Pam Fisher describes her parents, Gerry and Hazel Bennett, as “two of the most talented home chefs on the planet.” They, she said, “were extraordinary in the kitchen.”
She wanted to preserve their favorite recipes for her family so she compiled them into a bookbinder cookbook she calls “Momma’s Recipe Box.”
Her sisters and brothers-in-law, Sandra and John O’Neal, of Frankfort, Mich., and Candace and Trevor Watkins, of Covington, also have culinary skills that significantly exceed hers, she said. “My two sisters and their husbands are fabulous cooks, and I don’t know what happened to me. I do cook … .”
“And it’s very good,” husband Charles “Charley” Fisher interjected.
Pam Fisher continued, “I will cook on weekends. I don’t know how to cook for two people, and I find it easier to follow a recipe. I have to have instructions. Dad was the innovator, never using a recipe except when bread baking” while like her daughter, Hazel Bennett “followed her recipes line by line.”
Both parents originally were from New Orleans. “Mother is 87 and lives in Covington in an assisted living facility. They lived in Little Rock, Ark., from 1970 to 2005, and moved to Covington two weeks before Katrina. Daddy passed away in 2009.”
Her mother started her recipe collection in the late 1960s, Fisher estimated. Hazel Bennett put her favorite recipes into an attractive wooden recipe box painted avocado green and decorated with a raised floral design. Fisher said all the recipes in her binder cookbook are from that box.
“I spirited it away from her apartment at Christwood in Covington knowing what I had to do with the contents,” Pam Fisher wrote in the introduction of “Momma’s Recipe Box.” “There are too many good cooks in our family and they needed these recipes organized in a concise, orderly fashion. And, who better to do it then me, Miss Organization.”
She served on the board of the original Red Stick Farmers Market, retired as business manager of Pennington Biomedical Research Center four years ago, and is active in Quota International of Baton Rouge.
A friend, Irma Herzog, did the artwork on the book’s cover using photographs taken by Charley Fisher.
Pam Fisher doesn’t believe any of the recipes are her mother’s originals. Instead, they probably came from friends, family members, magazine and newspaper articles, and off food packages.
Her 135-page book includes recipes for beverages, breads, casseroles, desserts, party foods, main dishes, salads, sauces and vegetables. Among them are Champagne Punch; Crabmeat Casserole; Baked Pineapple, which includes cheddar cheese and a topping of crushed Ritz crackers; Millionaire Pie; Hot Brandied Fruit; Creole Meat Loaf; French Dressing — American Version; Tuna Chop Suey; Oyster Dressing; Stuffed Merlitons; Chicken Cacciatore; Egg Casserole; and Rum Cake.
“People of my mother’s generation put liquor in everything. There’s a cup in the cake,” Pam Fisher noted.
She said she found typing her mother’s recipes “became almost a drudgery. Mother had beautiful handwriting but I can’t read it. It’s very small. I had to go to the Internet to find similar recipes” to figure out what her mother intended. “It would take me three hours to type 10 recipes.”
Her family loved dates, and there are several recipes using dates in her mother’s recipe box.
The recipe for Date-Nut Balls is in Pam Fisher’s handwriting as a child. It reads: “Force 1 pound dates, 2 cups pecans and 1/2 cup candied pineapple through medium blad of food grinder. Add 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier and mix well.
“Roll in 1-inch balls. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Makes about 45.”
Her intention when she began her project was “to make bookbinders with the recipes to give to my sisters.
“I branched out to give it to very close family members. I made 15 copies, which cost me $300.”
Their family includes Charley Fisher’s son, Ben, and Pam Fisher’s son, Shawn Hanscom. She also has two stepdaughters from her first marriage with whom she remains close.
“Nearly four months and 223 recipes later it’s hard to believe that I have accomplished what I set out to do: compile all of Momma’s recipes into one collection,” Pam Fisher wrote on Sept. 23, 2011.
“The project started out as something I wanted to do for my two sisters, Sandy and Candie.
The three of us share a very close bond and this collection would be a continuous reminder of the love our mother blessed us with through her marvelous cooking.”