Peggy Hash is 'One of Hardin County's Finest Cooks'

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Dash of Class food column by Nora Sweat

By Nora Sweat

This month’s “One of Hardin County’s Finest Cooks,” Peggy Hash, is a well-known lady in different circles of friends. Her husband, Gordon Hash, nominated her.

He told me if I ever needed someone for those good cooks I write about in the paper, his wife was an excellent cook. After talking with her, I realized she, indeed, is an excellent cook and a good planner and manager not only for typical family meals, but meals for many people, all with ease on her part. She truly is amazing.

Her sister, Shelia Stith Boros, added her endorsement.

“My sister, Peggy Hash, is a marvelously wonderful cook,” Sheila said.

Peggy’s had plenty of experience. She started cooking at a very young age, and many people have enjoyed her talents over the years.

“It was our good fortune to be reared in a large, loving family and grow up on our family farm. Everyone worked hard and food — lots of food — was a necessity. Good food, tastefully presented, was a reward,” Shelia said.

All the daughters in the family learned to cook well, but Peggy started a brief stint as the chief cook earlier than the others, Shelia said. During the summer Peggy was 14, her father had to take her mother to Louisville every day for medical treatments. But farming duties continued and Peggy’s brother, along with farm hands, worked in the fields.

Feeding the workers continued, too. So, every morning, Peggy’s mother would talk her through a menu and cooking instructions. These were how-to discussions rather than written recipes with exact measurements and cooking times, Sheila said. Their mother called it “cooking to taste.”

“Peggy would cook the meal and our parents would be home in time for my mother to oversee and help with the serving,” Sheila said. “The men ate while the women — and in Peggy’s case, the girl — served, making sure the bowls, tea glasses and stomachs were full before the guys headed back to the field.”

That summer, Peggy baked her first cake as a dessert for one of the workers’ meals.

“As (Peggy) tells the story, she used the recipe on the back of a boxed chocolate cake mix. The recipe was pretty complicated for a beginning baker, but the finished cake looked as good as the picture on the cake box and she was extremely proud,” Sheila said. “With the meal complete, the table cleared and the men back in the fields for work, it finally was time for Peggy to enjoy her efforts with a piece of her first cake creation. ‘There wasn’t as much as a crumb left for me to taste,’ (Peggy) says chuckling, ‘I was so disappointed.’”

That summer began a long and impressive cooking career; not a career to earn money, but a career for sharing, for fellowship, for support and for comfort, Sheila said of her sister. Peggy has baked for school and church fundraisers, provided solace by cooking bereavement meals and meals for the sick. And she’s enriched joyous occasions by hosting wedding and baby showers with creative and wonderful foods and baked goods.

She and her husband open their home to support the ministry of others, hosting those who provide faith, fellowship and music to their church family. For as long as Sheila can remember, Peggy and Gordon have celebrated the holiday season by entertaining others. Each year, family and friends numbering 75 to 80 enjoy their home, hospitality and foods of the season.

Peggy has passed her cooking legacy to her daughter, Kim Keys, and she has spent summers teaching her granddaughters, Lauren, Alyssa, Katherine and Mariah, to cook.

“Perhaps my favorite thing about my sister’s cooking is the way she uses it to provide small, simple gestures of love and respect,” Sheila said. “After retiring from J.C. Penney’s hair salon, Peggy worked a few days each week at Atria, a local long-term care facility, cutting, perming and styling residents’ hair. For birthdays and special occasions, she baked miniature cakes for her clients. When asked why she said, ‘I want them to feel special and loved.’

“Peggy has shared her faith and love in God through cooking. It has been her personal ministry and through this sharing she has provided food for the souls of others,” Sheila said.

Cranberry Salad

2 small boxes Cherry gelatin

2 c. boiling water

1-16 oz. can whole cranberry sauce

1-20 oz. can crushed pineapple (including juice)

1 small can of frozen orange juice (undiluted)

½ cup chopped celery (optional)

½ cup chopped nuts (optional)

Mix all ingredients together and chill. Note: Peggy uses pecans.

Source: Peggy Hash

Baked Mashed Potatoes

2 c. Idahoan real premium mashed potatoes

3 c. water

1 c. milk

4 T. margarine

1 egg, beaten

1 c. sour cream

1 c. small curd cottage cheese

1 c. shredded cheddar cheese

5 green onions, finely chopped

½ c. of French fried onions

Heat water, milk and margarine in a sauce pan to a boil. Remove from heat, stir in potatoes. Let stand for 1 minute; add egg, sour cream, green onions, cottage cheese, cheddar cheese and add enough milk so that it’s moist, if needed. Then place in a greased 1-1/2 quart baking dish. Top with French fried onions and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. This dish can be made ahead and refrigerated. Just sprinkle the fried onions on before baking. Yield: 8 servings

Source: Peggy Hash

Nora Sweat, author of “Mama and Me” is a native of Hardin County and a retired home economics/family and consumer science teacher. She can be reached at norasweat @thenewsenterprise.com or by mail at 408 W. Dixie Ave., Elizabethtown, KY 42701.