Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Two Special Ladies

Ferne Watson, me, Rosie Baker
approx. 1994
Ferne and Rosie fed over two hundred individuals a delicious, homemade hot lunch for over 30 years. I doubt that one student ever said they disliked anything these ladies created.  I remember thick and creamy potato soup with oven-baked cheese sandwiches, shepherd pie, macaroni and cheese, cabbage rolls, chocolate pudding (not from a box), cakes, pies, cookies, and their famous cinnamon rolls. They baked bread or rolls every day. These women were Masters in the kitchen!

They used federal commodities (cheese, canned fruits and meats, flour, etc.) to create their meals, but none of their entrees were pre-made and heated: their meals were prepared from scratch, and the results was heavenly. Students and staff often went back for seconds.

Ferne and Rosie cared about the students they fed and would often check on someone who hadn't eaten lunch or who was experiencing some problems in their life. Ferne loved kids, and she and her husband raised several foster children.

If the students (usually freshmen) got a little too rambunctious in the lunchroom, all it took to calm things down was for Ferne to walk about with her long yard stick. If peas were flicked around the room, she swiftly cornered the culprits, and they had clean-up duty. No one messed around in Ferne's lunchroom, and the principals quickly learned that was her domain.

When Ferne and Rosie retired, it didn't take the replacements long to begin serving pre-made and processed food.

Until Ferne passed away, we visited through telephone calls or letters frequently and met for lunch four or five times a year. She held a very special place in my heart. Rosie's health is now failing, but we manage to get together when we can.

If you need a great cake for a crowd, here is one of Ferne's recipes. I doubt the students even knew the cake they loved so much was made with prunes!


  1. Isn't it wonderful to have such a friendship in our lives. I've had prune cake once before and it was sooooo good. My husband has fond memories of his grade school days and the woman who made lunch everyday for the students, they had lunches similar to the ones you described, homemade and delicious and he also talks about how she was a kind woman but no-one messed around in her lunch room at all, much like how your friends ran theirs.

  2. Yes, the days of "made from scratch" are over at schools and in a lot of homes, too. My daughter (31 years old) tells me that most of her friends don't cook.

  3. Makes me want to go backwards instead of forwards...

  4. What wonderful ladies.

    I still remember the lunch ladies from our elementary school. That was hard, hot work, but they ALWAYS had a smile and a hello for EVERY kid.

  5. What a great tribute to women who nourished generations of children with real food. What a fabulous post.

  6. My dear daughter-in-law's mother was the same kind of school cook. The students called her "The Chef" and anyone who ate her food was truly blessed! I will not get started on what is happening in lunchrooms across America these days, except to say it saddens me. I think that is where most people learn to appreciate great food! God bless Ferne and Rosie (and Mildred).

  7. Nancy, this is such a lovely tribute to these two great ladies. I was truly blessed to be one of the people who ate lunch from their kitchen for many years. It was my hot meal for the day; so I didn't have to do much cooking at all once I got home after a long day at school. Ferne and Rosie made the tastiest meals, and I loved watching Ferne "take care of business" with her yardstick in hand.

  8. Ah what memories. I once worked in a small district. Each school did their own lunches when the middle school served mac and cheese someone always went up the hill to get some for the staff. Unfortunately I don't like mac and cheese although I like the individual elements. Then economy of scale came into my next school district. Nothing made fresh. May explain why I hardly ever bought a lunch in the 14 years I worked there.

  9. Prune cake! how awesome. Fireman's mom was a school lunch lady. I think she liked being near her son in some small way when her baby went off to school. !

  10. The cooks at the HS I taught at also used prunes, apple sauce, and black beans in their yummy baked goods. The kids never knew and loved our school lunches.

    I ate in a high school today that I was working at and after sitting down at a table one of the boys yelled across the cafeteria: "Hey Donna! Thumbs up on the gravy!" The cook looked so pleased to get that appreciation.

  11. Wow, those kids were very fortunate to have such good food made from scratch.

  12. What lovely, talented friends you have! I don't remember when our lunches stopped being "scratch" but they sure did. Pity there are generations of students who only know processed school lunches.


I love comments!

If you are going to ask a question make sure you have your profile set to allow me to respond back by email or email me directly - my address is in upper right hand column.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...