Mac Morris recalls growing up in Opelika with family-favorite recipes

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Photo by Ann Cipperly

By Ann Cipperly

Sitting in the house where he grew up on Rocky Brook Lane in Opelika, Mac Morris looks back over those years, as he talks about being glad to be back home with his wife Bebe. Mac’s parents, the late Jane and Frank Morris, were well known with Jane being an excellent cook and catering for friends’ parties, while Frank was president of the First National Bank.
Mac is sharing many of his mother’s and grandmother’s recipes, and Bebe is providing her favorites from South Texas where she grew up.

With many happy memories of being in the kitchen watching his mother cook, Mac says he learned a lot about cooking from her and does most of the cooking in his family now.

Mac recalls his mother telling him and his three brothers a story about when she was a small girl during the depression. “In the midst of the depression,” Mac says, “meat was scarce, and one made do with what they had. My mother enjoyed butter bean sandwiches.

“One day her elementary school class went on a picnic in the park. When the time came to eat lunch, the teacher handed out the sandwiches to the kids and happened to comment that ‘here’s a butter bean sandwich for Jane McGowen.’

“The other kids started kidding her and making fun of her butter bean sandwich,” adds Mac, “so my mother said loudly ‘this isn’t mine’ and threw it in the creek. After she did that, she realized she didn’t have anything else for lunch and watched forlornly as the butter bean sandwich floated on down the creek!”
When Mac watched his mother cook, he would ask questions. His mother loved to cook and entertain. She would also cater parties for friends.
“I come from a long line of good cooks,” says Mac. His maternal grandmother, who was a school principal in Sylacauga, was also an excellent cook.
He learned cooking from her as well. “One memory with my grandmother in the kitchen that I recall,” says Mac, “ was one rainy day when my brothers, Ben and Hank, and I were quite young, we were moping about the house with nothing to do, complaining how bored we were.  My grandmother got us all together in the kitchen and made pulled taffy candy.
“In addition to the prospect of getting candy to eat out of the endeavor,” he adds, “the considerable amount of pulling needed to make the candy kept us occupied, gave us something to do, and compete as to whose candy would taste the best!”
Mac developed an interest in cooking and decided to take a “Bachelor Apartment Living Class”, taught by Mrs. Hulsey while attending Opelika High School since it included cooking classes. He learned how to bake bread and other dishes.
After graduating from Opelika High School, Mac attended Auburn University where both his parents graduated. He went to work at Ampex where he learned about an electronics company, TT Electronics.  He was hired at the Corpus Christi, Tex. location and moved in 1981.
The week he was making the move, Mac’s parents received a letter from the Rev. George Hossack, who had been an exchange pastor from Scotland at the First Baptist Church in Opelika. The pastor was a friend of his parents, and they wrote each other occasionally. Not knowing that Mac was moving to Texas, Rev. Hossack wrote that while he was writing to his friends in Opelika, he had to remember to write his dear friend, the minister, at the Second Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, Tex.
Mac thought that since he didn’t know anyone in Texas, he would visit the church where he would then have a mutual friend. While the minister was no longer there, Mac met Bebe the first Sunday. It was love at first sight.
They dated for four years and then married. They have one son, Thomas, who still lives in Texas.
After living in Corpus Christi for 35 years, they moved to Opelika last fall.  Mac works remotely from home and has clients along the east coast.
Bebe grew up in Corpus Christi and graduated from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Tex.  After college, she moved back to Corpus Christi and taught in an elementary school classroom and met Mac.
Bebe was a school teacher for many years. After Thomas was born, she stayed home for 15 years and then became a math tutor before retiring.
When she was growing up, Bebe didn’t spend time in the kitchen, as her mother always had help cooking. Bebe and Mac sometimes cook together, but he is the main cook in the family. Along with his mother’s recipes, he has learned to prepare many of her south Texas recipes, including Texas Cheese Dip, South Texas Pico de Gallo and King Ranch Chicken.
Mac is sharing several of his mother’s recipes. The Cinnamon Sledges and Cheese Balls were ones she prepared for catering.

The Pork Chops and Baked Beans were one of his mother’s standby dishes for busy days, and it goes together quickly. She also made it for friends Mac brought home when he was attending Auburn.

The Refrigerator Rolls and Escalloped Oysters were his grandmother’s recipes that his mother also made. Mac prepares them now on holidays as a family remembrance.

When Thomas was born, Mac’s mother went to Texas to help and cook. Bebe remembers returning home from a doctor’s visit and the house smelled wonderful. She was making cookies and rocking the bassinet with her foot while cooking.

“She was a wonderful mother-in-law,” says Bebe. “She would say she was going to put on the dog. I was truly blessed.”
Since moving to Opelika, Bebe and Mac have become involved at Trinity United Methodist Church. They visited different churches and found Trinity to feel like home. Bebe enjoys her Bible study class taught by Julia Thomas. “It has been easy to make friends here,” she says.
“I have been coming to Opelika for 35 years,” Bebe adds.  “I love it. I have always enjoyed the four seasons and trees. I am glad to be here and make this my home now.”
“After 35 years, it is coming home,” says Mac. “Opelika is a great place to live.”

Ann Cipperly can be contacted at recipes@cipperly.com.

Recipes:

Mom’s Cinnamon Sledges
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg, separated
2 cups flour
3 tsp. cinnamon
¾ cup chopped pecans or almonds, thinly sliced
Cream butter, sugar and egg yolk. Combine flour and cinnamon.  Add to mixture; mix well.  Pat dough 1/8-inch thick on large ungreased cookie sheet.  Beat egg white until frothy and brush half over dough.  Spread nuts onto top of dough and press lightly into the dough.  Brush rest of egg white onto top.
Bake at 300 degrees for 35 minutes. Remove from oven. While still warm, cut into rectangles.

Creole Cake
My grandmother’s specialty
1/2 cup melted shortening
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups flour
2 Tbsp. cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup boiling water
Combine sugar, shortening and eggs; beat well.  Add buttermilk alternately with sifted dry ingredients.  Pour in boiling water and mix.  Bake in greased 9 x 13-inch pan at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until tests done.
Topping:
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup grated coconut
1 small can evaporated milk
Combine ingredients and mix well. Spread onto baked cake.  Put under broiler in the oven just until bubbly.

Grandmother’s Tea Cakes
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
4-1/4 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cream of tartar
Cream sugar and shortenings.  Add eggs.  Combine dry ingredients and add to mixture; mix. Chill overnight in refrigerator.
Roll into small balls and place on cold greased cookie sheet.  Press down with hands or small glass.  Bake 350 degrees for about 10 minutes until brown around the edges.
Turn cookie sheet over and run cold water over the bottom before each batch of baking.  Makes 60-80 cookies.

Pork Chops over Pork and Beans
Mom’s busy day meal
2 cans pork and beans
6 center cut pork chops
Salt/pepper
Drain pork and beans and pour into baking dish, so they are approximately 1-inch thick.  Position pork chops on top of beans.  Sprinkle salt and pepper.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  Serve with a salad or cole slaw.

Mom’s Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1-1/2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 cups oatmeal
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp vanilla
Combine sugar, butter and brown sugar; beat until creamed. Add egg; beat.
Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda and oatmeal. Add to mixture and stir. Fold in pecans and vanilla.
Drop mixture by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Refrigerator Rolls
These rolls were made by my grandmother and mother.
2 pkg. yeast
1 cup cold water
1 cup boiling water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1 1/8 cups butter
2 eggs, beaten
6 cups plain flour
Add yeast to cold water and set aside.  Pour boiling water over salt, sugar and butter; blend together.  Add eggs, flour and yeast mixture; blend together.  Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 4 days.
Make into rolls; let rise 2 hours at room temperature.  Bake in a greased pan at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

Cheese Balls
Mom made these for parties and catering.
4-1/2 sticks melted butter
1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
5 cups flour
1 cup chopped pecans
Combine butter, cheese, pepper and salt; mix together well. Add flour and pecans, mixing until well blended. Refrigerate overnight.  Roll into 1-inch diameter balls and bake at 325 degrees until light brown.

Mom’s Escalloped Oysters
2 pints drained oysters (save the liquid)
3-4 cups Ritz crackers (course crumbled)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 stick butter
1 tsp. Worcester sauce
In casserole dish, place a layer of oysters, then a layer of cracker crumbs, repeating until oysters are used and finishing with a layer of cracker crumbs.
Combine cream, oyster liquid and Worcester sauce.  Pour evenly over the casserole.  Dot butter pieces over top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes until liquid is absorbed.

Texas Cheese Dip
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. pork sausage
1 onion, chopped
1 can golden mushroom soup
1 pkg. Velveeta (32 oz. size)
Brown sausage and ground beef together; pour off or use paper towels to absorb excess fat.  Put all items in a crock-pot and melt together. Serve with tortilla chips. Great for parties!

South Texas Pico de Gallo (Salsa)
4-5 large ripe tomatoes
1 sweet onion
1 purple onion
Jalapeno or serrano pepper (amount depends on degree of “fire” wanted)
Cilantro
Juice from 1 lemon
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
2 Tbsp.  fajita seasoning or taco seasoning
Chop all the vegetables very fine (especially peppers) and mix together.  Add lemon juice, olive oil and vinegar.  After mixing well, add fajita seasoning and mix again.
Best if allowed to “sit” for an hour or two before enjoying! Serve with tortilla chips.

King Ranch (South Texas) Chicken
2 onions, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 (10 3/4-oz.) can cream of chicken soup
1 (10 3/4-oz.) can cream of mushroom soup
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1 (10-oz.) can Rotel
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded Cheddar Cheese
Sauté onions and bell pepper in vegetable oil over medium heat for 5 minutes or until tender.  Stir in chicken, chicken soup, cream of mushroom soup, Rotel, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Remove from heat.
Tear up tortillas into roughly 1-inch pieces.  Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and place about 1/3 tortilla pieces on the bottom.
Add chicken mixture to about 1/2-inch thickness and 2/3 cup cheese.  Repeat the layers two more times.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.  Note: May be frozen for up to several months.  Be sure to thaw completely before baking!

Jane Morris’ Orange-Pineapple Congealed Salad
1 orange (Nutrisweet) Jell-O (0.6 oz.)
2 cups boiling water
2 cans (11 oz.) mandarin oranges, drained
2 cans (6 oz.) concentrated orange juice
8 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
Mix Jell-O with boiling water until dissolved. Add oranges, orange juice and pineapple.  Put into individual muffin tins. Place in refrigerator to congeal. Spread with topping.
Topping:
1 cup skim milk
1/2 pt. whipping cream
3.5 oz. pkg. lemon pudding
1/4 cup chopped pecans
Mix milk, cream and pudding; beat until thick. Fold in pecans or sprinkle over topping on the salads.

Indiana Yankee Slaw
From my mother’s Indiana kin folks
1 large head cabbage
2 cups sugar
1 cup white vinegar
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp mustard seed
1 bell pepper, grated, optional
1 carrot, grated, optional
Shred the cabbage.  In a saucepan mix sugar, vinegar, celery and mustard seeds.  Bring to a boil, and then set aside to cool.  After cooling, pour over cabbage and mix well. Add pepper and carrot, if desired.

Pecan Pie
Mom baked this pie at holidays.
3 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark Karo syrup
1 cup pecans
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pie shell
Beat eggs slightly; add sugar, syrup, nuts, salt and vanilla; mix well.  Pour into pie shell.  Bake at 325 degrees for 50 minutes.

Russian Spiced Tea
Grandmother’s tea recipe
18 oz. jar orange flavored breakfast drink (Tang, etc.)
1 cup instant sweet tea with lemon
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
Combine all ingredients and store in a tightly covered jar.  To use, place 2 tsp. of mix into a cup and add 6 oz. boiling water.  Stir until dissolved.  Makes about 18 cups.

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