by Lauren Sangster
In 1989, Martha’s aunt, Crystal McKnight Scarlett, devised a way to raise money to help upkeep the properties. Martha writes, “The annual reunion was always a time of good food shared and many a recipe changed hands for favorite dishes. Crystal thought a family cookbook could be produced then sold, with proceeds going to the cemetery fund…. anyone [even friends] could contribute their recipe and it would bear the name of the person submitting it…. soon recipes poured in at an alarming rate. She asked me to type them up in the format the publishing company required. So, on an old manual typewriter I started typing recipes that were written on anything…regular paper, note cards, index cards, napkins, envelopes, etc.,..they were typed double-spaced with carbon paper copies, as copy machines were not home equipment in those years…. often, one person submitted multiple recipes, so she [Crystal] assigned not only the name of that person, but also names of anyone in their family. If you see my father’s name on a recipe, rest assured he did not make the recipe…. it was probably submitted by my mother! …Many family members were involved in that process…. Crystal financially backed the original costs…. family members bought the recipe books for themselves, for gifts, and to take back home to sell to others. Boxes of books were hauled to reunions for years until they were all sold.”
The first Family Favorites recipe book was “dedicated to the Crawford and Howell heirs, and to all who in the past have served as officers and have worked to keep the reunion going for the past sixty years and more.” That year (1989-1990) Cousin Warren Howell serving as President, Ora Lee Howell as Vice-President, Martha M. Robinson as Secretary, and Wanda D. Wilson as Treasurer. Years later, a second printing of the cookbook, with additional recipes, was compiled and sold.
Martha said, “Some [recipes] may have been reduced to writing for the first time…. before then, ‘Honey I don’t have a recipe, I just make it!’ was frequently heard.” To this day, if one of Martha’s daughters asks what’s in a recipe, the reply comes, “It’s in the cookbook!” They know where to look.
Martha’s story caused me to remember the first Howell Family Favorites cookbook my mother (Edith Howell Newton) gave to me. Inscribed inside is, “To Janet, With Love, Mom.” She then noted throughout the book every recipe she really liked with, “Very Good!”
Thinking about the books reminds me how it was a big deal in the days leading up to the reunion for Mom and her siblings to decide which recipes to make. I imagine the same conversations took place in many other households. I remember when we’d arrive to the reunion watching folks place their dishes on the tables. When it came time to eat, there were so many it was hard to choose which one to take food from. It wasn’t unusual when a dish was emptied quickly to hear something like, “Well, everyone loved that recipe!” One of my favorite recipes back then was the broccoli casserole.
To commemorate the Family Favorites cookbooks, I am sharing some of the recipes provided by family members. Enjoy!
Sometime around 2000, Betty Howell, wife of Glenn Harold Howell, made a quilt for family members to sign their names when they attend. The quilt is now a cherished part of our family and it is on display at the family reunions.
Cousin Misty shares, “…They had the family quilt there with all of the signatures…. We [all] signed our names beside my grandfather, Everett Howell.”
The last time I was able to travel home to attend a family reunion was a year it was held at Natural Bridge State Park. As is done every year, a sermon was preached, hymns sang, and prayers said. Acknowledgement of the oldest living in attendance was given – today that is cousin Wanda Wilson. There was the call of new arrivals in the family and, sadly, mention of those departed from us. And, of course, we ate.
Any family member may be buried in the Howell Cemetery. Cousin Misty shares, “On the way home (from the reunion in 2012) my dad wanted to stop by the [Howell] cemetery…. I got to see the angel statue of America Howell and see where my grandparents and all my ancestors were buried. I listened to my dad, Aunt Judy and Aunt Edie as they looked over the pastures and reminisced about their childhood…. My dad told me that day that he wanted to be buried there, because he was battling cancer, and he wanted to be with his parents.”
Uncle Louis passed away last year. His ashes were buried in the Howell Cemetery this year, just prior to the publishing of this article. His sisters, my aunts Nellie (Lorraine) and Judy, as well as my cousin Wesley were able to be there – socially distanced, of course.
When the reunion was held near Irvine, I remember each year on the way home our family would stop at a cold natural spring to fill empty jugs with the fresh water. We’d then stick our faces under the spout. It was the simple life, animated by giggles and squeals from the icy coldness on a hot July day. I can smell the earth and feel the water now as I think back. I had not a care in the world in those moments.
Cousin Tony remembers, “My grandmother [Crystal] called it [the cold water spring] Clay Hill…. During the Civil War she said a slave named Clay hid the horses of the families in a cave in the area and they called it Clay Hill.”
A funny. Cousin Tony also shares that when he was young, maybe 9-12 years old, his grandmother told him folk made “shine” (Kentuckian folk know what that means) from the spring.
Tony, “I wanted to follow the source of the spring but she [Crystal] wouldn’t let me go up there because of the bootleggers or possible moonshiners having a still.” I don’t blame her. I imagine an interruption of shine making would not have been welcome!
Cousin Misty fondly remembers, “As we were driving home [from the reunion], my dad asked me to stop at the spring so he could share a drink of water with my brother Wesley and me. As I stood there and watched my father bend over and let the spring water run over his head to cool down, I remember thinking how great it was that I got to share this moment with my dad and one of my siblings, just like so many of my ancestors over the past 100 years.”
Our ancestor’s home place was sold many years ago. It most recently passed hands to a woman named Mary who found several artifacts on the property. Mary has mounted many of the tools found around the place. I appreciate that Mary made an effort to attend a recent family reunion to learn about the history of family members buried in the cemeteries, and to allow our family to get to know her. I met Mary last year and listened as she spoke of her interest in our family history. Her dogs wouldn’t stop following me as I walked from one cemetery to the next. I told Mary I would welcome their company, so they were allowed to join me as I paid respect to my ancestors. It was my doggie bliss moment!
As a last, if anyone wonders why Nancie Lee, a Crawford, was buried in the Howell Cemetery, located on the same property just a few thousand yards from the Crawford Cemetery, it wasn’t because she’d married a Howell. As a Crawford, Nancie Lee had inherited hundreds of acres of the surrounding land. The story from Cousin Martha is that “…she [Nancie Lee] got tired of pigs rooting into the Crawford [Cemetery], so she said the next person buried will be up on that hill!” The “hill” she meant is where the Howell Cemetery is located, not far from the site of W.E. and Nancie Lee’s home place. W.E. had a fairly short walk to visit Nancie Lee’s gravesite. Bless his heart.
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being…” – Ephesians 3:16
Contributors to this article (in order of mention) are: Betty Baker, Gregory C. Mays, Martha McKnight Robinson, Anthony Moberly, Misty Hudson Logan
Janet Lauren Sangster was born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky. She now lives in Portland, Maine, where she regularly contributes articles to the Portland Press newspaper. She still finds that her most carefree moments are when she spends time in a country setting.
From the family Cookbook:
Taco Chops – W. Scott (Scotty) Durbin
4 to 6 pork chops or tenderloin ¾ c. rice
1-1/2 c. water 1 pkg. taco seasoning
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce 1 green pepper, sliced
Brown pork chops or tenderloin. Mix together water, tomato sauce, rice and taco seasoning. Place in casserole dish with chops on top. Top with green pepper slices. Bake in a 350 degrees oven for 1-1/2 hours.
Corn Pudding – Wanda D. Wilson
1 c. cream-style corn 1-1/2 c. milk
3 Tbsp. cornstarch 1 Tbsp. margarine
½ tsp. salt 3 eggs, beaten
½ c. sugar
Mix sugar, salt, cornstarch, and corn together. Add butter and milk and heat slowly, stirring constantly, until margarine melts. Stir 3 beaten eggs into mixture. Bake 45 minutes at 400 degrees. Recipe may be doubled.
Golden Tassies – Eva Durbin Rice
6 oz. pkg. Philadelphia cream cheese 1-1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. butter (2 sticks), 2 Tbsp. butter pinch of salt
2 c. flour 1 Tbsp. vanilla
1-1/2 c. broken pecans 2 eggs
Cream softened cheese and butter. Blend in flour and chill for 1 hour. Cream two tablespoons butter and 1-1/2 cups brown sugar. Add salt, one tablespoon of vanilla, and 2 eggs, beaten well. Add pecans. Make balls of dough [from the chilled flour mixture] and press in tin pans. Put filling on top of dough crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.
Cornmeal Fried Chicken – Nellie (Lorraine) Howell [Whitaker]
1 chicken, cut up
Option 1: 1 1/2 c. cornmeal
1/2 c. flour
salt and pepper to taste
1-1/2 c. cornmeal 1 c. flour 1 c. milk 2 beaten eggs
salt & pepper to taste
Option 1: Dip chicken pieces into mixture. Salt and pepper and fry in cooking oil.
Option 2: Dip chicken pieces into mixture of milk, beaten eggs and salt and pepper. Roll in cornmeal/flour mixture and deep fry. Turned out good, I really liked the crust.
Broccoli Casserole – Dorothy McKnight Mays
4 (16 oz.) pkgs. broccoli spears
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
¼ lb. Velveeta cheese
2 cans onion rings
Cook broccoli as directed on package; drain. Place in a 2-quart casserole dish. Heat soup and cheese until cheese has melted. Pour soup mixture over broccoli. Top with onion rings. Place under broiler 1 minute, or until onion rings are browned.
Fresh Strawberry Pie – Paula White
1 c. sugar 2-1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1-1/2 c. water 1 qt. fresh strawberries
3 Tbsp (half box) strawberry gelatin
Cook sugar, water and cornstarch until thick. Add gelatin. Cool slightly. Add prepared strawberries. Pour into baked 9-inch piecrust. Chill. Garnish with whipped topping.