In the South, food is something to bond over. For Montgomery County’s Frances Ard, food also serves as a way to share a legacy of love.
“When I was a child, everyone cooked. It’s just how we lived,” said Ard. “I was especially fortunate to have two extraordinary cooks in my family. My mom could cook anything, and you always left the table feeling full. But my brother? He’s the best cook I know.”
Ard’s brother may be popular at the family’s table, but it’s her recipes that have proven to be award-winning.
“Two good friends entered cooking contests with my recipes, and they both won,” she recalled. “So when it came time for the [Alabama Farmers Federation] Heritage Cooking Contest this past year, I knew I needed to take the leap.”
While her recipe didn’t win the state contest, it won the Montgomery County preliminary contest. That recipe and others from the state contest are available on the Federation’s website at AlfaFarmers.org.
Though she’s known for her mouth watering dishes now — especially around her friends, her bridge group and the Woodland United Methodist congregation — Ard said it took her a little while to learn her way around the kitchen.
“I could get by, but I didn’t really know what I was doing,” Ard confessed, recalling life before settling down with Montgomery County Farmers Federation Board Member James Ard. “It took some time after we got married before I really came into my own in the kitchen. Now, cooking is a creative outlet for me.”
Three children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren later, the Ards love opening their home and kitchen to friends and family. They also enjoy preparing dishes with free-range eggs from their chickens and using seasonal vegetables whenever possible. The trick behind any great dish, Frances says, is simply finding the time to prepare it.
“Sometimes, a peanut butter sandwich is the best, quickest meal you could ask for,” she said. “But even the simplest dishes can become fun if you put a personal twist on it.”
Recipes shared here are some of the Ard family’s favorites.