Cooking for a crowd

by Betty Wrenn Day - Posted on Mar 06, 2019 - 12:34 PM

Photo: Bring it on! Johnny Foster loves a kitchen challenge. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

Bring it on! Johnny Foster loves a kitchen challenge. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

“I love to cook and I love my kitchen—just had it remodeled,” explained Johnny Foster as he reminisced, “I learned from my mother and started in the kitchen with her, peeling potatoes.”

Johnny and his family live in the Bellamy area of Gloucester. He was born and raised in Ware Neck. “All the family lived there and we were close together. My mother always had a big dinner for holidays and especially on Sunday after church. Usually seven to 10 of us would be there, and at times 15 to 20 would be at the table. She was a Southern cook. Always two meats with all the side dishes, including mashed potatoes and, of course, dessert. Mama didn’t cook from books, just from memory. She was always thinking about food and cooking.”

This she has passed on to her son. Johnny, although he has an old cookbook he refers to, can recite a recipe without looking at notes. “My grandmother, who was also a good cook, never had a cookbook. Everything she made was from scratch and her own creation. She used to make a dessert she called ‘flips.’ Oh, so good. It was a pastry filled with whatever fruit was in season. We would probably call them turnovers today. Having the family in for meals is a tradition I would like to carry on and try to do so.”

Johnny’s heritage of good food created by other good cooks is shared not only with his family but also with his community. “I do one hundred percent of the cooking at home. My wife Pam told me in the beginning that she didn’t cook.” To insure she didn’t have anything to worry about, Johnny prepared dinner and invited her over. “She was greatly surprised and pleased.”

As a member of the Abington Ruritan Club, Johnny is chairman of the club’s annual Thanksgiving membership dinner and has been leading it for 12 years. He is chief cook and bottle washer, you might say. Come the club’s annual seafood festival Johnny is one of several teams that make up the festival’s cooking staff. “You find me at the scallop station. We prepare and cook 800 to 900 pounds of scallops annually.”

An avid sportsman Johnny hunts and fishes, using what he kills, in his repertoire of dishes. “We eat whatever I kill. Don’t like squirrel meat so I just sit and watch them scoot all around.” One of his special dishes is Tenderloin Pepper Steak made with venison. “Everyone really likes this even if they are not used to wild game.” 

Now semi-retired, Johnny and wife Pam do a lot of traveling, although Pam is still among the work force. They have four children and five grandchildren. When they are visiting home one can be sure Johnny is in the kitchen doing what he loves and carrying on his mother’s tradition, the one he grew up with.

“Cooking and eating is a family affair,” he said.