thoughtfully prepared at home by proud cooks for the numerous fellowship dinners, but I distinctly recall wonderful times spent in the kitchen with the men and women who kept that church alive. I miss those days being in the kitchen with all those wise women, those funny women, those crazy women.

Always a big turnout for a dinner at Cradock UMC
How did we ever get to our seats?

I am glad that I have my Cradock cookbook with recipes and names to remind me of so many good times in a church that once was alive and well feeding its sheep in more ways than with a church dinner.

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.


© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. Wendy, happy Thanksgiving! Hope you have a delicious meal.

  2. Oh my, if this didn’t make me cry. Such fun and sweet memories. Miss Grandmas cooking all the time! What a memory of church. The cleanest kitchen ever! That lady insisted on everything being washed down, can goods wiped off. No pandemic were dare cross the doorway of the Cradock United Methodist Church kitchen. Made my croutons yesterday!

  3. What a wonderful fellowship time that was with cooking and then serving and eating the delicious food prepared! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family Wendy!


  4. Wishing you a happy, peaceful and safe Thanksgiving, Wendy.

  5. What a wonderful memory. Isn't great you have photos, too!

  6. Those are some of the best times, Wendy, when we're both serving others and enjoying the company of the ladies in the kitchen while doing it! Fun post.

  7. The "must have" side at Thanksgiving has always been my paternal grandmother's stuffing which has no pre-packaged ingredients. My mother always made it, I've made it, and now my daughters are making it. I wish I knew where my grandmother got the recipe.

  8. What great memories! I love an old church cookbook and I'll read it like it is a novel.