Name: Tom Smith
Background: I grew up in LaGrange. The first home I remember was on West Cannon Street. Several of my aunts and uncles as well as my grandparents lived in the area. Daddy owned and operated Smith’s Bait and Tackle on Milam Street for several years and Mama was a beautician at the Kut ‘n Kurl for many, many years. I had an eclectic grammar school experience, attending Cannon Street from first through fourth grades. I remember “hot dog day” when the cafeteria cooked homemade buns. Once that smell permeated the building, no more learning took place until after lunch. Harwell Avenue School (rolls and honey) was fifth grade and Unity for sixth. I graduated from LaGrange High School and attended West Georgia College for a year, then joined the Air Force. Later, the Air Force allowed me to attend and graduate from Southern Illinois University and officer training school. After more than 21 years, I retired and came home.
Family: My family is deeply rooted in Troup County history. Garrett Road was named after a great-great grandfather, as was Glass Bridge Road. My grandfather built a home on the land located across from West Georgia Medical Center. My wife, Teresa, is a nurse and works at West Georgia Hospice. She’s a special person, as are all the caregivers at that wonderful place. I have two children: Chrysteen Yaughn and her husband, Charlie, and Terry Smith and his wife, Julie. They have blessed me with five of the most beautiful grandchildren ever.
Job: I’m trying to retire, but it’s hard work.
Hobbies, activities: I love to fly but like so many other things we enjoy doing, it’s just gotten more expensive than it’s worth. I enjoy golf and woodworking.
How did you learn to cook? I learned a lot from watching Mama and cooking with friends, but I learn mostly from trial and error, with lots of error. Plus, when you live to be older than dirt you just kind of pick things up.
What is your favorite memory of being in the kitchen? I remember being about 5 or 6 years old, leaning against the door jamb by the stove and watching Mama cooking. For some reason I picked that time to ask her if there really was a Santa Claus. She moved the pan to the side, pulled up an old, vinyl-covered chair and told me about Santa. It was a Norman Rockwell moment.
What is always in your pantry or refrigerator? Dale’s steak seasoning, Land O’ Lakes butter, Blue Plate mayonnaise and, Diamond Joe syrup. Ken and Joe, we really miss you, God bless you and all the wonderful memories.
Do you have a favorite cookbook? Paul Kirk’s “Championship Barbecue.”
What would people be surprised to find in your kitchen? My wife! I love her to death but she cannot cook. Made lunch for me one time and forgot to put a can opener in the cooler. She really has used the smoke detector as a timer.
When you go out to eat, what is your favorite thing to order? Barbecued pork ribs. I like to compare my recipe to theirs.
What recipe is your comfort food that reminds you of home? Fried eggs, fried streak-o-lean, streak-o-lean gravy poured over fresh tomato slices and homemade biscuits. During summer evenings, when all the windows were open (no one had air conditioning), every kid in the neighborhood could smell that streak-o-lean cooking. It smelled better than the honeysuckle just outside my bedroom window. Nothing tastes better than fried fat!
Do you have a favorite cost-saving cooking idea? Buy a Food Saver, grow some vegetables and vacuum pack them. We just ate the last bag of Silver Queen fried corn from last summer. Buy whole tenderloins or rib-eyes at Sam’s, cut individual steaks and vacuum pack. You’ll save a bunch.
What is your biggest disaster in the kitchen? I was cooking a pork roast in a pressure cooker. To get things rolling I turned the stove on high. The only problem was I forgot about it. The pressure relief disc blew out and sprayed grease and water and little, bitty pieces of pork all over the kitchen, including the ceiling – which is 12 feet high.
What is your “old faithful” recipe that you rely on time after time? Rib-eye steaks. Brush with Dale’s steak seasoning on both sides and cook over a really hot bed of coals. Nice and black on the outside, medium-rare inside.
What is the weirdest thing you ever ate or cooked? When I lived in Abilene, Texas, we went to the Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup. I ate fried rattlesnake. Once you get passed the thought of what you’re eating it’s really pretty good; much better than alligator or frog legs.
Barbecued Buffalo Wings
This is my own concoction and the grand-kids really like it.
1 (18 ounce) bottle KC Masterpiece barbecue sauce, “hot and spicy”
1/4 cup Frank’s Hot Sauce
1/4 cup KC Masterpiece Caribbean Jerk marinade
1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons dried minced onions (I use Tone’s)
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper
Mix all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add more red pepper for your taste but to really kick it up, add a couple of tablespoons of prepared horseradish after you take it off the stove. Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes and then set aside while the wings are cooked. I use a turkey cooker, but cook 4 to 5 pounds of wings in peanut oil at 375 degrees until the skin is crispy. Place them in a large bowl and add sauce to taste. I like to put them in the oven on a non-stick pan and bake at 325 degrees to let the sauce caramelize on the wings. Be sure to turn often.
Shrimp and Cream Sauce
2 pounds peeled shrimp
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup white wine (don’t use cooking wine)
1/2 cup sweet onions, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 teaspoon Frank’s Hot Sauce
1/4 teaspoon tarragon
Heat butter and olive oil in a large frying pan and saute onions and garlic until onions start to turn clear. While stirring, add all remaining ingredients and bring to a slow boil. Cook and stir until the mixture starts to thicken and then add shrimp. Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve over a bed of rice or fettuccine.
“You Might Be a Redneck” Ham Salad
When I lived in England, I had a good friend whose wife was from Enid, Okla., and an incredible cook. When we had a social event (party), she would bring “finger” sandwiches made from this mixture. You will be surprised how quick these things go; even after your guests know what it is.
1 can regular or reduced sodium Spam
4 tablespoons dill relish
1/2 cup Miracle Whip (no substitutions)
Cut Spam into 1/4-inch slices and mash through the tines of a fork until you have a hamburger-like consistency. Mix everything together and let sit while bread is prepared. Trim edges off the bread and then spread one slice with salad and add top piece of bread. Cut into three finger sandwiches for serving. You may want to add more Miracle Whip.
Crock Pot Ham
This is so simple and makes for a good addition to any meal. However, it makes great sandwiches.
1 “Lee” 6 to 8 pound smoked picnic shoulder
1/2 box dark brown sugar
Trim off all skin and as much fat and brown “skin” as you can. Put in crock pot and add water to cover about 3/4 of the ham. Add sugar. Cover and cook on low for about 7 to 8 hours, turning over every hour. Remove from crock pot, let cool, remove the bones then slice and serve.
I’ve added a couple of ingredients but I got the basis of this from my buddy of 45 years and the best cook I know, Fred Cammon.
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish (I use Reese’s)
1 teaspoon Frank’s Hot Sauce
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Mix everything in a measuring cup and let it “blend” in the refrigerator for about an hour. Stir before serving.
1/2 cup Blue Plate mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sweet relish
1 tablespoon dried minced onions (I use Tone’s)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish (I use Reese’s)
1/2 teaspoon Hidden Valley Ranch dressing
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon grated carrots
Mix everything in a glass bowl and let the ingredients “blend” in the refrigerator for about an hour. Stir before serving.