And Opal Noble of Ward is someone who has given me a great deal of both. Chances are, she has fed your family a time or two as well. Perhaps you’ve enjoyed dishes like her Enchiladas and Mexican Rice, her Egg and Olive Cream Cheese Spread or her Easy White Chicken Chili.
Over the years, Opal, a First Electric Cooperative member, has been one of Arkansas Living’s most faithful Reader Recipes contributors. (Here she is again on page 34 this month, with a three-ingredient holiday side dish!) Another woman I’m thankful for — our Editorial Assistant Liz Pounders, who faithfully types in, tidies up and organizes our recipes — suggested I talk to Opal for the magazine. As it turns out, she’s just as delightful as her recipes.
Opal, who is 76, developed a love of cooking at an early age, growing up in rural Rye in Cleveland County, where her childhood memories include picking blackberries for cobblers, baking her first cake from the Hershey’s cocoa can recipe and the “Watkins man” coming by to sell vanilla and black pepper.
When she started cooking, Opal says, “I was probably 5 or 6 years old; I’d stand on a chair and help my mom in the kitchen. I’m the oldest daughter of eight children, and because I was the oldest, she would give me the responsibility to watch the canner.” She adds with a laugh, “I was very conscientious about doing what she said because I figured if anyone got hurt, somebody was going to be in a lot of trouble!”
Opal, a wife, mother and grandmother who worked as an insurance adjuster prior to retirement, favors no-fuss recipes, saying, “Your magazine actually has one of the best formats for having good, solid cooking.”
Her best advice for preparing a big holiday meal: “Keep it simple — that’s the best way. And plan ahead. You want to be sure you have all the little things — the Saran wrap, your baggies, your foil pans. I find if I wait until the last minute, then I’m so stressed out that I don’t enjoy the company. I try to do everything I can beforehand.”
And she sticks to recipes that are tried and true. “I get so many recipes from my friends,” she says. “That’s where I get most of them; they’ve been passed down to me.”
We thank her for so generously passing them down to us.
This month, we also want to thank our lineworkers for all that they do, here at home and hundreds of miles away (see The Cooperative Difference). We want to thank our veterans for their service (see our two Arkansas veteran spotlights).
Finally, we want to thank you for reading Arkansas Living, which celebrates 76 years with this issue.
Wishing you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Jennifer Christman Cia
Jennifer Christman Cia is the editor of Arkansas Living.