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Real men wear aprons
Shirley Says
Kevin Davis - photo by Photo provided.
Aah, men who cook – we women just love them! The number of men cooking at home is growing. More and more they are the ones doing the sautéing, slicing and dicing. The days of June Cleaver are gone.
Men who cook today are looking for recipes that are not necessarily easier and faster –they are more interested in cooking food that is visually appealing and tasty. They cook for the same reason they like fantasy football or fixing up a truck – its fun and challenging. Plus, when they finish preparing the meal, they have something to brag about.
There are quite a few men in Richmond Hill at ease wearing an apron and who are really good cooks. They are as comfortable in the kitchen as they are in their own skin – showing their “softer” side takes nothing away from their “manly man” image.
Jack Hyde enjoys the reputation of being a great cook. He graciously took the time to tell me how he evolved into the cook he is today.
“I always loved going to Wednesday night meetings and Sunday meals on the grounds. My mom and grandmas were good cooks. There’s something about Southern women, black or white, they have a knack for making food just right.”
Interestingly, he continued, “Women of the ‘40s and ‘50s influenced their children with their good food. There is way too much credence given to gender in cooking. Some of my favorite cooks in town are Mr. O (Orin) at Steamers, Bruce Ford, Mark Thomas and Fulton Love.”
Jack concluded, “Wonderful food is always made with lots of love and lots of butter. I found all the good food I was exposed to, I had in my head. So I call my cooking ‘Cooking By Ear.’”
I recently talked with several Richmond Hill men who are great cooks. They willingly shared cooking techniques and recipes with me.
Buddy Clark:  “In my house, I am the cook. My wife Tammy doesn’t enjoy cooking. Cooking actually helps me to relax. Growing up, I was taught to cook. A couple of my favorite dishes are taco salad dip and green bean casserole.”
Richard Davis:  “I had to sometimes cook for survival. I learned a lot about cooking from my wife – she’s a good cook. I’ve watched her about 52 years.” I asked Richard how he felt about being seen in an apron. His typical undiluted response was, “I don’t give a damn what people say about me. As long as I’m doing what I want to do, that’s all that matters.”
Jambalaya is Richard’s specialty. For the last seafood festival he cooked 60 gallons – and 48 pounds of Uncle Ben’s rice. None was left over. He chuckled and said, “I cook it in a big pot and stir it with a boat paddle.”
Harry Green and Deacon Frederick Hart barbecue ribs and chicken at the Bryan Neck Missionary Baptist Church. They have been doing so for the last 15 years. Harry said, “I learned from the old-time people and picked it up from there.” He often helps his wife Dolly in the kitchen. “I cook house food every nigh and then – frying fish and chicken.”
Boyce Davis:  “I do the grilling for the family. It’s something I can do by myself. My mother taught me how to cook a big pot of vegetable soup with boneless stew meat. I make enough to last two to three days.”
Boyce and the other members of the Fort McAllister Sport Fishing Club have the award-winning king fish kabobs at the seafood festival. The skewers are chock-full of fish, bacon and pineapple, which have been marinated overnight in Italian dressing and pineapple juice.
Ellis Phillips:  “I like to smoke fish, doves and pheasant. I’ve always liked to cook anything outside; I don’t care about cooking inside. I particularly like to cook game.”
He’s equally known for cooking great seafood. He learned to fry shrimp heads from the Louisiana Cajuns. Ellis explained, “Take the shell off the head, clean it a little bit, then soak in a little milk, dip in flour and fry. Each one is about the size of a pencil eraser with the legs left on. It’s like eating potato chips.”
Bill Hurst:  “I’ve been cooking all my life. My granddaddy was a Wise, a German Jew, a college graduate, and he started me cooking when I was very young.”
Bill learned the art of cooking a billy goat from his grandfather. Bill said, “Get that old brown paper, wet it, put on the skin side of the goat and soak all night. Then barbecue it – it’s delicious.” As much as Bill loved the barbecued goat, he found ‘possum had a better taste than pork.
Barbecuing is Bill’s trademark. He helped with the Richmond Hill Methodist Church annual barbecue for 15 years. “We cooked 16,000 pounds a year and used 24 cords of wood.”
Brunswick stew is another of Bill’s specialties. He explained, “I cooked Brunswick stew in a wash pot. I still have two No. 12 bell wash pots and one No. 12 flare wash pot. I don’t cook in them any more, but I have many times.”
Kevin Davis prepares a traditional Thanksgiving dinner from recipes passed down through his family. His Christmas dinner menu is more contemporary, with prime rib and all the garnishes.
Kevin not only cooks on holidays, but can be found in the kitchen every night cooking supper for his boys. The Southern women in his family influenced his cooking style.  
The majority of meals prepared by Kevin may not be found on a health-conscious diet. He explained, “I cook food for taste, not meals designed to fit on a calorie counter. Everything is better fried or cooked with fat back.”
Jimmy Hires’ mother inspired him to cook, and he’s been cooking for 30 years. He said, “I think it’s hereditary. I’ve always enjoyed cooking and eating. I cook mostly fried foods and have a special recipe for hush puppies.”
He grew up on a farm raising livestock and growing vegetables. He said, “We killed hogs every winter. My favorite food is fresh pork sausage. Flour and meal were the only things we bought at the store.”
Walter Meeks is a man comfortable in the kitchen of his Folly Farms home. As a boy, Walter often hung out in his mother’s kitchen. He said, “There was always something to eat there.” Explaining his cooking talents, he said, “I’m an old Eagle Scout. Cooking was a required merit badge. Bill Hurst is another old Eagle Scout.”
Pound cake is Walter’s specialty. He said, “My recipe is actually Frances’, but I do the measuring and putting it together. I use a Hobart mixer bought sometime in the ‘70s and it’s never missed a lick.”
Elaborating on the art of cooking, Walter said, “Cooking is an applied science. I believe in pressure cookers – I use one a lot. Sometimes I should use two.”
Barbecuing is also one of the things that Walter excels in. He said, “I learned how to really cook meat from Harold Chance. Starting in 1974, we would cook 10,000 pounds of meat for the 4th of July festivities at Fort McAllister.”
He graciously shared how to cook a 20-pound pork ham: “You need to cook it 24 hours – not 23. The only things you need to put on it are salt, black pepper and apple cider vinegar. While cooking, never get the meat so hot you can’t put your hand on it. Real barbecue cannot be hurried.”
One thing we women agree on: it’s nice to come home to a hot meal. The downside is we have to do the dishes.

Hiers was born and raised in Richmond Hill. She can be reached at
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