La Rue Burt reads cookbooks like novels–perusing their pages, devouring every word, and delighting in the thousands of tantalizing recipes within their covers.
But reading those recipes is as far as she gets. “I don’t ever actually try a one of them,” La Rue says from her Bibb County home on the Cahaba River. “No need to, when IÕve got all my ‘old faithfuls’ to fall back on.”
And when La Rue says “old” faithfuls, she means “old, old, old,” recipes from decades gone by. Take the Chocolate Cake recipe she shares with us here in “The Country Kitchen,” for instance. It’s been in La Rue’s family for a good 80 years, and she says you won’t find one any better.
Her Banana Cupcakes recipe dates back to her high-school days, in the ’50s. It’s one of many recipes that she, her mother and a sister took turns copying down from a daily cooking show that all three watched religiously. And the recipe for her much-in-demand Macaroni and Cheese is the very one that they served up at the old Brittling’s Cafeteria in Birmingham. La Rue got the recipe years ago, courtesy of an “insider” who worked at the eatery.
La Rue lives on Little River Farms, a 650-acre Brierfield farm that she and her husband, Bill, bought in 1969. Although the farm’s now devoted to timber, Bill–a full-time electrician and part-time farmer–used to grow bumper crops of soybeans, wheat and grain sorghum on the place. In fact, Bill was about halfway through harvesting a good crop of beans in November 1984 when he died, suddenly and tragically. La Rue will never forget how all the neighbors came and helped her and the two boys, Bill and Brad, get that crop in.
The Burts had 15 years to go on a 30-year mortgage on the farm when Bill died, but La Rue was determined to pay the thing off, which she did. Today, La Rue lives in the farmhouse that Bill had completely wired but never got to see finished. Bill and Brad and their wives, along with La Rue’s four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, all live in Bibb County, plenty close enough to enjoy La Rue’s fine country cooking on a fairly regular basis.
In 1996, La Rue retired after 31 years with the U.S. Postal Service. But for La Rue, retirement wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. She endured six months of leisure, then went to a nursery in Pelham one day to get some potting soil and wound up getting hired to work two days a week and some weekends. She’s also an independent sales agent for Longerberger, the prestigious basket company. “IÕve probably got too much going on,” she says. “But thatÕs how I like it.”
Enjoy these “old faithfuls” from La RueÕs kitchen. Odds are, they’ll become classics for your family, too.