This month’s “Country Kitchen” recipes come from an award-winning cook—although Nella Dean Earnest doesn’t like to think of herself along those lines.
“There’s not one thing that’s special about my cooking,” she insists. “A whole lot of people are a lot better cooks than I am.”
Come on now, Nella Dean, put that modesty aside. Anybody who’s captured the blue ribbon in not one, but two, State Pork Cooking Contests has a claim to fame.
OK, so Nella Dean insists she only entered those contests because she wanted to make sure Walker County was represented. But the fact is, she claimed first place in the 1998 pork cook-off with her Biscuit Stuffing Atop Chops, and a mere two years later, she was back in the winner’s circle with an original Sausage Ring. In anybody’s book, two first-place wins in a statewide cooking contest puts her in the category of champion chef, whether she wants to accept that distinction or not.
As a proud and active member of the Walker County Farmers Federation’s Women’s Committee, Nella Dean is sincere about wanting to promote the committee and not herself. She’s answered the call to represent Walker County in the Federation’s annual Cotton Fashion and Sewing Contest, too. Although she’s taken top honors in that competition as well, to hear Nella Dean tell it, she isn’t much of a seamstress, either.
Nella Dean and Charles, her husband of 44 years, are lifelong residents of Parrish, a community south of Jasper. While Charles, before he retired, went to work in the coal mines every day, Nella Dean stayed home, managed the household and looked after the couple’s two now-grown children. “And never once in all those years did I ever have trouble finding plenty to do right here at home,” she notes.
Growing up as the second oldest of 14 Kitchens children—six girls, eight boys—Nella Dean had ample opportunities to get the basics of cooking down pat. All the Kitchens girls did, and a few years ago, they collaborated to produce Cooking in the Kitchenses’ Kitchens, a true treasure of family favorites.
Some of the “Country Kitchen” recipes that follow are straight out of that cookbook; the rest are just some of the ones that Nella Dean uses most often and that she and her family love best.