Someone’s in the Kitchen with Pauline PittmanPublished 1:15pm Saturday, April 5, 2014
Merle Monahan/Contributing Writer
WAKEFIELD—Pauline Pittman loves to cook, but with all of her family gone she has slowed down considerably, she said.
But recently, Pittman found a way to get back into the swing of things, right in her own backyard.
“My son used to have a small hardware store in a building behind my home,” she said, “and when he passed away, I just closed the door.
“Then one day, I decided that I needed to find a way to use the building. I sold the contents, cleaned up the building and made it into a small cafe’-type setting. I purchased a range and set up several tables and chairs.”
Pittman said she can seat 14 comfortably and has already used it a number of times.
“We have little socials for my Sunday school class and when a member has a birthday, we have a party.”
Pittman pointed to a huge rocking chair with a laugh.
“That’s where the honored guest sits,” she said.
Pittman emphasized that the little “get-away” is a private endeavor.
“It is just a good place to have a family or friends gathering. It also gives me and some of my best friends a chance to cook for someone other than ourselves.”
Pittman, 81, was born and raised on a farm near Ivor. She remembers her younger years with fondness.
“My grandfather lived with us and he used to let me trail along behind him when he plowed the field with a mule and plow. He was a lot more lenient than my father, who thought I should be doing something more constructive.
“Mama, on the other hand, was easy-going. I used to watch her in the kitchen, where I learned most of what I know about cooking. I still cook the old-fashioned way.”
Pittman graduated from Ivor High School and worked as a secretary until her marriage to Burt Pittman in 1956. Sadly, her husband died in 1978.
Residing in Wakefield, Pittman became her husband’s secretary until his death, after which she began working for the State Department of Agriculture. She retired from the state in 1995.
Then, her only child, Dave, passed away in 2006.
“Dave had a little business on our property here,” she said, “and I helped him in the store, kept the books and served as clerk, things like that.
“It’s been hard up until now for me to come over here. It is getting easier, though,” she added.
Other activities have helped her cope with Dave’s death.
Pitman said she always has been and still is active in her church, Wakefield Baptist, where she helps deliver food to shut-ins and the underprivileged, especially at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Pittman also is a member of the Wakefield Sunshine Seniors and serves as assistant director.
She is pleased with her little backyard retreat, she said.
“It has given me a purpose and I can get some use out of the building,” Pittman said.
“It also gives me a chance to cook more. When there is an activity here, I usually cook two or three things, while the guests bring a covered dish.”
NAME: Pauline Pittman
OCCUPATION: Retired from the State Department of Agriculture, Division of Veterinary Services.
FAVORITE FOOD: Crab cakes
LEAST FAVORITE FOOD: Asparagus
WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU REMEMBER COOKING: Scrambled eggs
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR WORST COOKING EXPERIENCE: I was baking biscuits once and got so busy doing something else that I forgot about them. I remembered them pretty quickly, though, when they started to burn.
WHAT IS ONE INGREDIENT YOU CAN’T COOK WITHOUT: Salt. It gives things a much better flavor.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU HAVE LEARNED ABOUT COOKING: Have all of your ingredients on hand and in sight when you begin cooking.
WHO IS THE BEST COOK YOU HAVE EVER KNOWN AND WHY: My mother, Bertha Brown. Times were hard when I was growing up; we were still going through the Great Depression and there was a shortage of everything, but mama had a way of making some of the best meals. We always had a big garden from which she canned everything she could. Then we had pigs and chickens, so we had meat. I can still remember her fruitcakes. Our family wasn’t that large, I only had one sister and my grandfather lived with us, but she made a fruitcake large enough to last until spring, I think. She would cook it in a large dish pan with a tin can in the middle of the pan for more even cooking. Then she would cover it with cheese cloth and layer fresh apples on top to keep it moist. I still cook the way she did. I don’t think you can beat old-fashioned cooking.
IF YOU COULD EAT ONE THING FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, WHAT WOULD IT BE: My favorite food, crab cakes, of course, but I’m partial to coconut pie as well.
1 lb dry navy beans
3 oz uncooked cured Virginia seasoning ham.
Directions: Soak beans in room-temperature water overnight. Next day, in medium-size pot, cut up seasoning ham into small pieces and fry in pot for a few minutes. Add drained beans and enough water to cover beans to seasoning ham and boil for two hours, or until beans are done.4
One frying chicken, cut up.
Breading mix, commercial
Directions: Soak cut-up chicken in salt water for two hours. Remove and pat dry.
Pour enough oil in large frying pan for chicken pieces to be about half way submerged. Heat to medium-high. Bread chicken pieces with breading mix and fry until golden brown and juices run clear. Drain on paper towels.