QUEEN OF THE KITCHEN

Living legend Loretta Lynn shares her love of cooking with a new collection of recipes.

If someone had told a newly wed, 13-year-old Loretta Lynn that she would one day write a cookbook, she would have said they were crazy.

"Lord have mercy," laughs Loretta, "I couldn't even cook then! How in the world would I even think about it?"

Now the country legend can't imagine life without making her favorite dishes. "I just like to cook" she explains. "It tastes better than a lot of other people's. I think you make things the way you like it."

When she married Doolittle Lynn in 1949, Loretta says her husband often threw her meals outside to the dogs, claiming they were unfit for humans to eat. But that all changed when the couple moved to Washington state early in their marriage. Loretta was befriended by a neighbor named Blanche Green, whom she credits with teaching her everything she knows about cooking.

After instruction from Blanche, Loretta became queen of her kitchen domain. "You know, anything I wanted to cook after I was with her, I could do it," she says.

Over 150 of Loretta's favorite recipes are in her new cookbook, You're Cookin' It Country, its title a play on her 1971 hit "You're Lookin' at Country." In addition to recipes including Cat Head Biscuits (named for the size and thickness of the biscuit), Loretta's Favorite Peanut Butter Fudge, Chicken & Dumplins, Old-Fashioned Iron Skillet Cornbread and Stewed Rabbit, there are also heartfelt stories about Loretta's personal experiences in and out of the kitchen - like the first time she discovered peanut butter.

"That was the greatest thing that ever happened to me," she rhapsodizes. "I went home that night and said, 'Mommy, you're not gonna believe it, but I tasted something today that I didn't know they made - peanut butter.' I traded a biscuit and a little piece of hog meat for that sandwich. The girl had already eaten half of it, but that was the best sandwich I'd ever eaten."

Loretta's still a big fan of peanut butter. "When I make chocolate fudge candy, I put a lot of peanut butter in it and it really is good," she declares. Though her busy touring schedule prevented her from having a garden this year, Loretta says she usually cans up to 20 quarts of tomatoes and green beans every year. So it's fitting that the cover of You're Cookin' It Country is a photo of a smiling Loretta at her Tennessee kitchen table, snapping a pile of beans.

"I had a garden that year and it was one of the best ones I ever had," remembers Loretta. "I'd just picked them dadgum beans and dumped them on the table and Doolittle snapped a little old picture of me. I didn't know they were using that picture [for the cover].

"I never dreamed it would end up on a book!"

- Wendy Newcomer

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