Cooks love good appetites

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 22, 2012

I love to cook.

Cooks will tell you – even those like me who consider it a fun hobby – that some people are just more fun to cook for than others.

My husband, for example, is a critic, with decades of experience to make him right. I give equally honest assessments of what he prepares, so that’s OK. But it’s not always fun.

Then there are those who appreciate good food, are not persnickety about what they will and will not try, and bring hearty appetites to the table.

My brother Chris comes to mind, as does my good friend John Graham. And then, there was my brother-in-law, Bill Boagey.

Bill especially loved Southern cooking. As in all he did, he was not effusive, but quietly appreciative of the effort. It was the kind of appreciation that made people go an extra two miles to prepare a meal.

It was an effect he had on many people. Our mother-in-law died before I joined the family, but not before she’d spent a couple of decades making Bill happy. Family members say she always prepared his favorites. Chicken fried slowly in her cast iron skillet. Fresh vegetables. Biscuits. Pies.

As she prepared for his visits, she’d always call and ask which pie he wanted this trip – coconut, lemon or chocolate? Inevitably, she prepared all three.

Twenty years ago, when Carol took a job in Sicily, their landlady learned to love cooking for Bill the same way. For years, he talked to us about Nora’s cooking.

I don’t fry chicken – and if I did, I’m sure it wouldn’t compete with my mother-in-law’s – but I found other ways to tempt Bill’s taste buds.

The last time I cooked for him, we had pork chops, fried okra, squash and onions, peas, tomatoes and cucumbers, and cornbread. After a while, I took a peach cobbler out of the oven and served it with homemade ice cream. When I tried to take his bowl back to the kitchen, Bill stopped me.

“I’m going to have some more of that,” he said.

Who can resist indulging an appetite like his?

When his wife asked us to put together food for their 50th anniversary party come January, Bill immediately told me he wasn’t interested in prissy, “women-and-children” food. What about if we had etouffee? The menu was built around that request months ago.

Alas, that’s one meal we won’t get to prepare for him. Bill left us this week after a valiant fight against cancer. His appetite had waned in the past year and Carol would tell me, “Don’t send any food.” But I couldn’t resist, and he rallied for bread pudding or pound cake until very near the end.

If there is activity in the afterlife, Bill is doing one of two things – fishing, or having a fine Southern meal.

RIP, Bill Boagey, I’ll miss cooking for you.