Memories of growing up in the south

Sunday, November 24, 2002

Memories and family favorite recipes become more special when they are shared. The Darr sisters, Sharla Welch, Regina Dunkerson and Ellen Mooney, along with their mother, Bobbie Darr Brucks, have written memories and compiled recipes to create a very special cookbook, "Our Heritage Cookbook," to be enjoyed by their family members as well as others.

The cookbook cover features the girls' great-great grandfather, Uncle Tuck Wallace, Ben and Lula Price, and their grandmother, Ina Price Darr, as a baby. The 1910 photo features about 20 other people in front of Uncle Tuck's home on what is known as the "Kentucky Settlement." The girls were told that the photograph was taken following a wedding.

John Daniel Wallace, "Uncle Tuck" was born March 22, 1850. It has been written that he was a man of little schooling but great intelligence; a good farmer and businessman and a friend to all. His land became known as the "Kentucky Settlement" and is located about eight miles south of Monette. He died at the age of 86 in 1936. The Monette Weekly Sun called him "the last of the Pioneers of Monette."

Mrs. Mooney lives in Claremore, Okla., Mrs. Welch lives in Natchez, Miss., and Mrs. Dunkerson lives in Blytheville, but all three are Monette High School graduates and have very fond memories of growing up in the south and especially in the Buffalo Island area.

Mrs. Mooney and her husband Barry have two children, Meg, 9,and Patrick, 3. Mr. Mooney is the associate district superintendent for the Mid-South District of the Evangelical Free Church of America. She is a homemaker and freelance writer. She has written several articles for the Beacon magazine of Minneapolis and is very proud of her latest project, the cookbook. The Mooney family may be moving back to Memphis in January.

Mrs. Welch and her husband Tommy are managers of Brandon Hall, a private antebellum home on the Natchez Trace, built in 1853. They have managed Brandon Hall for 14 years. They have a son, Matthew, 20.

She once cooked with Julia Child as part of a Natchez Trace Pilgrimage Garden Club event. It was heavily attended and the editors of Southern Living and Food & Wine magazines were present. She said it was an experience that she would never forget.

"Julia Child was very nice and had a great sense of humor," Mrs. Welch said.

Mrs. Dunkerson and her husband Harold live in Blytheville. She works for Farmers Bank and Trust in Blytheville and he is maintenance supervisor at Nucor-Yamato. They have two grown children, Chris and Autumn.

The sisters first discussed the cookbook in May this year. They wanted to share their memories of growing up in the Darr family along with the family's favorite recipes that have been passed down.

The Darr sisters are the daughters of Bobbie Oates Darr Brucks, and the late Elvis Darr.

"The cookbook was put together mainly for our children so that even though miles separate them from their family and cousins, the memories and traditions will still live on through the recipes and funny anecdotes in the pages of the cookbook," Mrs. Mooney said.

Many people that grew up in the area will be able to relate to their memories featured in the cookbook.

Mrs. Welch wrote a recipe that describes some of her childhood memories.

Regina, Kerry and Sharla's recipe for fun:

Bunches of pecan tree limbs

3 bicycles

1 plum tree

1 mimosa tree

1 tree house

Couple of old metal pie plates

Old fruit jars

1 set of old concrete steps

1 large pecan orchard

1 old Willis jeep

1 ton of dirt, water and grass

She shared her memories of growing up and playing with Regina and their brother, the late Kerry Darr. (Ellen was not yet born). The tree houses, the mud pies, driving their dad's old jeep around all of the pecan trees and the make-believe grocery stores, banks and service stations and when all three shared the same make-believe name "Mattie."

Mrs. Dunkerson shared her memories of growing up in the 60's and 70's in the south, chopping cotton and smelling cotton when it was being picked. She also remembers the mud pies and feeding them to her sister. She has fond memories of spending the night with Thelma and Elihue Price. Mr. Price was their Grandma Darrs' brother.

Mrs. Mooney shared her memories of watching her older brother and sisters do "cool things" and trying to be like them.

She also remembers music being an important part of their childhood.

"Kerry was a young radio announcer and loved music. He worked at the local radio station so he purchased and brought home tons of music. Because of that, in my opinion, Regina, Sharla and myself are pretty good at music trivia and knowledge of music in general.

"Growing up in the South you always have memories of great Southern food. I remember my mom's lemon icebox pie, Grandma's pumpkin pie which was Kerry's favorite, homemade ice cream on the Fourth of July, sorghum molasses cookies, homemade biscuits and gravy and fried chicken," Mrs. Mooney said.

The cookbook also features their mother's special memories. Baking was a big event, with the children arguing about who would get the frosting bowl and sharing a special memory about each of her children.

Anyone wishing to purchase a copy of the cookbook may e-mail Mooney at or write to her at Ellen Mooney, 1803 North Chambers Place, Claremore, Okla., 74017.

Grandma Darr's Bread and Butter Pickles

This recipe was passed down from Grandma (Ina) Darr. Grandma's Aunt Victoria Wallace originally shared the recipe with her. This recipe is not in the cookbook. It is exclusively for the Town Crier readers.

25 or 30 large cucumbers

8 large onions

1/2 cup salt

5 cups white vinegar

5 cups sugar

2 Tbsp. mustard

1 tsp. turmeric

1/2 tsp. whole cloves

Wash cucumbers and slice thin. Wash and slice onions and put into tub or sink. Cover with water and add salt. Let stand for three hours. Drain water off of them. Do not rinse. In large boiler, mix vinegar, sugar and spices. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Pour in cucumbers and onions and heat thoroughly. Do not boil. Place in hot jars and seal. Store in fridge before serving. This makes them extra crispy. Serve and enjoy.

Welch's Mater Gravy

By Sharla Darr Welch

Tommy always wanted me to make this and being from Arkansas, I never heard of such a thing. So my sister-in-law, Diane Welch, taught me how.

Heat iron skillet and oil. Add flour, salt and pepper just like regular gravy. Brown. Add one large can of diced tomatoes with juice and simmer. Add water to thin out. Pour over hot homemade biscuits. It is kind of like white Arkansas gravy but with no milk.

Old-Fashioned Southern Tea Cakes

By Regina Darr Dunkerson

1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

3 cups sifted flour (all purpose)

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. vanilla

Cream butter and sugar in large bowl. Mix eggs one at a time. Add dry ingredients and vanilla. Chill dough and roll out on floured board 1/4 inch thick. Cut with 2-1/2 inch cookie cutter. Bake on well greased cookie sheet at 375 degrees until golden brown.

Lemon Ice-Box Pie

By Bobbie Darr Brucks

1-1/2 cups sugar

1/3 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 cups cold water

3 eggs, separated

1 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

juice of two lemons

1 baked 9" pie shell, cooled

whipped cream for garnish

Combine sugar, flour and salt in a heavy saucepan and mix well. Beat egg yolks and add yolks water and butter to the mixture. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly, until thick then remove from heat about 15 minutes. When partially cool, stir in lemon juice and zest. Pour into baked pie shell. Chill completely. Serve garnished with whipped cream. A sprinkling of extra lemon zest on top also looks pretty.

Holiday Potato Soup

By Bobbie Darr Brucks

4 medium potatoes, diced

3 medium onions, sliced

1 can of cream of chicken soup

1 tbsp. butter

3-1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup half and half

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

chopped parsley

Place potatoes and onion in a small amount of water. Cover and cook about 20 minutes or until done. Drain well and mash. Combine mashed vegetables with remaining ingredients except parsley; mix well. Heat, stirring occasionally. Garnish with parsley.

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