Dora Rider of Monroe County loves Christmas and says the cooking and decorating of the season are some of her favorite pastimes.
“I can remember making things to go on our tree when I was a little girl, and going to get our Christmas tree was such a big event. Of course, now I just go get it out of the box,” she said with a joyful giggle.
“Now my granddaughter Hannah Grace is old enough to help me make Christmas cookies, and we’re both looking forward to that. She sets up the Christmas village decorations for me every year,” Rider said.
While the holidays mean she has the opportunity to cook for her family, Rider doesn’t wait for special occasions to share her cooking with others. Her husband, C.C. (Rusty) Rider, Jr., is a truck driver, and she often packs home-baked treats when he leaves for the road.
“I have sent banana bread to more places than I could count. I just tell Rusty to take it with him, and give it to somebody who might enjoy it or anybody he thinks could use some kindness,” she explains.
Raised by her grandmother, Vernon Dunagan, Rider said she learned to cook for her family at an early age.
“I had one sister and four brothers, and my grandma’s freezers were always full of food. She kept me home from school when it was time for a hog killing, and she took her own corn to have it ground into meal. My memories of growing up and cooking with her are so good,” says Dora.
Likewise, Rider said her mother-in-law, Opal Rider, has been a big influence on her cooking.
“She is just a God-send. Rusty and I have been married 28 years, and she has been my mama all that time. She is a wonderful cook, too,” Rider said.
In fact, Rider says one of her most-requested cakes is a recipe she got from her mother-in-law: Blackberry Wine Cake.
“It is the moistest, best-tasting cake, and I make a lot of them around the holidays,” she said.
Also perfect for December are two of Rider’s favorite food gifts, her well-traveled Banana Bread and her Fruit Cake Cookies.