Jeanette Braden of Cleburne County says she’ll never act like an old lady.
“I’m not old. I’ve just been here several years,” she says.
She and her husband, Joe, live in Heflin in Cleburne County where both were born and attended the same school.
“We even rode the same school bus,” Jeanette says. “He got on the bus before I did, so he used to save me a seat.”
Joe and Jeanette haven’t always lived in Heflin though.
When times were tough for farming, Joe went to work for Lockheed Aircraft in Marietta, Ga., living there for 24 years. During that time, Joe bought 150 acres of land in Cleburne County from his uncle. He cleared enough land to graze cattle and cut hay, and built a large pond on the property.
“When our house in Marietta burned, we saw a need to build on our farmland, so that’s what Joe did,” said Jeanette. “He spent his vacation time and weekends building the house himself. All the family pitched in, and helped us get moved, and we moved in in 1976.”
Today, Joe is vice president of the Cleburne County Farmers Federation, and Jeanette serves on the county Women’s Committee. She also gathers the information for the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Food Price Survey.
Jeanette says she learned to cook in her mother’s kitchen, and that she wasn’t the only daughter schooled there.
“Mama and Daddy had 10 children, and we girls were in pairs,” she said. “The first two were girls, and they had to help Mama in the kitchen. They lost the third child, and then they had two more girls. Mama had a boy next, then two more girls to take over in the kitchen. Mama would make sure everybody was awake when they ought to be, and got the children dressed since the girls could cook. The last two were boys though, which meant they helped Daddy. So Mama had to do the cooking herself then.”
Jeanette says she was always a homemaker, and has never regretted that.
“We were always able to save money by the work I did around the house, so we had money for other things,” she said. “And my furniture always looked as good as that of the women around me who worked. I did both of my girls’ sewing when they were growing up, but I’ve never sewn a sports coat. I told Joe if I could keep our girls dressed, he could take care of our son.”
Joe and Jeanette have been married 59 years, and have three children, 10 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. And Jeanette says she looks forward to any opportunity to cook for her family and friends.
“And if I have extra time, I love to stay busy by cooking for shut-in people in the area,” she says.
For December, Jeanette shares some of her favorite recipes for holiday entertaining, along with some of her best-loved cake recipes that are sure to make any day a special occasion.
“It takes time and thought, but if you cook a perfect cake, it will be finger-licking good,” Jeanette says.