Back in 1979, while working at Castner Knotts’ downtown department store in Nashville, I didn’t know that I was having the pleasure of helping Minnie Pearl search for an evening ensemble.
When Mrs. Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon (Minnie Pearl) walked into the better dresses department, she asked me to show her “something long” for a special event she had forthcoming.
While browsing together, I discovered that we both had country upbringings (she was born in Centerville); we were both born in October; and, that she also believed that the joy of the Lord was her strength.
During that time, she shared a bit of philosophy on life: “I believe in taking the back roads instead of the highways.” I later learned that gracious lady lived what she preached.
Anyway, unable to locate the look she wanted, I suggested we look on the sales rack. Low and behold, we found the perfect outfit at 75 percent off; to which she declared with a funny face, “This is better than a thrift shop.”
While she was in the dressing room, another employee came over and inquired, “Do you know who you are helping?”
“Why, I asked, “Is she someone important?”
“That’s Minnie Pearl!” she exclaimed.
Later on, as she waved goodbye from the top of the escalator, I can remember thinking how truly conscious and sensitive she was to the fact that her fans loved her — and, still do.
If Minnie Pearl was with me this morning and I could ask for a reaction to my running her recipe, I’m positive that, with her straw hat swinging a $1.98 price tag, she’d answer, “Howww-deeee-licious!”
Minnie Pearl’s Chess Cake
1 cup butter or margarine
1 pound box confectioners’ sugar
1 cup sugar
4 egg yolks, beaten
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans
4 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch pan.
Melt butter and cool slightly. Add sugars and egg yolks to butter. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Stir into egg and butter mixture. Stir in pecans.
Beat egg whites until stiff. To make sure your egg whites beat up nice and stiff have your bowl and beaters very clean and dry.
Add vanilla. Fold whites into batter. Pour butter into pan. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until done. Cool on wire rack and cut into squares.
Makes 18 squares.
Note: Mrs. Cannon died March 4, 1996, and is interred in the same cemetery in Franklin as one of my brothers, who also entertained from the stage.
Leba also writes the “Upon Reflection” column that runs bi-monthly in the Sunday edition of the Banner. Leba.dawkins @gmail.com