Julianne Hattaway of Montgomery County still recalls her first cooking experience at 4 or 5 years old.
“Mama was an artist, and I often played in her studio where a little flat-topped, pot-bellied coal stove provided ample warmth during wintry blasts,” she says. “Once, I heard a hen cackling, ran outside and returned with a large brown egg, which I decided to cook. I found a clean, empty tin can that made a fine boiler, a jar of what I thought was water and proceeded with my project. It was bubbling merrily along when Mama asked, ‘Where did you get the water?’ Just as I was replying, there was a thunderous explosion of egg and boiling liquid all over the studio, and Mama shrieked, ‘That’s kerosene!’ Miraculously, nobody was injured, and there was very little damage to the artwork and studio.”
Although Julianne’s cooking improved over the years, she says her favorite activities were those enjoyed outdoors with animals.
“At 13 or 14 I even managed to scrape together the money to buy me a cow of my own to show, and competing against all those other young people with several cows each, my one and only cow and I won enough to travel to an event in Chicago. It was such a fun experience,” she says.
Julianne says her parents loved agriculture as well, and the couple was brought together by their love for farming.
“Papa was a sharecropper from South Carolina who became a writer for Progressive Farmer, and Mama was the first ever art editor for Progressive Farmer. Before that, she sold them pictures and sketches from the time she was 15 or 16 years old,” Julianne said.
Julianne was born in Jefferson County, where her parents met and married while working for Progressive Farmer. The family later moved to Elmore County and always maintained a small family farm.
Julianne moved to Montgomery County when she married her husband, Lowell. There, Julianne and Lowell raised three children, and the couple continues to raise cattle. Julianne jokes about her 11 equines as being part of a sort of old-folks home for old horses with everything from fancy Arabians to spotted donkeys. As part of her life-long love of animals, Julianne says she is still thankful for her involvement in 4-H as a young person.
“The trip I took to Chicago as a teen was the result of 4-H, and of course it appealed to my love of critters. In the late ’40s and ’50s, girl 4-H Club members were required to record their food preparation and preservation projects and to participate in annual dress reviews. In the latter, I was a consistent and monumental failure, but I always enjoyed cooking,” said Julianne.
Despite her penchant for the kitchen, Julianne describes her cooking as being primarily in the plain and quick “peas and cornbread” category. In addition to the responsibilities of caring for their animals, Julianne and Lowell still remain active in the Alabama Farmers Federation, leaving little time for complicated recipes.
“With the help of many family members and friends, we have accumulated, appropriated, adapted and/or invented recipes that reflect our values, budget, dietary requirements, tastes and time constraints. These are some of our frequently used recipes,” she said.
“My husband’s mother and her sister were premier cooks,” she added. “They regularly served mouth-watering biscuits, often enhanced by zesty tomato gravy. This is my attempt at duplicating their groovy gravy recipe.”