Cooking comes naturally to Marks

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 1, 2000

DONNA KEATING / L’Observateur / April 1, 2000

LAPLACE – Miriam Marks of LaPlace first began cooking when she was about 16 with her mother, Martha Andry. Her mother, given the nickname “Cook,” taughther a lot about cooking.

Miriam also learned to bake in home economics class at Leon Godchaux High School.

In that class the first thing she learned to bake was cherry cookies, which she said turned out good. Baking seemed to come naturally to her, and she developed a lovefor cooking and baking.

At 19 she married Luce Marks and later became the mother of five children – Dolores Cambre, Kerry Marks, Cindy Waldron, Julie Reine and Donnie Marks. She nowalso has eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Throughout her 46-year marriage her husband has always grown a large vegetable garden. As a result, Miriam has always had all kinds of vegetables to cook. Theyalso raise chickens so they can have fresh eggs.

When Miriam prepares her recipe for vegetable soup, made with fresh vegetables from her husband’s garden, she invites the whole family over. And each one of herchildren takes home a large container of her homemade soup.

Miriam says the whole family enjoys cooking, even her sons. But since her childrenwork and keep very busy they don’t always have a lot of time to cook. Therefore,she likes to help out by having them over for dinner often.

Cooking for the entire family has always been a tradition on Sundays after church services. Her traditional Sunday dinner consists of fried chicken, chicken stew,baked macaroni, mashed potatoes, a couple of vegetables and bread pudding or cake.

Her family also likes to get together for fish fries and barbecues. Barbecues ather home usually include chicken, ribs, her husband’s and son-in-laws’ homemade deer or country sausage, hot dogs for the kids and homemade ice cream, and each one of her girls prepares something different to add to the menu. She says theystart to barbecue at 10 or 11 a.m. and continue cooking until it’s late, usuallyabout six hours. While they wait for the food to cook her family enjoys playing afew games of horseshoes in her large backyard.

One of her family’s favorites is her spaghetti, which her daughter Julie says is the best in the whole world. Her husband’s favorite dessert is her mandarin orangecake, and her grandchildren love her four-layer dessert.

Miriam says she likes to cook crawfish bisque, gumbo and spaghetti and usually cooks in large pots. She added, “You have to love to cook to be standing over a hotstove.”She also loves baking and decorating cakes for special family occasions. She bakescakes for birthdays, graduations and christenings and also prepares a variety of gourmet appetizers to go along with them. During the Christmas holidays Miriammakes pralines, fudge and pecan pies.

Her cakes have won second and third place and her coconut creme pie won first place in the Knights of Columbus Women’s Auxiliary 5935 cooking contest.

Though Miriam is an wonderful cook, she admits to having an occasional mixup. Forexample, since she does a lot of baking she keeps a large jug of white vanilla extract in her kitchen cabinet. She also keeps a similar looking large jug of vinegarright next to the vanilla. When she cooks rice she usually adds a little vinegar towhiten the rice to a snow white color. Sometimes she accidentally grabs the wrongjug and adds vanilla to the rice. She ends ups with a new recipe for vanilla rice,unfortunately. To dispose of it she feeds the vanilla rice to the chickens in herbackyard, and she says they just love it.

Miriam is known as a natural born cook. Her granddaughter Angie agrees and sayswhen her grandmother passes away it would be more appropriate to place a pot and a spoon on her grave than flowers.

Here are a few recipes she would like to share:

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE 2 pints strawberries, sliced and sugared 1 large box Cool Whip 1 box strawberry Jello 1 box Duncan Hines yellow cake mix 1 cup sugar 3/4 cup water 3 tbsps. cornstarch

In a bowl, mix cake mix and bake as directed for a two layer cake; allow cake to cool. Drain strawberries. Mix sugar, water and cornstarch together and cook untilmixture is thick. Add strawberry Jello and allow to cool. Place cake on serving dishand spread a layer of Cool Whip on top. Using half of the strawberries, add a layerof strawberries on top of the Cool Whip. Place the second layer of cake on top ofthe first layer of cake. Repeat the cool whip and strawberry layer process andgarnish the top with some whole strawberries.

MANDARIN ORANGE CAKE 1 box Duncan Hines yellow cake mix 4 eggs 1 can mandarin oranges with juice 1/2 cup oil

In a bowl, mix cake ingredients together with mixer. Pour mixture into three 9-inchround baking pans and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Allow to cool. Top withrefrigerated icing recipe below.

Mandarin orange cake icing:

9 ozs. Cool Whip1 can crushed pineapple, drain juices 1 small box instant vanilla pudding

Mix ingredients together, refrigerate and ice cake.

FOUR-LAYER DESSERT 1 stick butter or margarine, melted 1 cup plain flour 3/4 cup pecans, ground 1 8 oz. pkgs. creme cheese, softened to room temperature1 cup powdered sugar 1 cup Cool Whip 2 small pkgs. or 1 large pkg. instant chocolate puddingsemi-sweet chocolate shavings, for garnish pecans, for garnish

For first layer mix butter, flour and chopped pecans and press firmly into the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Coolcompletely. For second layer mix creme cheese, powdered sugar and Cool Whiptogether and spread over the first layer. For the third layer prepare chocolatepudding mix according to package directions; whipping it well. Pour chocolatepudding over second layer. For fourth layer spread Cool Whip over third layer andgarnish by sprinkling pecans or semi-sweet chocolate shavings on top. Chill andserve.

SHRIMP STEW 2 lbs. shrimp, cleaned and deveined4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes 1 large onion, chopped 1/2 cup parsley, chopped 3 cloves garlic 1 small bell pepper, chopped 1/2 cup shallots, chopped 1/4 tsp. Tabasco sauce3/4 cup oil 1 cup all-purpose flour salt and pepper, to taste

In a heavy pot make a roux with oil and flour until it becomes dark brown. Addonion, garlic, shallots and bell pepper; saut for about three minutes. Add shrimpand three cups of warm water. Add diced potatoes, salt and pepper to taste,Tabasco sauce and fresh parsley. Let cook for about 45 minutes to an hour. Serveover warm steamed rice.

RED SNAPPER WITH TOMATO SAUCE 5 lbs. red snappersalt and pepper, to taste 3/4 cup oil 1 large onion, chopped 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped 2 cups celery, chopped 1 cup celery, chopped 1 cup parsley, chopped 1 large bell pepper, chopped 2 15-oz. cans tomato sauce1/2 lemon, sliced 2 bay leaves 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Place seasoned fish (inside and out) in foil-lined baking pan. Add oil and 1 cup waterto fish and cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until fish iscooked. In a saucepan saut onion, garlic and celery until tender. Add tomato sauceand then shallots, salt and pepper, parsley, Worcestershire sauce and half a lemon.

Add bay leaves. Simmer for about 45 minutes. Open the foil on the red snapper andpour mixture over snapper. Bake 10 minutes more and remove from oven. Servewith freshly cooked rice or mashed potatoes.

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