Area couple just keep dishing it upPublished 11:34am Thursday, October 24, 2013
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There’s a reason real butter replaced Blue Bonnet in my refrigerator a few years ago. It’s the same one that has me writing heavy whipping cream on my grocery list where Cool Whip used to be, and making soups with a standard sautéed base. Truth is, this change in my culinary thinking can be easily traced, beginning with a birthday and ending with a gift certificate – to cooking classes at Porches.
For a magical succession of Tuesday nights, I waltzed out of my own kitchen and into one famous for its bread pudding and shrimp-topped eggplant crostini.
There, gathered around an island with a few other Emeril-wannabes, I listened as Al extolled the virtues of a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet. I was introduced to the wonders of puffed pastry and the difference between pan-seared and panéed. Most importantly, I was kept extremely well-hydrated with an endless supply of their sweet tea. Sampling all those dishes is hard work.
As I said, that was some time ago. Today I’m at Porches with Al and his wife Cecilia for another purpose, and it has brought back memories of those classes, and other occasions, in vivid detail.
Like my parents’ golden wedding anniversary celebration, held at Porches more than a decade ago. I can still picture my oldest brother standing on a chair, giving a speech that included references to a love birthed on a Loyd Star school bus.
And then there was that Valentine’s dinner when (over a very fine steak) I informed my husband of a birth of another sort that would be occurring in seven months.
There have been countless lunches, too, all shared with friends and family who, like me, love salad laced with comeback sauce and the sight of Cecilia’s hydrangeas crowding the front steps.
On this afternoon at 4, though, their restaurant/home is strangely quiet. No servers bustling through the kitchen’s swinging door. No group of seniors piling out of a First United Methodist Church bus outside.
And during our conversation, I learn that late afternoon is a favorite time of day around here. “We can spread back out and enjoy the house,” Al says with a smile, leaning back in his chair.
It’s been a big week for the McSweyns. Saturday’s Wesson Flea Market marked 18 years as proprietors of the popular restaurant, and on Tuesday the couple celebrated their 47th anniversary.
Sitting across from them now as they reminisce about their arrival on the Copiah County cuisine scene, I notice she’s completing his sentences. He’s reading her thoughts. It occurs to me their recipe for marriage must be a good one, too.
But beyond the food, they have other things in common. There are the granddaughters, who Cecilia describes as “twice the fun and half the responsibility” of children. There is the dog, Magnolia, who arrived at their doorstep a pitiful 35 pounds and quickly plumped up on prime rib scraps.
And there are the customers, who the couple says give them a reason to work at this second career after retiring from successful first ones.
“We do it because we love the people,” Cecilia explains as Al nods in agreement. “Cooking is really an act of love. If you don’t love the people you’re serving, whether it’s family or customers, your cooking will show it.”
That’s why tomorrow at lunch many customers, after polishing off Creole Fried Catfish and chocolate chess pie, will have to wobble out to cars parked along Highway 51. Without doubt they will have been, as we are fond of saying here in the South, loved nearly to death.
Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at email@example.com.