By Justin Boron
About the only meal Madge Williamson doesn't cook purely from scratch is stew, and the divergence is just a small can of vegetable juice.
The 74-year old Forest Park resident has "conquered the kitchen," according to the nationally circulated GRIT magazine, which honored her as the February cook of the month.
Williamson has lived in Clayton County for just over 40 years and her recipe book has grown thick in that time.
Inside the small spiral notebook are 34 entrees and 74 dessert recipes that garner compliments from her family, neighbors, and church friends.
Roger Davis, her pastor at Berean Baptist Church in Ellenwood, said his favorite dish is a banana bread cake that she has brought to church functions several times.
"She's probably as good as any cook we have," he said.
Williamson has had since age 14 to perfect her craft, and her grandson Thomas George, 30, said she has come pretty close.
"We all look forward to holiday dinners, when Grandma prepares two meat dishes, four or five side dishes and at least three desserts. That way she can prepare at least one favorite dish for each of us," he says in the GRIT article.
Her first experience in the kitchen came during World War II when she cooked for her mother, brother, and sister. With her mother at work, she, as the eldest daughter, became familiar with the kitchen.
She hasn't really left since.
Almost every night she cooks an enormous meal, depending on what her husband Charles, 76, and George feel like.
Fried corn bread, macaroni and cheese, and homemade vegetables are the staples of the house, she said.
The macaroni and cheese is a longtime favorite of her children and grandchildren, she said, pointing out hers was the real thing.
"I didn't take it out of no box," Williamson said. "I made it."
The recipes mean more than swollen taste buds and a full stomach. They also tell a family history.
The pages of her cook book turn like those in a family album, with each recipe producing an old story or a memory of someone in her life.
Her zucchini bread brings to mind the image of an elderly widower who Williamson said she used to cook for.
According to her he would say, "Madge, that stuff you call bread is so good."
Other memories surface when she looks down into the book such as family camping trips where Thomas and his siblings would anxiously await a pot of stew.