After Dian retired, she was excited to have time for one of her passions - gardening. She submitted an eggplant casserole made with produce from her vegetable garden.
After Dian retired, she was excited to have time for one of her passions - gardening. Her mother was a wonderful cook and made a delicious eggplant casserole. Dian submitted her mother’s classic recipe, made with eggplants grown in her own vegetable garden.
Dian has passed her passion for cooking down to her granddaughter Jaida who studied culinary arts at Florida State College and played an integral part in producing the school's HOPE Cookbook, benefitting the FSCJ food pantry.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm originally from Arkansas but have lived in Florida for the last five years. For many years I worked at a sports entertainment radio station as the office manager, HR representative, and assistant to the company's president. The morning personalities would often have me come on their show to give my opinion on topics they were discussing. That was good training to be a speaker on the spot on any subject.
I am a gardener, and when I was working, I couldn't garden because I only had Saturdays free.
I have a son and daughter-in-law, two grandchildren, and one great-grandson.
Tell us about the recipe you submitted.
I like to cook. The recipe that I submitted is for eggplant casserole with eggplants from my garden. I planted white and purple eggplants because I hadn't seen the white ones before.
My mother made the eggplant casserole when I was young, and it's not a recipe out of a book. It's something she made up. I think good cooks make up their recipes. And I decided that I was going to make her casserole.
She made it every Easter. She had about 40 people who would come to our house for Easter. And she did all the cooking. She only requested desserts. And that's what I thought about when I grew those eggplants.
How did you become interested in cooking?
I never had to cook at home, but I would sit in the kitchen talking to my mother while she cooked. That's how I got involved—watching my mother. I also had two aunts who cooked very well.
When I got married, I started cooking. My husband was from Panama, and he loved rice, but that was something I had never cooked. But I just got the pan out, looked at the rice, and added some water, and I started making perfect rice. I can look at something, look at the pot I need to put it in, and cook it. I don't ever taste it until it's over. I never taste my food. I don't use a lot of salt, but I like seasoning salt, garlic powder or fresh garlic, and pepper.
I look at food and figure out what I want it to taste like. You can just add different things to recipes, and I never do the same thing twice. And, sometimes, I just use what I have in the house.
Do you have a favorite dish that your mother cooked when you were a child?
My mother made a stuffing for holidays that was my favorite. She was diagnosed with cancer in January. The following Easter, when it was time for her to make the dinner, I had to step in. I didn't know how to make the dressing, but she sat in the living room on the sofa and taught me how to cook it from there. And I mean this, we had a good time.
As she was talking, I saw a used legal envelope and grabbed it, and I started writing everything down. She told me I should have saved that envelope, but I lost track of it at some point. But I got the recipe - and I'm not bragging - but I got so good making it that the family said, "This is her, and this is it. You know how to do it."
But that's my favorite thing that she made. But I also really love her eggplants. And she made peach cobblers and pound cakes.
She did a lot of canning, too. We had a peach tree in the yard, and she canned the peaches. The peaches looked so pretty like they came out of the store the way she peeled them, and she just lined them up in those jars.
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