Talking turkey with Arkansas’ first ladies fun for noncook

By Tammy Keith Originally Published November 18, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated November 16, 2012 at 11:27 a.m.
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I think I’ve made it pretty clear through the years of writing this column that I don’t cook.

So, it’s a little ironic that I’ve written two recipe stories for Arkansas Life, a magazine the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette publishes.

It’s a little scary, too.

I could easily list in a wrong ingredient because I have no idea what difference it would make.

I’m very, very careful. I repeat each step to the cook. One year, I wrote about chefs all over Arkansas and their Thanksgiving recipes. (And, let me just say, getting in touch with chefs and trying to get them to send me their recipes was one of the greater challenges I’ve had.)

This year, I was asked to contact former first ladies of Arkansas to get their favorite Thanksgiving recipes.

I thought it would be hard. I figured these women had had enough of public life when their husbands served as governor, and that they lived in seclusion and went out wearing hats and big sunglasses.

Couldn’t have been further from the truth. I’d covered some of their husbands on the campaign trail in my day — Frank White, for one — but I had never talked to the women.

Wow! What wonderful women! They were gracious, funny and accommodating, and patient with me.

Betty Bumpers was the first one I talked with, and she cracked me up.

When I asked for her favorite recipe, she said, “Well, I don’t have a favorite recipe. I always hated cooking!”

A woman after my own heart.

She said that when she was growing up, her mother made her and her sisters take turns cooking, and she’d offer to milk cows, mow the lawn — anything to keep from cooking.

However, she gave me a recipe for cornbread. She makes it every year, and I think she also makes cornbread dressing, but I got the cornbread recipe.

(The key, she said, is to beat the egg soundly, then beat it again.)

Barbara Pryor gave me a recipe that she said has been in her family for more than 100 years — Mother Euda’s Lemon Chess Pie. Mrs. Pryor got married 54 years ago on Thanksgiving, so she and David celebrate their anniversary every year on this holiday.

Betty Tucker said the food that’s a must at her house on Thanksgiving is blackberry pie, which is not really common around these parts.

However, she also said she makes her mother’s refrigerator rolls, and we went with that recipe.

Gay White gave me her recipe for easy green bean casserole that she said people clamor for anytime she takes it to an event, and it’s always part of her family’s Thanksgiving meal. She gave me the recipe and said it bakes for six hours at 275 degrees.

I got a few calls from readers about that one. Yes, six hours.

(It didn’t strike me as odd. I’m like one of those first-graders who is assigned to write How to Cook a Thanksgiving Turkey and says “Put it in the oven for 42 hours.”)

First lady Ginger Beebe’s family apparently loves pies, and the must-have at their home is pecan. She shared that recipe with our readers. Pecan pie is not one of my favorites, but I’ll bet hers is delicious. Her family also requests chocolate, and that’s a pie I crave.

I tried every way I could to get in touch with Janet Huckabee, whose husband has talked a lot about food in his career, but I wasn’t successful.

Hillary Clinton was a little busy to give a recipe, one of her handlers said, but would love to participate another time.

If you want to see these recipes, you can go online to

My husband and I will go to Malvern for Thanksgiving to one of my sisters-in-law’s homes, where there will be a spread. I hope there is

cranberry pie.

I will take my special pumpkin pie. If you want my recipe, look on the back of the Libby’s can. My little secret is to add more sugar.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or

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