In the kitchen with Jama Hayes

In the kitchen with Jama Hayes

WILMINGTON — She hears the numbers rising. She already knows two men are prepared to pay $400 because they told her that information before the auction.

The auctioneer begins and someone yells, “Start that pie at $200.”

She hears $400; she breathes a sigh of joy. Then she hears $425. She thinks, “ I hear Timothy Larrick’s voice. Is he running up the price?”

As she turns to look for him, the numbers keep rising. All of a sudden she hears, “That’s $550, going once, twice, sold to Timothy Larrick!”

Jama Hayes has just witnessed one of her pies auctioned at Dinner in the Fields on the Larrick Farm. It is a cherry pie, and the money raised is more than she could have imagined.

Fruit pies are her favorite for auctions: When the auctioneer tips the pie for bidders to see, the fruit holds up.

She said, “There is no spilling, and the pie doesn’t really need refrigeration.”

So, that evening, Larrick got a cherry pie.

Later, he said, “I told my family before the evening began that I was going to get that pie. I told them we are hosting, and I will buy it, no matter what.”

When people in Clinton County think “pie,” Hayes comes to mind. She hasn’t always baked pies, however.

For years, she was director of nursing at Clinton Memorial Hospital. (In fact, her cookbook from the hospital is one of her favorites.)

Her pie-baking began about 20 years ago. The youth group at Wilmington United Methodist Church, where she is a member, had a fundraising event, “Sweets and Treats.” The group made money from her first pie, and Hayes has been baking pies for charity since then.

She has been asked for years if she would start a business and supply the town with pies, making money for herself.

She politely waves away the requests.

“I bake pies only for charity events,” she said.

Hayes’ organized kitchen is definitely the heart of her home. Spices are organized neatly in one drawer, ingredients arranged in a second drawer, and cookbooks filed in a third.

Her sister, Ruth, is her assistant, gathering spices for each pie and reading recipes — even oven temperatures.

Ruth is quick to say, “Yes, and I’m the cleaner-upper. Jama uses every pot, every pan, all the measuring cups, and I clean them. Then, she gets something I’ve just cleaned out of the drainer and gets it dirty again.”

The sisters good-naturedly chat about kitchen duties and point to a couple of cross-stitch designs that show their senses of humor.

One says, “Countless numbers of people have eaten in this kitchen and gone on to lead normal lives!”

Ruth jokes that her cross-stitch picture is the one that reads, “I only have a kitchen because it came with the house.”

When asked about her favorite tool in the kitchen, Hayes knows right away that it is her marble rolling pin. She has used her mom’s old rolling pin, but the marble one has made all the difference. Also, she uses lard from Kroger because “rendered lard doesn’t make crust the same.” She has made the same crust for years, and now she loves using the crimper to make a “ruffled” lattice on the top.

Her very favorite pie is a sugar cream pie. She found the recipe in the Wilmington News Journal years ago. Every time she makes it she gets out the card from her file. The clipping from the newspaper is taped to the card and is very stained. Years ago she wrote “good!” at the top.

Hayes stays busy with two book clubs, the Wilmington United Methodist, the Philosophical Education Organization, and entertaining small gatherings of friends in her home.

She is never too busy, though, to use her yellowed cookbooks and stained recipe cards or clippings to create a taste sensation for charity.

 

BEVERLY DRAPALIK

Beverly lives in Wilmington with her husband, Jeff. They also live with a dog, a cat, a parrot, chickens and bees.

Salt Magazine