If Suzanne Pearson ever had any leisure time, she might actually choose to spend some of it in the kitchen, where she might actually discover that cooking can be a pleasure.
But as the mother of three girls—ages 9, 6 and 1—and as the wife of a hard-working Pickens County farmer, leisure time for Suzanne is nonexistent. For her, cooking is just one of the chores.
“We’re a family that loves to eat, though, so that means somebody’s got to cook, and I’m it,” Suzanne says. “It’s not that I really dread cooking, but I don’t look forward to, either.”
It will come as no surprise, then, that Suzanne opts for dishes that allow her to cook, serve and clean up in as little time as possible. Fortunately, her family is easy to please at mealtime, especially her husband, John.
“He’s not picky, just as long as there’s enough of it—and as long as you don’t make the mistake of telling him something’s a casserole,” Suzanne says. “He’s always had a thing about casseroles. Tell him it’s a chicken casserole, and he won’t eat it; tell him it’s a ‘chicken dish,’ and he’ll dig in.”
The following recipes from Suzanne are the simple, no-frills kind that helps put family-pleasing meals (and desserts) on the table without working yourself to death. Included among Suzanne’s recipes is one for which John’s mother, the late Eleanor Craft Pearson, was known: her homemade chicken and dumplings. Suzanne admits she’s never tried the recipe because, to be honest, she’s convinced hers wouldn’t hold a candle to John’s mother’s. But she wanted to share the recipe, as a tribute to “Alla.”
Alabama Farmers Federation members first got to know John and Suzanne Pearson of Pickens County’s Benevola community in December 1991, when the couple won the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Outstanding Young Farm Family award. The Pearsons made it into the final 1991 OYFF competition after having earlier in the year been named the OYFF forestry division winners.
Today, however, forestry takes a back seat in their farming operation, behind poultry, hogs, cattle and hay. The hay, planted on what used to be cotton acreage, is irrigated, and this year’s crop was a good one. In addition to his two full-time employees, John had all manner of part-timers helping out.
“I think he had the whole Gordo football team out there working some days,” Suzanne says.
Ten years after winning the OYFF honors, the Pearsons and their daughters—Neely, Ivy and Sydney—remain an outstanding (and relatively young) farm family.
Try these recipes, and you might want to nominate Suzanne for the outstanding farm cook award.