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Idella~ Chapter Four. By Abby Austin and Lauren Kern. Cross Creek Cookery. When Idella and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings were the only ones home, Marjorie would usually “bounce into the kitchen at any time to talk.” Marjorie and Idella often cooked dishes together just for fun.

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idella chapter four

Idella~ Chapter Four

By Abby Austin and Lauren Kern

cross creek cookery
Cross Creek Cookery
  • When Idella and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings were the only ones home, Marjorie would usually “bounce into the kitchen at any time to talk.”
  • Marjorie and Idella often cooked dishes together just for fun.
  • Marjorie came up with the idea to make a cookbook, and asked Idella for her recipes. But all of her recipes were made up, tweaked until they tasted right, using a “dash” of this and a “sprinkle” of that.
  • They cooked and cooked, throwing away dishes and making new ones until they tasted just right.
  • Many recipes in the book were Idella’s, but she only got credit for three.
  • Instead of getting a profit when the cookbook was published, she just received a signed copy.
dinners at the creek
Dinners at the Creek
  • Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was 5 feet 7 and weighed 180 pounds. She loved to eat, and was constantly battling with weight.
  • She ate very little breakfast, a light lunch, but wanted a full feast for dinner.
  • Idella would have to prepare fresh vegetables, lavish cuts of meat with rich sauces and gravies, fancy desserts, and serve Ms. Rawlings just as if there were a house full of guests.
  • The two of them loved to bake together. Marjorie’s favorites were pecan pie and fresh coconut pie, with fresh mango ice cream.
  • They would plan meals to not only taste good, but look nice too. They would make sure that colors balanced, and looked nice together.
  • Ms. Rawlings loved asparagus, but it was a pain for Idella to grow and pick. She says to this day, “I cringe whenever asparagus is mentioned.”
plucking ducks
Plucking Ducks
  • Ms. Rawlings liked to go duck hunting, and she was a pretty good aim too. On the first ever hunt, she came back with a bag of four ducks.
  • She said “Idella, pick these and we’ll have them for dinner.”
  • Idella had never plucked a duck in her life. It took her three hours to pluck one.
  • When Marjorie came out on the porch, she simply called for Martha, who in no time at all had the rest of the ducks plucked and ready.
  • Ms. Rawlings made the remark, “Idella, I thought all you people knew how to pick ducks and chickens.”
  • Idella says it was one day she’ll never forget.
lonely even in a crowd
Lonely, Even in a Crowd
  • They almost never had any company until The Yearling was published.
  • Ms. Rawlings loved to plan parties, picking just the right food and wine.
  • At first she’d be happy, talking and laughing with her guests. But she seemed to get tired of it fast, having more fun planning the parties than being at the party itself.
  • When she didn’t have a house full of guests, she was all alone for long periods of time. Just Idella and her.
  • She was a sad woman. If she were alive now, she’d probably be diagnosed with depression.
  • She had a good time cooking though, often laughing and smiling. It was while cooking that she was in her best mood.
whiskey the constant companion mrs rawlings comes to church
Whiskey, the Constant Companion/Mrs. Rawlings Comes to Church
  • Marjorie did a lot of drinking-usually more than was good for her.
  • On days she felt like writing, she’d gather flowers from the garden and put them in a vase. She’d have pens and a pad of paper, an ashtray, and a bottle of whiskey with a brown paper bag over it.
  • One day Idella was leaving for church, and politely ask Ms. Rawlings to join her. She agreed, although she’d had too much to drink.
  • Embarrassed, Idella took her to a church on the other side of town, not the usual one that her family attended.
  • Ms. Rawlings enjoyed most of it, smiling and clapping, and gave a very generous donation when the plate was passed.
  • Idella was always more careful about polite invitations.
the first of too many accidents the movies
The First of Too Many Accidents/The Movies

One day, after Ms. Rawlings had been drinking, she decided she and Idella would go for a ride in the car. Idella tried to protest, but wasn’t successful. On a long curve in the road, the black convertible flipped. Marjorie was knocked out, and Idella broke a rib. In the weeks of her recovery, Idella stayed home. When Marjorie came to visit, Idella’s mother wouldn’t let her in. Marjorie pushed her to the side, went to the kitchen, and fixed herself a bowl of white beans with ham and rice. “Mama hated her more than ever after that.”

Marjorie was a feisty woman. One afternoon after having a series of cocktails, she decided she and Idella would go to the movies. The problem was, before 6:00 pm the theater was whites only. But of course, after a series of mouthing off and cussing at the workers, they were let into the theater. “To this day I couldn’t tell you what movie we saw, or who was in it. I just sat very still, frightened to death.”

escape to new york
Escape to New York

There were times that Idella couldn’t take Ms. Rawlings anymore. At one point she moved up to New York and started working for a rich family that lived in the city. At first she was forced to cook things that seemed foreign to her, like broiled liver. But eventually she was asked to prepare a ham, which she fixed the Cross Creek way, and the family and friends loved it.

Idella eventually got a letter from Ms. Rawlings that she’d be in a hospital in New York. When she saw her, she was asked to come back to Cross Creek and work for Marjorie, and she did. Not just for Mama, but I think she felt sorry for Ms. Rawlings, too.

a note from mrs roosevelt
A Note From Mrs. Roosevelt

When Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was invited to the White House Idella drove her to the train station in Ocala. She wanted to send the first lady some flowers, so she packed some magnolias and moss into a bowl and sent it with Ms. Rawlings. A few weeks later, she got a letter from the first lady herself, personally thanking her for the flowers, although they hadn’t survived the trip. Mrs. Roosevelt was supposed to come to Florida, but had a last minute change of plans. Idella was disappointed, she had wanted to meet a first lady who had taken the time to personally thank a servant for some wilted flowers.

a visit from zora
A Visit From Zora
  • One day Ms. Rawlings got a letter that a writer named Zora was coming to visit.
  • Idella was dumbstruck when she realized that Zora was Black
  • She and Ms. Rawlings got along really well, laughing and drinking all afternoon.
  • Although she and Marjorie had been treating each other as equals, Zora still slept in the tenants house with Idella.
  • When she came back to visit many years later, she looked poor and overworked. Apparently she had been so full of herself and mean to her own people that she had been rejected and shunned.
  • Zora Neale Hurston died years later penniless and was buried in an unmarked grave.
in sickness and in health
In Sickness and in Health

Life for the two of them in general went on happily for many years. Both of them had gotten married, and were still happily cooking and writing. One night they went into St. Augustine where Idella dropped Marjorie off at a party. Later Idella got sick, and Marjorie insisted she go to the hospital. She had to get her appendix taken out. She was in the hospital for six weeks recovering.

“To tell the truth, a good part of the time in the hospital was recuperating that I could have done at home, but she insisted that I stay. It became almost like a vacation with my family, Bernard, and friends from St. Augustine visiting frequently. When I finally left the hospital, I was completely well and ready to get back to work.”