Donna Sanders of Coffee County says most of the 19 years she stayed home to care for her children was spent in the kitchen.
“I always cooked and helped Mama in the kitchen,” explained Donna. “But after I married Carl and we had so many children, cooking was about all I did. I cooked three meals a day as long as I was home with them.”
Carl and Donna have five living children, having lost a son, and she says they all still get together about once a month to share a big meal.
“We’ll have us and the children, my dad and step mom, Carl’s mom, our three sons-in-law and our grandson, and we love it. I cooked for a crowd for so long that it’s still easy for me to cook in large quantities,” Donna says.
“And if we have any birthdays in the family that month, we’ll celebrate then. We’re a pie family, so we have birthday pies instead of cake. Everybody gets to choose the flavor when it’s their birthday, and we have that flavor when we eat together and they get a birthday pie of their own to take home,” she says.
While other family members bring a dish or two, Donna does most of the cooking for these family get-togethers. And she says there’s one thing that probably won’t be on the table at her house — a casserole.
“We just don’t really like casseroles,” she said. “We’re more of a meat and potatoes and vegetables kind of family. Since we raise our own beef and put up peas and corn in the freezer, that’s what we cook. I guess you could say we like country cooking.”
A Brundidge native, she and Carl met at Pike County High School. The two have now been married for more than 30 years, but Donna says that farm life was a definite departure from the small-town life to which she was accustomed.
“I grew up in downtown Brundidge, and it was a pretty tough change living in the country. I went from spending summers working in my grandfather’s jewelry store to spending summers freezing vegetables from the garden and living out where you can’t just run to town all the time. It was a major adjustment,” she says.
Donna teaches junior high math at Ariton High School, and Carl is a full-time farmer. They live and farm in Roeton, growing peanuts, corn and cotton, and raising cattle. Carl is vice president of the Coffee County Farmers Federation and has served for the past several years as president of the Alabama Peanut Producers Association.
Donna says her three oldest daughters are married, the youngest a senior at Auburn University, and her youngest son, Jonathan, is a junior at Ariton High School where he’s president of the FFA chapter.
“He helps Carl farm in the afternoons, on the weekends and during the summer, and I think he wants to farm when he finishes school,” Donna says.
Donna offers several salad recipes this month, including a Potato Salad she says is fashioned after her mother’s recipe. And since March is National Peanut Month, Donna also shares an appetizer and dessert recipes featuring peanuts and peanut butter, including one of her family’s birthday pie varieties — Peanut Butter Pie.