All through college, I worked at Stone Mountain Park’s Historic Square as a southern belle. Hoop skirt and all!
I worked along side some pretty awesome people. One lady in particular I will never forget. We called her Miss Ruby. Miss Ruby was an older woman who could be a little intimidating at first, but once she decided she liked you, she’d baby you like the great southern mama and grand-mama that she was. I can’t remember how many children and grandchildren she had, but she always bragged about them – she was so proud of them all!
During the years that I worked with Miss Ruby, she’d always station herself in the cookhouse. She’d come in early in the morning and get a fire going in the hearth. Her star dishes were pinto beans and cornbread, cooked in cast iron in the fire of the cook house. Whoever was visiting the attraction that day could stop by and she’d give them each a small helping of pintos in a Dixie cup and a slice of cornbread on a napkin with a smear of butter.
I loved to stop by the cookhouse and have a taste too. It was the BEST afternoon snack in the middle of the summer. That salty/savory taste was just what I needed after sweating all day long in my period-appropriate dress and hoop skirt. The cookhouse had been updated with air conditioning, so I’d stand next to the air vent and let the cool air go right up my hoop skirt. Classy, right? Miss Ruby would give me a big helping of pintos and cornbread. I’d crumble the bread into the beans and dig in. Something about those salty beans and the buttery cornbread really hit the spot on hot summer days.
I decided on Monday that I wouldn’t be considered a true southern woman until I’d cooked some pintos and cornbread. I tried out Paula Deen’s pintos recipe (except I cooked mine on the stove) and the Pioneer Woman’s cornbread. Very tasty, but they didn’t compare to Miss Ruby’s.
Miss Ruby passed away when I was in college. She worked at Stone Mountain for many years and a few of us attended her funeral. There were so many people there – I know she was well-loved by all.