Fraternity & Sorority House Cooks

Ole Miss Cooks-Oral History Documentary Intro Photo

Project introduction by John Hunter Allgood, University of Mississippi student. [Part of a paper written for a documentary fieldwork class in cooperation with the Southern Foodways Alliance.]

Greek life at University of Mississippi is a pretty big deal. A large percentage of the student body is involved in the sororities and fraternities on campus. Many of those guys and girls live at the houses, and many of them live elsewhere; but they all have one thing in common: they all eat at their house. Hundreds of students are moving through the breakfast, lunch and supper lines every day, and that means a lot of food to cook. Behind every food line stands the men and women that slice, dice, and sweat every day to ensure the well-being and satisfaction of a bunch of hungry college kids with some ferocious appetites.

Some of the men and women have been working the same houses for generations, some have followed their mothers and grandmothers into their profession, and some now have family of their own working with them. But, the relations go beyond individual houses. One house is tied to the other with friendships grown out of years of trading stories and jokes, helping one or the other, sharing ideas and recipes, and simply being there together. There is a distinct feeling of family among these [men and] women, and there is a lot to learn from them.


This project was made possible by a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council.
Project Contributors: John Hunter Allgood, John T. Edge, Amy Evans, Mary Beth Lasseter and Kendra Myers

Interviews

Laura "Mama" Reid, House Mother - Alpha Omicron Pi

Alpha Omicron Pi: Laura “Mama” Reid, House Mother

I’m talking to Mama Reid at the AOPi house at Ole Miss on Monday afternoon, and I’m going to ask her a few questions about food! My first question is, how long have you been here at AOPi? I know you’ve done a lot of different things.

Fairy Bell - Ole Miss cooks

Fairy Bell Hewlett, Retired Cook

I had a book of my own that I made up…I made a lot of recipes up in there of different things of my own self, just like my homemade rolls–cinnamon rolls and stuff like that. And everything that I did or was like homemade, it was from scratch, you know.

jean foster - Ole Miss Cooks - kappa sigma

Kappa Sigma Fraternity: Jean Foster, Cook

[I]f I [cook] one more year, that’s going to be it…I ain’t decided yet if I’m going to do one more…I don’t know. Honey, I’ve been in the kitchen for about forty years. It’s time for me to come out.

Johnny Brown - Ole Miss Cooks - kappa alpha

Kappa Sigma Fraternity: Johnny Brown, Cook

[C]ooking is hard. It’s harder than it looks. It really is. It’s not easy. But…once you learn, it’s fun. Because you can always create something different. ~ Johnny Brown

Sarah Frison - Ole Miss Cooks - Kappa Sigma

Kappa Sigma Fraternity: Sarah Frison

Well, I’ve learned a lot [working here], you know, because at first I didn’t know you could put salt in boiling egg water and make the shell come off easier, so I learned a lot of tips like that.

Mechille Ivy - Ole Miss Cooks - Sigma Chi

Sigma Chi Fraternity: Mechille Ivy, Cook

If I was at home I’d say I do home-cooking like country-cooking. That’s how I cook at home. Up here, it’s a lot different from the way I cook at home because I can do stuff like I want to at home. But, they try to watch the calories and stuff like that with the boys. So, you can’t add too much starch and you can’t add salt.

Willette Booker - Ole miss cooks - Sigma Chi

Sigma Chi Fraternity: Wilmette Booker, Cook

[Every Friday] is Fried Friday; that’s what we call it – Fried FridaY. Tomorrow [for example] we have macaroni and cheese wedges – I will deep fry them. It’s – it’s breaded. It’s a breaded macaroni and cheese and it’s real good.

Ethel Lockhard Photo - Ole Miss Cooks - Sigma Nu

Sigma Nu Fraternity: Ethel Lockhart, Head Cook

[For my seventy-fifth birthday]… the house mother bought me a suit. And [the boys] bought me a hat to match it… Oh, it was so pretty. Purple. The hat was purple. So they gave me a hat with money pinned all the way around it.

Sandra Petties - Ole Miss Cooks - Sigma Nu

Sigma Nu Fraternity: Sandra Petties, Cook

I am the type I like to try lots of stuff, I don’t have any certain recipes, I’ll try anything. I mean, I am always looking for something different. I like Italian food, Mexican food, you name it I’ll try to cook it. I am like that at the house, find me something, use my kids as guinea pigs, ‘try this, try that.’

Georgia Wise - Ole Miss Cooks - Sigma Nu

Sigma Nu House: Georgia Wise, House Mother

I hope that I am able to physically continue this work because it is really enjoyable, and a house director’s job is ninety percent food and ten percent ‘call the plumber, call the locksmith, call the electrician.’ I feel like a live-in caterer and it is a lot of fun. And as long as the boys are full, [and] no one is going to be hungry.

Mary Alice Lewis - Ole Miss cooks

Sorority House Cook: Mary Alice Lewis

[W]hen my family was coming on, you know when I was raising my family, you didn’t go to the store for anything. Most things you went to the store for was your flour, and your sugar. Your meat, your lard, your vegetables – we all raised that.

Ollie Vaughn - Ole Miss cooks

Sorority House Cook: Ollie Vaughn, Retired

I cooked all the pies, all the cakes, all the rolls, the biscuits and stuff like that, you know. And I just, just stand mostly in one place. I would stand so long sometime I’d go to move and my leg be done got so stiff I’d holler.

Verlean Caruthers - Ole Miss Cooks Oral History photo

Sorority House Cook: Verlean Caruthers, Retired House Cook

I started cooking [at Tri Delta] when I was in high school [in] like about nineteen seventy-two. I was about 17 years old…It was an after school job. I started washing dishes. And I done that for about five years. Then I got kind of promoted up to the cooking.

Treber McGuirt - Ole Miss Cooks - kappa alpha

Treber Kappa Alpha: Treber McGuirt

Well, I started watching people in the kitchen and, uh, kind of helping them out and kind of getting them through some things and I always wanted to do more than wash dishes and so I just kind of observed and basically learned what to do.