Dawn Dillard

Editor’s note: Jack Dillard’s column has been published in the Marshall News Messenger for a number of years. Due to health complications, his column has been retired and is now being written by Dawn Dillard, an East Texas gal who is married to Jerry Dillard, Jack Dillard’s middle son. She is the proud daughter of Rev. Jim and Kelly Walsh of Bethany and a graduate of Elysian Fields High School. Dawn and Jerry have three children and she is the high school choir director at Hallsville High School. She is very active in the music ministry at Mobberly Baptist Church and in her spare time, she loves anything to do with music, cooking, reading and being with family. The News Messenger would like to thank Jack Dillard for all his years of writing and dedication. We are proud to keep this column alive with the Dillard family, through Dawn.

Home cooking is a southern tradition.

It’s just what most of us grew up doing. As I’ve said before, my mom is an incredible seamstress. We didn’t have a lot of money, but I was always “dressed to the nines” because of her sewing skills. But, there was, often times, a “quid pro quo” in our household when it came to me getting a new outfit (especially when I mentioned “needing” it the night before I “wanted” it). IF I were to get the new clothes, then I would cook supper, and by cooking, I don’t mean opening a box of mac and cheese or putting a frozen pizza in the oven; I mean COOKING! I was putting full vegetable meals on the table by the time I was around 10. Fresh peas, new potatoes, fried okra. YUM! Oh yes, and we didn’t have a lot of meat available- kinda pricey- so bologna cooked up in the oven or fried in the skillet worked just fine. When thinking about southern cooking, there are some things that immediately come to mind- some with fond memories; some, not so much. Examples: “shortening”. “Put about a tablespoon of shortening in those peas when you’re cooking them.” Mom would say. Translation: solid Crisco; not oil.

Chow-chow: A great topping for those purple hull peas. I showed my age several years ago in my high school choir room when we were working on a particular song for contest. The piece was correct as far as notes and rhythms, but didn’t have any “pizzazz.” So, I told the kids “you need to spice it up some; put a little chow-chow on your peas.” They looked at me like I had spoken a foreign language. I told them to go ask their parents, check that…..their grandparents what chow-chow was.

One girl came back the next day and said “Mrs. Dillard! Chow- chow is like a spicy relish!” Yes, I teach the important things in life in my choir classroom from time to time. “Mellorine”. Who can forget a big scoop of this, um, food product(?) on a hot summer day? What stands out most is the nice film it left on the roof of my mouth ... for hours.

“You only live once; lick the bowl!” Unknown

The end of July in Texas means hot! Period. I sleep with the air conditioning going, a ceiling fan and a pedestal fan blowing right in my face. But, I remember growing up when I slept plenty cool at night at Mongoes (my dad’s mom) house. No air conditioning; just crisp, white, cotton sheets, and a box fan in one window that was across the room from an open window to pull the breeze in. I slept cool as a cucumber.

I think we get spoiled to creature comforts, but I do love my air conditioner and my fans.

Things that can help you stay cool in the summer: keep plenty of sweet tea in the refrigerator, keep fans going all the time even with air conditioning, watch “Christmas in July” on the Hallmark channel, and don’t look at the humidity level or the heat index on the Weather Channel.

“Being happy never goes out of style,” Lilly Pulitzer.

— Dawn Dillard is a proud East Texas gal who loves all things southern especially cooking, music and family. She can be reached via email at DLDplays88@aol.com.