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His love of music has provided the singer-songwriter a livelihood, while his faith and family have been unwavering during good times and bad.
His mother, the late Priscilla "Dell" Clodell, gave him the nourishment he needed, through the meals she prepared and the values she held fast.
"We always invited someone home from church and there was always a feast," he said. "She could throw a meal on the table in an hour's time and make you think someone had spent all day cooking it.
"She made beans and corn bread, fried potatoes, coleslaw, buttermilk chocolate cake, fried okra, green beans, sliced tomatoes, sliced onions and kilt lettuce."
He said his family wasn't wealthy but made do. "We never had high-price cuts of meat. We would have fried chicken or what they called cube steak, and she could fix it to where it was just delicious," he said.
A garden they tended in their back yard and harvest from their neighbors' gardens helped supplement their meals. "Someone in the neighborhood always had too much. They would pass it around. They gave it to everybody," he said.
One of his favorite items was his mother's biscuits. She made the "best biscuits in the world" and would make homemade syrup from sugar and water to serve with them.
She encouraged her children to clean their plates, and with six children in the family, there was little left. "We weren't very wasteful. We had to stretch, but we always had plenty to eat. We never went hungry," he said.
His mother had a "God-given knack to make friends," and she was always prepared to feed anyone who visited.
"Anytime anyone would come to Mom's house, she would say, 'Are you hungry?' I think she thought that everybody who showed up at her house was hungry," he said, laughing.
Once her children were grown, her nurturing instinct turned to her grandchildren, whom she enjoyed cooking for. "They were jammed-up and jelly-tight. They loved each other, and whatever they wanted, she would make for them," he said.
He described his mother as determined, "not afraid to talk to anybody," with a wonderful personality and very talented. "She had a huge number of friends," he said.
He hopes his daughter Brittany has acquired his mother's determination and ability to make friends. "She had a sixth sense about people. She could tell if they were real or not. I hope Brittany can pick up on that," he said.
He shares his mother's recipes for pinto beans, corn bread and buttermilk chocolate cake.
Pinto beans 2 pounds pinto beans (dry)
1 tablespoon salt
3-31/2 quarts water
2-3 ounces salt pork
Look through beans; remove all half beans or rocks that sometimes are packaged with dry beans. Put in 4-quart pot and fill with water. Rinse beans and wash one more time. Then fill pot with 3-31/2 quarts of water, add salt and place on stove on medium high.
Let beans come to boil, uncovered, for approximately 20-25 minutes. Add more water, covering at least 1-2 inches above beans. Turn heat down to medium, and let cook for approximately 1-11/2 hours; add water as needed. Turn heat to medium low and add salt pork. Let cook 15-20 minutes, until beans are tender. Add salt as needed for taste. Serves 6-8.
Corn bread 2-21/2 tablespoons bacon drippings
3 cups self-rising cornmeal
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2-1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put 10-inch cast-iron skillet on eye of stove, and on medium-low heat melt 21/2 tablespoons bacon drippings. Be careful not to let it burn.
In 2-quart mixing bowl, add cornmeal, eggs, sugar, salt, buttermilk and as much milk as needed to have a good blend of ingredients. Pour most of the melted bacon drippings into the mixture, leaving some in the skillet to crisp the bottom of the bread.
Pour mixture into skillet and place back on stove, on medium heat, 2-4 minutes, until mixture bubbles just a little. Place on medium rack of oven and cook 30-40 minutes, until brown on top.
Buttermilk chocolate cake CAKE
2 sticks butter
4 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup water
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups self-rising flour
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick butter, melted
4 tablespoons cocoa
5 tablespoons buttermilk
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In saucepan, mix butter, cocoa, water and buttermilk. Bring to boil and then let rest. Mix flour and sugar in mixing bowl. Combine with buttermilk mixture. Add eggs and vanilla and blend well. Stir until combined, and then pour into greased 9-inch-by-11-inch cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Let cool.
To prepare topping, melt butter in saucepan. Add cocoa and buttermilk. Bring to boil. Remove from heat and add powdered sugar, vanilla and walnuts. Mix together and spread on top of cake.
Mary Constantine may be reached at 865-342-6428
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