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Retired elementary school cook got her start early

Feb. 20, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

SALT ROCK -- Since age 5 or 6, Lavonia "Cricket" Sargent Porter started helping her mother in the kitchen.

"I have been cooking all my life," daughter of the late Elmer and Pearl Sargent said. "Every Thanksgiving, daddy killed hogs and mother would fry up a big skillet of tenderloin with brown or dirty gravy (as some called it) and she would let me help make biscuits."

The cooking fever kept heating up in her life. She married Cledith Porter in 1948 and began raising a family.

Her boys always had friends that came home with them and they all loved to eat, so she prepared food for them.

"The girls would stop in from school also," she noted. "They would tell their parents, 'Cricket likes for us to come, she always has enough cooked for everyone'."

Her favorite thing to prepare was cream pies, which placed in contests throughout Cabell County.

"The first contest I ever competed in was in The Herald-Dispatch," she remembered. "I won second place with my Pumpkin Cake Roll. "I entered my Coconut Cream Pie in the Milton State Fair contest and won first place. Also, won first place with my dinner rolls and cinnamon rolls."

The retired elementary school cook's coconut cream pie also was grand-prize, "best of show" and first-place winner at the first pie-baking contest the Underwood Senior Center conducted several years ago. Her apple coconut cream pie placed second and her three-berry pie was second.

Many friends, relatives and colleagues enjoyed the rolls and spaghetti she prepared over the years. Her family laid claim to her macaroni and cheese.

Even at 83 (she will become 84 on Friday, Feb. 22), she still bakes some for the family of two sons -- Philip and wife, Linda, and Dwight and wife, Renee; four grandchildren -- Joshua (Carrie) Porter, Katie (Dax) Hancock, Amanda (John) Morrison and Beth (Travis) Prichard; and five great-grandchildren -- Chynna Balen Porter, 15, Morgan Porter, 10, Liam Hancock, nearly 2, Nick Prichard, 6, and Makinley Prichard, 3.

Her first and only job was in Salt Rock School cafeteria where she worked 28 years. And it was a rewarding career, as some of the students recognize her today and give her a hug.

"I started out selling lunch tickets and made sure children who qualified for free and reduced lunches were taken care of," she said. "I also assisted in the kitchen."

Then she progressed to being a cook, working with a team including Helena Adkins, Pearl Porter, Elfa Adkins, Janice Crum, the late Freda Morrison, the late Phyllis Harless and the late Nona Gill preparing food for 500 or so.

Porter, a charter member of Mount Calvary Church, was active in church directing Christmas programs, teaching and/or helping with Bible school, treasurer, part of the choir and other activities.

This Christian lady was also a part of 4-H, along with her sons, president, treasurer and vice president of Salt Rock PTA. She was also a member of Salt Rock Seniors and Community Educational Outreach Service and represented Cabell County as a Belle in 2007 by participating in a parade at Glenville, W.Va.

"Due to health problems I do not do a whole lot, but when I feel like it I still like to bake some for my family," the Salt Rock native said.

"I read some now and live day to day trusting God for another day," she said.

There's a part of Porter that makes her think her love for cooking, baking skills and tradition may continue through her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And, she certainly hopes some of the recipes from the old days will be utilized when she is gone.

"I might add from youngest to oldest, they love to cook (all of them)," she said.

Here is one of the most famous recipes that Salt Rock Elementary School cooks prepared to serve 100, called "springy" by a little boy asking for seconds:


1/4 cup yeast

11/8 cups sugar

3 tablespoons salt

11/4 cups dry milk

2 cups dry eggs or 3 eggs

43/4 quarts flour

3/8 cup butter

33/4 pints warm water

1/2 pint corn meal

Add yeast to lukewarm water; let stand 10 minutes. Shift sugar, salt, milk, eggs (if using powdered) and flour together. Combine melted butter (and eggs if using regular eggs) with yeast and water mixture. Pour in mixer, begin mixing. Add dry ingredients a little at time, mixing until combines, then beat few hard strokes. Take out dough; place on well-floured surface. Knead into smooth ball. Place in well-greased dish or bowl. Cover; let rise in warm location. Punch down in pan. Shape into rolls; place into pans. (Pans should be generously greased with butter and sprinkled with cornmeal.) Cover with towel; let rise until double in size. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven approximately 15 minutes. Check frequently to ensure they are not overbaking. When golden brown, remove from oven; brush with melted butter.


21/2 pound flour or 10 cups

1/2 cup dry milk

11/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup instant yeast

3/4 quart water

2 eggs

1/2 cup oil

Mix well; pour into buttered bowl to rise until doubles in size. Punch down; make into desired shapes. Bake at 350 degrees approximately 20-25 minutes.

This was a prize-winning personal recipe shared by Mrs. Porter:


2 (9-inch) baked pie shells

5 cups milk

5 eggs, beaten

6 tablespoons plain flour or 4 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup angel flake coconut

In large heavy-duty pot, add 5 cups milk and heat. Mix together flour, salt, sugar and beaten eggs. Add to milk that has been heated. Use whisk; stir good. When cooked, remove from heat; add vanilla and coconut; and mix good. Pour into pie shells. Add meringue on top of pies. Sprinkle with coconut. Brown in 350-degree oven until light brown.

Other recipes shared by Mrs. Porter:


1 can Shoepeg corn

1 can French-style green beans

1 can small peas

1 jar pimentos, chopped fine

1 cup celery

1 cup onion

1 cup green pepper


3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup oil

1/3 cup vinegar

Drain all cans. Boil dressing ingredients until sugar melts. Cool and pour over vegetables. Refrigerate.


1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup cooking oil

1 egg, beaten

3 teaspoons vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon soda

2 cups plain flour

1 cup buttermilk

11/2 cups fine cut rhubarb

Cream sugars and oil. Add egg and vanilla; beat well. Sift dry ingredients; add to first mixture alternating with buttermilk. Add rhubarb. Stir to mix. Pour into 9- by 13-inch pan. Sift over top of cake 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Bake 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Check cake after 25 minutes to prevent overbaking.

This is a "school" recipe from November 2007:


1 pound ground chuck

1 pound ground sirloin

1 large stalk celery, chopped

11/2 cups onions, chopped

3 ounces cheese, grated fine

1 clove garlic

1 cup tomato juice

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon paprika

2/3 cup saltine crackers, very finely crushed

1 teaspoon gelatin

1/2 cup chicken broth

3 eggs

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

1 teaspoon parsley


1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 cup vinegar

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon hot sauce

Saute onions and celery for five minutes. Mix other meatloaf ingredients; bake in 350-degree oven one hour. Mix glaze ingredients; simmer and baste meatloaf just before it gets done cooking.

This recipe served 175:


1/2 gallon water

25 pounds ground beef

1/2 bottle Worcestershire sauce

2 large hands of salt

2 tablespoons oregano

1 tablespoon garlic powder

5 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons paprika

1 tablespoon dry mustard

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 gallon ketchup

1/2 gallon tomato paste

1 tablespoon black pepper

11/2 cups dry onions

1/2 cup chopped fine green peppers, optional

2 teaspoons basil

2-3 bay leaves

Adjust spices to desired taste

20 pounds spaghetti

Mix beef and water in large pot. Mix with hands. Add remaining ingredients. Cook 3-4 hours or longer. Turn heat to low after starting to boil.