ON THE MENU
• 5 chicken potpies
• 3 squash casseroles
• 3 pans chicken and dressing
• 101 meatballs with gravy and onions
• 2 pans broccoli- cheese casserole
• 2 gallons pinto beans with ham
• 10 pounds potato salad
• 1 large vegetable salad
• Several dozen deviled eggs
• Several dozen ham and cheese rolls
• 1 large Romaine lettuce/Mandarin orange salad
• 28 Oreo sundaes
• 5 gallons iced tea
Source: Carol Pearson
For six years, Carol Pearson has taken on a food challenge for which few women would volunteer.
Pearson prepares a hot, home-cooked lunch for employees of the Hamilton County Maintenance Department once a year. She's had anywhere from 17 to 70 hungry guys sit down to her table. This month, she served 40.
Starting days in advance, Pearson cooks a minimum of a dozen dishes -- making multiples of entrees -- to fill out a huge buffet that is served in the meeting room at the Harrison Youth Association on Highway 58.
And she does it all from scratch.
The league pays for the groceries; Pearson does all the cooking.
"It's a thank-you," said Bobby Dunn, Harrison Youth Association president. "They are good to us and do a lot for us throughout the year, so the lunch is really to show our gratitude."
Mike Dunne, Hamilton County external communications manager, said no other recreation league hosts a meal such as this for county employees.
"This is the first year I've started in advance," said Pearson of her prep time for the meal. She has been a volunteer at the Harrison ballfields since 1997, where she runs the three concession stands.
"In the past, I'd start three days before the lunch cutting and chopping, cook it all at home, then haul it to the ballfield. This year I posted a request for dishes that would freeze well on Facebook. My freezer was pretty full.
"We started the lunch the first year with 17 men. Then they began to ask for carry-out plates to take back to the women at the county office. By about the fourth year, the women started coming with them."
"One lady said she comes just for the vegetable salad. One of them loves potato salad. There are about 20 guys who probably wouldn't eat if I didn't have chicken potpie. It's all high-carbs, but they work it off out in the heat all day," she said.
Pearson said she adds one new dish each year. This year she made Oreo sundaes.
"Last year I had a new recipe for tomato pie. I only made two, and they were among the first to go. These men like to try new things," she said, laughing.
Leftovers are nonexistent, and the guys always leave with high praise for the spread.
"I don't think anybody goes out of there without thanking me. They are so nice. If I happen to be downstairs washing dishes, they'll come and find me," she said.
"One of them wanted me to go home with him," she said of unusual compliments she's received for her cooking prowess.
"But I said, 'If I wanted to do this every day, I would have my own husband!' "
Easy Chicken Potpie
1 chicken, cooked and cubed
1 can cream of potato soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 package frozen mixed vegetables
1 package Pillsbury prepared pie crust
1/2 soup can of milk
Cook chicken, cut into bite-size pieces. Mix all ingredients in bowl with chicken. Pour into unbaked pie crust. Top with remaining pie crust. Cut slits in pie crust. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes.
Note: Carol Pearson said purchasing a precooked chicken from a grocery deli makes this recipe quicker to prepare.
2 pounds squash, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, grated
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 stick margarine or butter melted
3 cups Pepperidge Farm herb-seasoning stuffing mix
Cook squash and onion together in water until tender. Do not overcook. Remove from heat, drain and mash.
Add carrots, soup and sour cream; mix well. Mix stuffing mix and margarine. Place half of stuffing mixture in bottom of casserole dish, add squash mixture, and top with remaining stuffing mixture.
Bake at 350 F for about 35 minutes or until browned on top.
-- Carol Pearson
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...
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