Patsy Fincher of Mobile County says she can’t imagine how she and her husband John had time for anything before they retired. “We’re so busy now, I wonder how we found time to work,” she says jokingly, “but we’ve really enjoyed the past couple of years.”
Before retiring, Patsy drove a school bus for Mobile County. “It was wonderful, especially when my children were young enough that I drove them to school,” she says.
Meanwhile, her husband John managed timber and operated a trucking business — jobs Patsy says have been hard for him to give up. “He’s sort of trying to be retired,” she says. “He has thoroughly enjoyed every minute he spent out in the woods over the last 20 years, though.”
Patsy explains that while they have done some catering during their 40 years of marriage, they were never in the catering business per se. “We never really did any advertising or charged more than what it took to cover the cost of the food,” she says. “But we cooked for customers of ours and friends who asked us to feed a crowd. It was always more of a hobby.”
Patsy got an early start in the kitchen because she grew up on a farm as the only girl with five brothers. “It wasn’t a huge farm, but it takes a lot of cooking and ironing when a family has that many people. Back then all the hoeing and picking cotton was done by hand. So, I didn’t mind leaving the field early to get supper started,” she recalls.
John comes from a farm family as well, and did a little row cropping before dedicating more time to his timber operation.
Patsy says his love of wide-open spaces applies to his cooking as well. “He is strictly an outdoor cook,” she says. “I always say he’s got to have room to throw meat and sling grease, because he likes to grill and fry fish. I try to get him to bake some, and tell him how much I think he’d like it, but he hasn’t shown any interest so far.”
When she asked John about recipes for “The Country Kitchen,” he told her he only had a few tips people might find helpful. “He says the secret to good barbecue is starting with good quality meat and Lawry’s seasoned salt, and the key to a good fish fry is fillets from small catfish and peanut oil for frying,” says Patsy as if she might have heard those rules more than a time or two before.
Patsy and John have two children, and see them and their families often. Daughter Crystal has two children, John Sanders (3) and Katie Jewel (1), and son Chad has an 8-year-old named Anna Catherine.
Of course, the holidays are always better with family around. Patsy says her recipes may not seem like holiday fare in the traditional sense, but several of the following recipes are her holiday staples while others reflect her family’s love of entertaining.
“Tuna Paté makes a beautiful holiday hors d’oeuvre, and I make lots of Glorified Graham for gifts,” says Patsy. “It’s also easy enough to make up a batch for unexpected company. Shrimp New Orleans is a recipe we’ve made in large quantities for luncheons.”