• 73°

Food brings a measure of comfort

By Stephanie Williams Dean

Bless Your Spoon

 

Food brings a measure of comfort to all, especially during difficult times. Carolyn Jones’ ministry began the first day she delivered a chicken pie to the home of someone sick.

On a Friday afternoon in 2014, while talking with a friend, the subject came up about first fruit passages in biblical scripture – we are called upon to give our very best to others.

“Upon that note, I could not get it out of my head the entire weekend – I couldn’t sleep. I prayed to the Lord for sleep and promised to handle it on Monday morning.”

When Monday arrived, she fulfilled the promise. She instructed her staff to put away a pie each day – the very best one. They began delivering them to sick folks. But people were afraid of someone they didn’t know coming to their door – or thought there must be a catch if given something for free.

“I thought Gee, this is not going too well.”

Being off the beaten path, her business in Advance – A Full Measure Catering – was struggling.

But, by word of mouth, her ministry continued to grow. “God has used the things in my life. I have learned a whole lot about bad stuff in life.”

Through personal loss, Carolyn realized she had the power to comfort other people through food. People are people whether they’re in church or not – and often need help. “I can give them a chicken pie to take to someone. I can help them, and they can help someone else. It just continues like a domino effect.”

People began to show up at her store, saying things like, “I don’t know why I’m here. I just turned in here.”

Carolyn would have a chance to talk to them, and then they’d open up. Some were burdened with taking care of elderly parents or sick husbands.

“It was a God thing. I’ve had people sobbing here, but God has used our place as a stopping off place. I’m always amazed at who He brings through the door. God has truly blessed me.”

Carolyn began a career in cooking at Calvary Baptist in Winston-Salem, where her daughter, Jennifer, attended school. When Jennifer began having seizures, Carolyn started looking for work closer to home, so she could be nearby, if necessary.

The hiring manager had been the food director at Calvary for quite some time, but Carolyn was confident of her cooking skills and ability to cook for groups of 20-25. The job was part-time assisting in the kitchen – she could handle that with no problem.

At that time, she was employed full time on second shift at the law firm of Womble Carlyle as a word processor, working with computers.

“The manager had a lot of questions and wondered how I would handle both jobs. I told him I was highly motivated, dependable, and could do anything I put my mind to.”

The school was having trouble hiring cooks. Even though the boss had reservations about how she could handle it, he hired her. Being a person with tremendous energy, Carolyn had no problem handling the job and assisted the school year while also continuing to work full time for the law firm.

Six weeks into the job, the person Carolyn was assisting quit – never to be heard from again. “I went from part-time to full time cooking for the school.”

In her spare time, she typed menus and planned recipes for the kids. In time, Carolyn knew what to order, how to cook, and how to handle the cleanup. At that time, the kitchen was small and compact – easy for one person to get around and cook.

Also, she began a program where students could help and be rewarded for their assistance in the kitchen.

“Hardly any kids wanted to eat there. I heard nightmare stories. So before long, the majority of kids wanted to eat in the cafeteria rather than bring lunch from home.”

The struggle was teaching them to try something new. Carolyn was a new cook but knew she’d have them hooked if they’d just try something. By end of the year, there was a really good turnout.

One year, she handled the church and school. When Calvary offered her a full-time position, she turned in her notice to Womble. She directed both for a year before being offered the opportunity to take over at the church.

She handled many large events such as weddings, rehearsal dinners, and the State Baptist Convention every year for at least 600 people. In addition, food services sent directors to Johnson and Wales classes in Charlotte.  She’d return and apply what was learned in class.

“We even went to the governor’s mansion and were taught by his chef because he was a member of the church food service directors,” she said.

Carolyn vividly remembers an extraordinary moment back in the ‘90s when Dr. David Jeremiah was at the church for a week-long conference. The kitchen was serving breakfast, lunch, and supper the entire week.

She walked into the conference room and found Dr. Jeremiah on his knees. At the time, he was undergoing chemo for cancer.

“I felt the presence of the Lord in that room when he was praying for the people who were coming to his conference.”

Carolyn’s no stranger to hardship and loss. After working at Calvary for 17 years, she took a short-term absence because her husband, Ray, was terminally ill. He passed away in 2006.

“I’ve always been hard working. My husband became disabled in his ‘40s. He became sick, and then we lost our son in a car accident. That brought on additional problems.”

Carolyn returned to work but later decided to start her own business. At the end of that year, she resigned.

“I was looking and praying to find a bank that would loan me money to start my own business. In December of 2006, Truliant Federal Credit Union gave me my start.”

Carolyn based her menu on what she cooks best – mostly recipes she had developed at Calvary – like baked spaghetti, baked ziti, and chicken pies.

Winkler Bakery in Old Salem had a Moravian chicken pie bake-off. She researched back to the 1800s to learn how they made the pies back then.

“The first pie took us four days to make because we went back to the way they were done back then – and I won. We built the business on that chicken pie.”

Homestyle recipes and desserts are Carolyn’s favorite foods to prepare – those comfort foods like southern casseroles. Paula Deen had her attention for a long time. But now, Carolyn has transitioned to a healthier way of eating with less fat and sugar.

Her mom, Gaynelle Crouse, is still alive and 98 years old. When Carolyn has questions about certain types of foods or how something’s prepared, she calls her mom, who was an excellent cook. Even though she’s older, she still has a lot of knowledge about cooking. Everything her mom ever made was homemade. Gaynelle had her own garden, canned her own veggies, and back then, the milkman still came to her door. The family was used to good food and quality meals. And lots of desserts after supper every night.

“Sometimes I’ll call her and ask how she made some old recipe like millionaire pie. Back then, they might have used an additional ingredient that’s not in current recipes.”

Her mom has six shoeboxes of her own recipes, and Carolyn’s gone through them all. When she was 12, for her hope chest, her mother gave her an old Betty Crocker recipe book that’s not made anymore.

“The new Betty Crocker books aren’t the same. The old one starts with how you should dress and look when you begin to cook – and suggests you put on perfume, so cooking doesn’t seem like such a chore. I still have that book – it’s in shreds,” she said.

Her mother has a copy, too, but won’t give it up yet. Gaynelle still cooks a little bit, although not from recipe books due to some vision loss. However, she still lives independently on Carolyn’s brother’s farm in King.

Raised in a family with four brothers, Carolyn has special memories of her childhood related to food.

“On Friday night, we’d have the family movie night on TV. Mom would make homemade potato chips and homemade doughnuts. We’d have snacks while we watched TV together.”

No stranger to hardship either, Gaynelle raised the children by herself – their dad left when Carolyn was in the third grade. The children grew up during hard times. There was one winter the furnace went out, and they had to wait for a week to get it repaired. The family lived in a two-story house, so the children had to bring their beds downstairs and put them in front of the fireplace. Her mom chopped wood to keep the fire going during a week of snow. Of course, the kids thought it was great fun. But by the end of the week, they were out of wood.

“She actually took some old chairs and chopped them up. And we think we have hard times? It’s nothing like what she had back then. But the Lord has blessed Mom with a long life for sure.”

Through prayer, faith, and determination, Carolyn’s store has continued to evolve. They now offer foods suitable for The Next 56 Days weight loss program. The flours used are different, and entrées are made especially for the program. People are having much success. Diabetics have lost weight and are now off their medications.

“I prayed about this program and talked to the Lord. I needed to add product and needed His guidance. The very next morning, a friend came and was doing that diet somewhere else. She wanted to come work for me. I had prayed for this.”

Carolyn hired her friend and another girl to assist with the program and started it at the beginning of a year because that’s the time people are looking to make changes in their diet and have healthier lifestyles.

“When my friend finished talking, I had no idea what she said because I was thinking about my prayer the night before. It was such a God thing.”

When they started, Carolyn already had space for the product. Her grandson helped close in one area of the store, and a customer offered two free freezers.”

“The good Lord was directing that,” she said.

Their products are under the USDA, which entitles them to ship all over the US. They’re inspected by the NC Agriculture Dept.

“We can make anything without meat on weekends, but meats have to be prepared during the week for inspection.”

The store stocks six quiches, three sizes of pot pies, beef, chicken, and Moravian pot pies, meatloaves, homemade soups and stews, and all kinds of gourmet desserts. They ship foods, too. You can have a pie shipped directly to your door.

Looking back, Carolyn acknowledges God as her refuge. When she has a question, she takes it to Him and asks for the answers.

“I just tell Him what I need, and He puts those people in my path. After I ask, I look for answers. I’m looking to run into or have someone come in my building who has the answer.”

Her practice of turning it over to God has grown her business to where it is now and put her in touch with wonderful people.

In fact, God blessed her again when His plan was for her to marry Elisha Robertson, Pastor at New Bethel Baptist Church in Tobaccoville. The couple has been married since October 2017.

“We work together on a lot of ministry projects. When I’m tied up at the store, he’s a big help to me.”

This year, Carolyn’s focused on expansion and is considering a second shift or additional location. She’s looking for a kitchen to lease or buy that has an area for catering or a space that could be made into a suitable kitchen. “Now, we’re running out of room. I’ve built up my business and need to figure out how to bring catering services to Davie County.”

A good cook is satisfied when people eat their food and enjoy it. That’s the satisfaction Carolyn gets when someone tries something and loves it – that’s better than money.

“The retail part of cooking – the business surprises me. I never thought I’d want to be tied down to one spot. But the business allows me to help and minister to others.”

Not surprisingly, the name of Carolyn’s business came from a prayer.

“I woke up reciting scripture in Luke 6:38. The Bible talks about how the Lord likes a correct measurement. I’d rather give too much than not enough – a good measure.”

Stop in and chat with Carolyn at her store beside the restaurant in Advance – right below the new fire department on NC 801 and across the railroad tracks.

As part of Carolyn’s community ministry, if you know someone who is sick, readers may pick up a free chicken pie at the store.

Just as God gave us Jesus as his First Fruit – God’s very best, Carolyn shares her best, hoping it will provide comfort to someone who’s dealing with a death in their family or home from the hospital.

Luke 6:38 reads, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (NIV)

These recipes were selected from Pastor Jones’ Family Collection of Favorite Recipes” and the New Bethel Baptist Church cookbook, Taste and See – that the Lord is good.” from Psalm 34:8

PINEAPPLE CHEESE BALL

2 (8 oz.) pkgs. soft cream cheese

¼ cup finely chopped, green pepper

2 Tbsp. minced onion

1-1½ tsp. seasoning salt

8 oz. can drained, crushed pineapple

1 cup chopped pecans

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Form into a ball; roll in another cup of chopped pecans. Refrigerate overnight. (Barbara Westmoreland)

CANDIED SWEET POTATOES

4 or 5 medium, uncooked, sweet potatoes

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup dark syrup

½ stick salted butter

Peel sweet potatoes and slice thin lengthwise. Place in cold, saltwater for a few minutes. Drain and place in buttered baking dish. Add sugar (which can be varied according to taste), syrup, and butter. Bake in a 350-degree oven until tender.

SWEET POTATO BALLS

3 cups cooked sweet potatoes

¼ cup salted butter

¾ cup sugar

2 tsp. grated, lemon rind

2 Tbsp. whole milk

¼ tsp. salt

8 large marshmallows

½ cup crushed Corn Flakes

Mash sweet potatoes and add butter, sugar, milk, salt, and lemon rind. Mix well. Scoop up ¼ cup mixture and center with one marshmallow. Cover with more potato mixture and shape into a ball. Roll in Corn Flake crumbs, and place in buttered baking dish. Bake in a 425-degree oven until brown. Makes 8. (Carolyn Elliott)

CREAMY RICE BASE

2 cups water

1 cup long-grain rice

½ cup whole milk

2 Tbsp. butter

1 tsp. salt

Bring water and rice to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes. Add milk and stir often until rice is tender. If rice gets too thick, add a little water. When serving, add a little butter and salt. Make as a base and add desired veggies.

POTATOES COOKED WITH BUTTER & CREAM

4 medium, peeled, cubed potatoes.

½ stick salted butter

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

½ cup whole milk

½ cup cream

Peel 4 medium potatoes and cut into large cubes. Add just enough water so you can see them. Add butter. Cook until tender, then add thickening made by combining flour with milk and cream. Cook until thickened, then add salt and pepper to taste.

GOLDEN BROCCOLI BAKE

1 cup cooked rice

2 Tbsp. salted butter

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

3 Tbsp. yellow mustard

1 tsp. salt

¾ cup whole milk

10 oz. pkg. frozen, chopped broccoli

2 cups shredded, cheddar cheese

4 eggs, separated

In a saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour, mustard, and salt. Gradually add milk, stirring until smooth. Add broccoli, cover and cook, occasionally stirring until sauce simmers and broccoli thaws. Remove from heat; stir in cheese and cooked rice. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Beat egg yolks just until blended; stir into rice mixture. Fold in egg whites. Spoon into ungreased 2-quart casserole or soufflé dish. Bake in a 325-degree oven for 40 minutes until golden brown and firm to touch. (Carolyn Elliott)

SUNDAY POT ROAST

2 Tbsp. olive oil

3 lb. chuck or rump roast

½ cup tomato juice

6 peeled potatoes

6 peeled, cut carrots

3 quartered onions

1 cup water

2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Heat oil on stovetop over med-high heat in an ovenproof Dutch oven. Brown meat on each side. Add tomato juice, potatoes, carrots, onions, and water. Lightly salt and pepper. Cover with a well-fitting lid and place in a 400-degree oven. Bake 1 hour. Turn off heat, but do not open oven door. It will be ready when you get home from church. Note: Teflon pan not recommended. (Virginia Hargrove)

EASY COCONUT PIE

½ cup whole milk

1 ¼ cup coconut

¼ cup salted butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 unbaked pie shell

Pour milk over coconut and set aside while creaming butter and sugar. Add eggs to butter mixture, and beat mixture well. Add milk, coconut, and vanilla. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until pie is golden brown. (Jack Elliott)

CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BROWNIES

2 cups grated zucchini

2 cups sugar

1 tsp. salt

½ cup vegetable oil

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 ½ tsp. soda

¼ cup cocoa

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup chopped nuts

Cream together well the zucchini, sugar, salt, oil, and vanilla. Mix all dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix well. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 baking pan. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 40 minutes. (Danith Nelson)