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Cooking runs in the family
Liz Garman passes on practices she learned from her grandmothers, mother and aunt to her grandchildren, Fred Price, left, and Nellie Price who live with her, as well as grandchildren Dante and Danika Garman.
When Liz Garman steps into the kitchen to bake with her grandchildren, she is carrying on a time-tested family tradition.
Garman, 58, lives in Martinsville with her husband, Wayne, granddaughter Nellie Price, 5, and grandson Fred Price, 6. When she picks up a cookbook and heads into her kitchen, it’s not long until one or both grandchildren are right by her side, asking questions and wanting to help. The process is much akin to the way Garman learned about food as a child.
Growing up, Garman learned to cook from her mother, the late Nellie Bowers; her grandmothers, the late Thelma Rosenbum and Mamie Bowers; and her aunt, the late Daphine Mitchell.
“Those women right there taught me how to cook,” said Garman, raving about the meals they cooked, especially a yearly Easter feast.
When Garman was 10, her mother taught her to fry chicken. From there, she learned to make gravy, biscuits, chicken and dumplings, pinto beans, cornbread, and fried cabbage, most of which she cooks for her family today.
Garman baked her first cake when she was 12. It was a coconut cake, she explained, and her Grandmother Bowers told her step-by-step what to do and how to do it.
Bowers also taught Garman to make green beans and biscuits. Because rolling out biscuits takes so much time and space to do, “I never roll. I pinch,” Garman said.
Garman, who was born in Fries and moved to this area when she was 2, is careful to pay attention to recipes, mixing and baking according to directions.
“I don’t think I’ve ever made a dry cake,” she said, adding that cakes should not be left to sit too long when cooling. If she doesn’t have time to frost a cake right away, Garman wraps the layers tightly in plastic wrap until she is ready to frost.
While most cakes are better fresh, pound cakes get better as the days go on, Garman said.
“The longer it sits wrapped real tight, the better it tastes,” she said. Usually she will make pound cakes in loaf pans, two at a time, and share them with family and friends.
Recently, Garman whipped up a table full of cakes and pies, explaining that each one was going home with someone dear to her, the towering coconut cake already promised to a daughter.
Garman even met her husband while in a kitchen. At the time, she was working in the bakery at King’s Grocery in Collinsville.
Whenever her family asks for a certain food, “I usually fill the request,” Garman said. Some family favorites include potato salad, macaroni salad and chicken pot pie.
When Garman was a newlywed, her mother-in-law, the late Rosella Garman, taught her to make macaroni salad. Up until that point, Garman hadn’t found a recipe for the pasta dish that she liked. Now, Garman can make the salad to taste almost exactly like the original version.
Her father-in-law, the late Woodrow Garman, also was a good cook, Garman said, and he especially was good at stovetop cakes. Garman said Mr. Garman would take his cake batter, pour it into a cast iron skillet and cook it on the stovetop.
He also made “good old country ham and eggs,” she said.
Garman and her husband, who works for Zenith Logistics, have two daughters, Kim Stuart and Jeanette Garman, and one son, Danny Garman. In addition to Fred and Nellie, they have two more grandchildren, Dante Garman, 8, and Danika Garman, 5.
Fred and Nellie enjoy being in the kitchen and helping their grandmother cook, and they also enjoy eating the fruits of their labor. Nellie likes chocolate chess pie and lemon pound cake, while Fred likes buttermilk pie.
Their grandmother enjoys the experience, as well.
“I hope my grandkids will think of me the way I think of my grandparents” when cooking, she said.