By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian
You know how the rush-rush-rush of making a holiday meal can sap all the joy out of it?
Faye Parker can solve that problem in three words.
Make in advance.
She starts in the summer when she harvests herbs from her garden, mixes them with butter and freezes it. She’ll make stock from poultry parts, will clean veggies and fruits, and freeze them all.
There. The meal’s practically on the table.
“Fresh makes all the difference,” she said.
“If it takes forever to make a meal the day of, I don’t enjoy it,” she said. “I make ahead of time to make things go smoothly but not compromise on freshness. This makes prep time so much quicker.
“I don’t use fake butter,” she said. “I have always only used real butter. I was raised on a farm, so fake butter was never an option.”
She was the 10th of 13 children of Max and Alice Krizer on that farm outside New Creek. She had six sisters and six brothers.
You’d think a farm girl whose mother was a wonderful cook would learn the ins and outs of kitchen life by her mother’s side.
Parker was left-handed, along with her father and three other siblings.
“This just drove her crazy,” Parker said. “I couldn’t cook a stitch until I was saved at 24.
“But I tried. I’d call my younger sister, who was a wonderful cook, and ask how you make this or that. And she’d say, ‘Honestly, Faye, didn’t you ever watch Mom?’ And I’d have to say, ‘No, I didn’t.’”
In the meantime, she did all the boy chores, like slopping the hogs and milking the cows and mending fences.
“Now I can throw together some pretty good food, but it took a long time,” she said.
“When I was saved, suddenly I was able to do all sorts of things I couldn’t before, and cooking was one of them,” she said.
She and her husband Allen have two sons, Preston, 19, and Cayson, 16.
“I love to cook,” she enthused. “It’s like therapy. It’s my drug of choice. I am so a happy eater. I don’t eat if I’m sad or mad or upset. Food is a happy thing. When I’m cooking and that makes people happy, I like that.”
If she had to choose baking or cooking, she’d choose cooking.
“I love everything about it. The aromas and the sounds and how everybody congregates in the kitchen. It’s a very social event in my family.”
When you’re cooking for that many siblings and more nieces and nephews than you can count, you make a lot of food.
For Thanksgiving, she made two turkeys (one deep fried and one roasted), ham, sweet potato pie, collard greens, banana pudding, cornbread stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, pumpkin cheesecake and rolls, cranberry salad and more.
“All the normal stuff plus a few extra. We’re very Southern-oriented.
“I prefer to make things up as I go along,” she said. “I had to actually make the cornbread to see what I put in it for the recipe.”
Her absolute favorite meal she makes is soup beans, collard greens and cornbread.
Her sons love her smoked chicken, homemade noodles, and brocoli and corn. Her husband is easy to please, but loves Mexican, she said.
“Allen bought me a big stand-up smoker. I can put 12 chickens in it. When we have a gathering, everybody loves my chicken.
“I don’t buy or feed my family anything processed,” she said. “I don’t go there. If my sons or I eat hot dogs, we get migraines caused by the nitrates in the meat, so we completely avoid those.”
She and her family live on a farm on Plum Run, where they raise beef cattle.
“It’s a wonderful place to raise kids. We’re very secluded but we do have wonderful neighbors.
“I would never be able to live in a city. I have never been in a city for more than a shopping day. I do not like it. You know what they say: You can take the girl out of the country ... . And that is so true in my case.”
She loves being with her family.
“When we all come together, everybody cooks. And we have this funny sense of humor. We’re fun to be around. We laugh, these deep, gut-filled laughs. Somebody is always doing something funny.
“They’re a little crazy. We’re all a little nuts, but I think that helps,” she said, chuckling.
“Now I have brothers and sisters old enough to be my parents. It’s special to be with them and hear their stories and gain wisdom from them. They’ve been through so much.
“The oldest is 74. They have children my age.
“I tried to count my nieces and nephews once. You know how in the movie ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding,’ they said they had 31 first cousins? We have more than that ... 40-plus.
“And nobody has the same name ... except for ‘Max Krizer,’ my father, brother and his son,” she said, laughing.
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Email Debra Minor Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.