Cheryl Garrison Smith had a hard time deciding which of her parents' cooking was her favorite, but she finally settled on her 80-year-old father, Robert “Bob” Garrison.
“Mom was a great cook, and had her own cake shop for over 20 years beginning in the 80s, but dad was just more adventurous,” Smith of DeQuincy said.
He let Cheryl and her brother, Jimmy, help him in the kitchen from an early age, showed them how to prepare artichokes and introduced them to mangos and pomegranates.
“I remember making these elaborate salads,” Smith said. “Extended family loved his cooking and asked for all his recipes, especially his crawfish etouffee and barbecue. Just yesterday I talked to someone who told me they needed some of my dad’s good barbecue. He makes his own basting sauce. He also makes hot sauce, one with jalapenos and one with habaneros, and gives it to his friends. They love it.”
Bob Garrison uses an old Sicilian recipe for his spaghetti sauce and makes his own yeast bread, including the bread for one of his daughter’s favorites — his pecan roll kolaches. (Kolaches are a Czech pastry, big in Texas because of the Central European immigrants who settled that area in the 1800s. The word is derived from the Czech word for wheel.)
The Garrisons didn’t just cook and eat together (and always with the TV turned off). They also hunted together, or at least Smith joined in for a short time when she was young. Smith remembers her father’s fried squirrel, squirrel and gravy, squirrel and dumplings and squirrel gumbo. Cheryl’s mom and dad deer hunted and, in addition to butchering and putting up deer meat, they butchered pigs periodically.
For Smith, her father’s food represents more than physical nutrition.
“Nothing makes him happier than all his children and grandchildren together, under his roof, laughing and loving and enjoying his food. His heart is full of love,” she said.
Bob Garrison's Kolache Recipe
2 packages active dry yeast
½ cup warm water
2 cups warm milk
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
½ cup butter or margarine
4 eggs, yolks only (save whites)
8 or 9 cups flour
4 to 5 cups of finely chopped pecans
2 cups sugar
1 stick melted butter or margarine
2 eggs and the remaining egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla
Enough milk to make a paste (1½ to 2 cups)
Directions: Mix and let rise 3 to 4 hours. Roll out into about 3 sections. Add the filling and roll up (like a jelly roll). Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes. (You’re looking for golden brown.)
As the kolaches are baking, continue to baste with butter to keep them from cracking.
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