Every Saturday evening for the past 20 years, Minter and her immediate family join with the extended family and spend the evening together cooking, playing games and bonding.
The family calls it “family cook night.” They play games like Joker and Face Ten while a large dinner is prepared for the whole group. The tradition began when Minter, 37, married her husband, Chris.
When asked the age she began cooking, her brother Charles chimed in, “all your life!” Minter, however, said she thinks it was around 12 or 13.
As a child, Minter would cook with her mother, Barbara Ann Hammock, and grandmother, Barbara Jean Brown. Most weekends were spent at the grandmother’s home. The two always would cook a large Sunday breakfast for the whole family. Minter’s grandmother was like a “second mommy,” she said.
Those weekends served as the foundation for Minter’s cooking knowledge. Her skills were furthered with the time spent with her mother during the week. When her mother got off work, the pair would prepare the evening’s meal together. This regular practice contributed to Minter’s cooking skills.
Minter first started learning how to cook French toast, oatmeal and pancakes from scratch. “I just remember being’ in the kitchen with my mommy,” remembered Minter.
Her mother’s and grandmother’s instruction went a long way: Minter cooks for a family of five boys.
For Minter this means cooking “every day, all the time,” she said. Minter also often cares for other members of her family, often hosting casual, informal get-togethers like the “family cook night.”
She does get some help, though. Minter enlists the aid of her children whenever they are free from school or other obligations. “I like having them in the kitchen,” she said. “I want them to cook for themselves and marry for love, not for her cooking skills,” she added with a chuckle.
Today when Minter prepares food, the majority is from scratch, she said. If not, she said, she makes sure to add her own seasoning. Adding a little bit of spice is one way Minter jazzes up dishes. It is something Minter enjoys more than most of her family. She will throw in “just a dash or a pinch” of cumin, she says, into dishes to not overwhelm it. “I like the taste it gives food,” she said.
Her family trained her so well with their cooking routine that Minter uses recipes rarely, if ever. Mostly Minter uses her memory to recall her recipes. The best way she learns how to cook a new dish is by watching someone else cook it. “I don’t think people follow recipes because if you follow recipes, you can’t get it just like they had it,” said Minter.
Minter, who says she loves and enjoys cooking, mainly cooks what her family likes. She says when she plans food for a large group of friends or family, she always opts for dishes that everyone enjoys. She tries to even make an extra dinner option for particular people who have a more specific likes and dislikes. For example, when she cooks taco soup, her husband does not like it so she cooks him a cheeseburger.
She sticks with simple food that is widely liked. That includes macaroni and cheese and chicken tenders, two special family favorites.
When she cooks, Minter likes to incorporate deer meat. Her husband and son hunt often and bring a large amount of deer meat home every winter. Minter’s mother said it’s the main meat they use throughout winter. Sometimes Minter will use a small amount of deer meat and combine it with beef for such recipes as meat loaf.
Minter and her husband are also skilled at creating desserts. Peanut butter cookies and chocolate chip cookies are two well-loved sweets Minter makes. Minter makes cream cheese brownies, too. “It’s delicious if you love cream cheese. I just love the texture and taste,” said Minter.
Chris is quite the baker, too. Chris took a cake decorating course at the Cake Pantry many years ago. Now he makes elaborate birthday cakes for his children. Minter recalled him making a Scooby-Doo cake, a Star Wars cake, a Mickey Mouse cake and even a heart-shaped cake. After a 3-D cake faced the horrible fate of oven explosion, the pans were hidden, but Chris still bakes simple cakes.
Minter has owned and operated the business Arlena’s Cleaning Services for four years, but says that if she were to choose a job she didn’t get paid for, she would pick cooking. Barbara says this is because “the greatest thing of cooking is we get together and enjoy being together.”