Louella Hess isn’t usually a talkative sort of person, but when asked to say a few words about her favorite dog hero, Homer, she gave your author an earful. To us, Louella is like a national treasure, and Isabel would tell you that they ‘broke the mold’ after Louella came into this world. She rarely complains, but her journey hasn’t been easy.
Louella Hightower Hess
I was asked to say a few words about Isabel’s dog, Homer. Homer was already here when I was hired on to do the baking at Faded Glory. Even though Homer is a professional mooch, he is really a loyal and friendly dog who does his best in this busy and confusing place with tourists coming and going all the time.
Isabel spoils Hell out of Homer despite the fact that all he needs to be happy is plenty of land to roam on, a square meal every day, and a pat on the head with a good scratch every once in awhile. Homer is well behaved when he is in my kitchen, he doesn’t jump up and steal from my work tables, and he seems to know his place. After all, he is really just a big baby.
When things get hectic at the Inn — and that happens a lot these days — Homer keeps me, and everything around me, calm. Homer thinks I am getting old and clumsy, and that I frequently drop things by accident, but most of the treats that Homer manages to snatch in midair, or retrieve from the floor, are dropped on purpose. I am getting old . . . but clumsy? Not for now, at least!
Anticipation is almost as addictive as the food itself, and Homer stands around for hours waiting for ‘food accidents’ to happen. He has never really figured out why he never catches cake frostings, pie fillings, or chocolate bits; that is because I don’t drop them in the first place. Chocolate and rich pie fillings can really make a dog sick.
At 78 years of age, I am finally doing what I enjoy for a living. I have been a baker and a salad chef in two excellent restaurants over my long career, but the commute, pressure, and long hours caused me to yearn for retirement, and, when I got the chance, I did just that.
Retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. After eighteen months of doing nothing, I jumped at the chance to go to work at Isabel’s Inn. The commute is nowhere near as long as my previous commute to Gainesville, and there is little or no pressure. Recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that retirement is great if you have a partner to share it with, but if you don’t and if you love to cook like I do, just point me towards a well-equipped kitchen, and let me get to work!
As your author has probably told you, my specialties are biscuits, scones, “mile high pies,” breads, and six-layer cakes. That doesn’t nean that I don’t bake other things, but these five items are my more popular specialties here at Faded Glory. Isabel tells me that the Inn has a following of customers who return every year to enjoy my kitchen creations. I believe that every restaurant needs to have a specialty to bring folks back. If you try my ” mile-high apple pie” just once – you’ll be back! We sell my whole pies at the Inn for $15 each, and there are never any left to freeze, so I guess they pass the test. During blueberry season, our pies sell out before noon every day, and I’m not surprised when I see Sheriff Kenny Payne walking around with blueberry stains on his uniform shirt.
When Mildred Hembree took over the kitchen last year after my automobile accident, I really had to take a hard look at my baked specialties through the eyes of our more diet-conscious guests. I bake with, and have always baked with, lard. No shortening in this world can create a flakier, more tender pie crust than lard. Biscuits made without lard are like a day without sunshine, and that’s a fact. Well, when Mildred made her biscuit recipe, she would freeze half a pound of butter and grate each frozen stick through a coarse grater and then work this into her flour. The result was “Mildred Hembree’s Butter-Kissed Biscuits” which created quite a stir around the Inn while I was gone.
There are still folks coming back to Faded Glory asking for “Butter-Kissed Biscuits.” I tried her butter recipe two or three times, but the biscuits never did achieve the flavor or consistency of my lard-made variety. Micah and Isabel have read that recent studies carried out by the medical community have proved that lard is actually better for us than butter, and it ranks right up there with olive oil in terms of nutritional value. Lard has no transfats, less saturated fat, more unsaturated fat, and less cholesterol than butter. I’m no dietitian, but our nutritionists and medical bigshots now admit that lard has taken a lot of undeserved negative attention over the past few years. I guess I’ve been baking with the right ingredients all along! I will most certainly continue using lard in my baking recipes.
I am aware that your author has told you that I have no living children. As far as I know, this is incorrect. My first husband, Harold, and I brought a little girl into the world in 1927 when I was just 20 years old. She was born on May 4, 1927, and we named her Jennifer Ruth after her grandmother on my side of the family. When Harold and I divorced in 1939, Harold was awarded custody of Jennifer because I had no means of support at that time and had to move back home with my parents. Jennifer blamed me for giving her up and moved out to Illinois with her father. I have never seen her since.
Harold died in an automobile accident outside of Chicago in April of 1961. Jenny Ruth will be 59 years old next May, but I have no earthly idea where she is now. I would like to know how she turned out and if I have any grandchildren or great-grandchildren.
I married my second (and last) husband, Paul Hess, in 1952, and we lived just outside of Suches, Georgia until he died in 1964. I sometimes think that if Paul hadn’t died of natural causes, I might have ended up killing him. We argued and fought constantly — mostly over little things — he could be very mean.
Life for some of us isn’t easy, and mine, to be sure, hasn’t been a Sunday picnic. Since working at Faded Glory, I have finally found my niche in life. I love to bake, I love my new-found family here, and I will stay here in the mountains until it is time for me to leave.