From Chief to Chef: Home cook Dave Bowman never fails to impress family and friends

EDM June 2014eat.drink.MISSISSIPPI
June / July 2014

When Alana Bowman nominated her father to be eat.drink.MISSISSIPPI’s first home cook feature, she said, “He should have his own restaurant. Seriously, this man can cook!”

However, Dave Bowman of Pelahatchie says that growing up, the occasional pan of cornbread was the extent of his cooking experience. The father of two daughters, he started cooking after he got married out of necessity. Bowman, who enjoyed a 30 year career with the Air National Guard, and his wife at the time both worked long hours. Often he arrived home first and found himself with two hungry girls on his hands.

“I started out just throwing something together for the kids to eat for dinner,” he says. “But soon I discovered that it was relaxing. Cooking gave me an outlet to relax and forget about the stress at work.”

He knew he had arrived as a cook when his wife wasn’t feeling well and asked him to make a pecan pie for her to take to work.

“I had never made a pie. My wife tells me, ‘You just follow the recipe.’ So I did and it turned out great! That’s when I realized I can make something other than French fries and cornbread. I can do this.”

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Today, Bowman has quite a collection of recipes he keeps tucked away in a large three ring binder titled, “The Chief’s Recipes.” The title refers to Bowman’s title of Chief Master Sergeant, the rank he held before retiring from the guard 11 years ago. Now with five grandchildren ranging in age from twenty to nine years old, he cooks out of enjoyment for his family and friends instead of out of necessity. Bowman spends much of his time honing his cooking skills and trying new techniques, like making his own jams and jellies. He is also an avid gardener, growing numerous herbs and vegetables on his land in Pelahatchie, located just a few miles from where he grew up.  What he doesn’t eat right away, he cans so he can continue to enjoy his harvest when fresh fruits and vegetables are no longer in season.

Bowman enjoys preparing Cajun and Creole dishes such as jambalaya and gumbo in addition to traditional home cooking like meatloaf and fresh baked bread. He also cooks a lot of Italian food and says, “If my kitchen doesn’t smell like garlic and oregano, I’ve failed.” Lately, he has been experimenting with Mexican flavors, using fresh onions, tomatoes, and cilantro from his garden to prepare salsas and enchiladas.

Other family favorites include shrimp and pasta, sausage stuffed pork loin, cheesecake, and the recipe that started it all – coconut pecan pie. Bowman even makes his own seasoning blend, a mixture of herbs and spices he calls Dave’s Stuff.

On the other hand, Bowman says if you ask his grandchildren – who all love their Papaw’s cooking – what his best dish is, they’ll tell you he makes the best pancakes.

 

Photo captions

Grilled okra: Bowman grows much of his own produce, including okra that he likes to skewer, season with olive oil and his own herb blend, and throw on the grill.

Pork loin and okra: One of Bowman’s signature dishes is his grilled pork loin stuffed with sausage.

Roasted potatoes and cole slaw: These yummy roasted potatoes and homemade cole slaw are seasoned with herbs from Bowman’s own garden.

Apple pie: Bowman didn’t think he was a true cook until he learned to make his own pie crust. From the looks of this beautiful apple pie, we would say he nailed it.

Recipes

Dave’s Stuff

  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons basil
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Mix thoroughly and store in an airtight container.   Use liberally on pork or other meats before bar-b-que or roasting.

Canned String Beans

“My children’s great-grandmother, Florence Allen, taught this canning process to me.  She raised a family during the great depression and never wasted any food.  I’ll always think of “Mimmie” every time I can string beans!”

  • 1 Gallon String Beans
  • 3 TBsp Salt (Plain)
  • 1/2 Cup White Vinegar
  • Water
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar

Prepare beans using a large dishpan or similar pan.

Add sugar, vinegar, and salt.  Cover with water.  Bring to boil and cook until all beans change color.

Tap down jar lids and place in boiling water.  Keep lids hot.

Wash jars and scald with boiling water.  Place upside down on a clean white towel until ready to use.

Pack beans (while boiling) in jars and fill with liquid.  Screw on lids tight as possible and set aside.  They will pop when sealed.  Store in the pantry until ready to use.  They will keep for 2 to 3 years.

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