A little background from where my love for cooking came from and my inspiration for this website, would be from my grandmother and mother and the deep love I have for my family and their love of cooking. I was honored to have a piece written about me and my cooking journey by our local newspaper and wanted to share it with y'all. Hope you enjoy!
Mom, Mea, Tabetha
Woman using modern technology to share vintage recipes
Lake Charles American Press
By Rita LeBleu
Lake Charles resident Tabetha Garrison is using today's technology to collect and share family recipes from the past. The project allows her to pay tribute to the women who have stirred, kneaded, and stewed in the kitchen before her, using recipes jotted down on a scrap of paper, torn from a magazine, found in one of their many church cookbooks, or oftentimes committed to memory long ago.
Garrison's Great Aunt Bea Cooley Dunn Guillory (July 1916-October 2005) and Great Grandmother Malinda Jenette Cooley Dunn Heard Whatley (September 1914-December 2005) were known as great cooks. They married brothers who died young, and the sisters opened Dunn's Cafe in DeQuincy in the mid 1950's and early 1960's.
"Grandma Jenette went to work making pies in the back of the cafe for Aunt Bea, and bought the cafe sometime later," Garrison said. "When the railroad men would get off work, they'd come in for a hamburger and when they finished it, they'd order a whole pie to take home."
At night, Dunn's Cafe was a hangout for high school kids.
"Grandma had a jukebox," Garrison said. "But she wouldn't let the kids dance in restaurant, so they'd play a song inside and go outside to dance, jitterbug mostly."
Whatley's daughter Billie Jean Dunn LeBleu Brown-Mea (Me-un) to her grandchildren-soon took over pie-making duties at the cafe. She wasn't out of high school yet and remembers making as many as 40 pies at a time. Pies sold for $3 each or 50 cents a slice. After Brown married, she opened a daycare. Parents never had to worry about whether their children were well-fed and cared for.
"I remember her homemade pancakes were a big hit with her day care kids. Nobody makes pancakes like her." (She separates the egg yoks and whites, beats the whites and folds them in.) "Of course everything was good, especially her roast, rice and gravy," Garrison said.
Every holiday the family looked forward to Mea's cornbread dressing, candied yams, gumbo and shrimp Creole.
Garrison's Maw Maw Francis (Garrison) opened her own bakery in DeQuincy in the 1980's.
"When people realize I'm her granddaughter, they usually tell me they wish they could still get one of the solid chocolate eggs she made and decorated every Easter."
Garrison's mother, Mitzi LeBleu Wilkinson, valued her mother's expertise. After she married and started cooking for her own family, she had to call her mother to find out how to make certain dishes. Wilkinson realized the importance of collecting those recipes jotted down on a scrap of paper, torn from a magazine or newspaper, found in one of many church cookbooks (maybe with tweaked or corrected handwritten notes) and oftentimes committed to memory long ago. Wilkinson's aunt, Carol Hear, helped.
In 2012, Wilkinson dedicated the cookbook to Bea and Jenette Cooley who "loved cooking, spending time with family and serving others....Some of the recipes are treasured family favorites and some are new; however, all reflect the love of good cooking."
That sentence could have probably ended with the word love. Few would doubt that these women demonstrated their love with food. Garrison does.
"It gives me so much happiness to feed my family and have them enjoy it," she said. "It's like my love language. Just like I connect certain memories to family and food, my kids are connecting special memories and moments with their mom and food."
Tabitha, I'm so excited for this new adventure and can't wait to try some of your recipes. I don't know which one to try first. I know your momma is bursting with pride!
Naomi, thank you so much!! I am beyond over the moon to have started this and I have enjoyed these recipes so much I couldn’t help but want to share! Please stay tuned for lots more to come❣️
Reading this brought tears of joy to my eyes. You don't know me but I met Mitzi when we were in 2nd grade. We lived in the same neighborhood and bonded instantly. Though we haven't seen each other in decades, we chat from time to time always present in each other's lives one way or another. Mea was a phenomenal human being and amazing cook. I loved helping in the Daycare center she ran out of her house in Texas before moving to DeQuincy. I'm grateful you're sharing these amazing recipes and will enjoy following you. Love your family with all my heart. Your Mom is so proud of you and Bethany. Much love and success, beautiful girl.
Ronda Hartman Odom
Hey Ms Rhonda!
Thank you SO much for the kind words! 💕 This is so awesome to hear, Mea sure did touch many lives and made a lasting impact. She was such a special lady! Thank you for the support and I hope you continue to follow and find some yummy recipes to try out!!