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Ladell Tutt didn’t “do all this fancy cooking” when she was growing up.
“I had to learn on my own,” the 85-year-old Cornelia woman said, laughing.
Tutt worked as a housekeeper for several white families in the Cornelia area as a young woman. The families often asked her to make “fancy” holiday meals such as leg of lamb and asparagus or a standing rib roast.
Tutt said she’d figure out how to make the meals, but what she really wanted to learn to do was bake a cake. Eventually, a friend from church shared a recipe for pound cake with Tutt.
After a great deal of trial and error, Tutt finally mastered the pound cake.
According to “Walking and Talking with Mom: A Collection of Shorts” written by her daughter, Teddy Tutt, that pound cake became a much-requested item in Cornelia by friends and acquaintances. The book tells the story of Ladell’s life and features several of Ladell’s favorite cake recipes in addition to her “famous” pound cake.
Ladell still bakes when she can, though she often shares more than cooking secrets with her daughter.
Teddy Tutt said she got the idea to write the book about her mother after they started walking around the Level Grove Cemetery in Cornelia on warm days. As the women made their four-mile trek around the tombstones, Ladell often shared memories of her life.
“We’d be out there walking and she loves to talk, but as I listened I thought ‘That’s a book going on there,’” Teddy Tutt said.
While walking, Teddy Tutt carried a small tape recorder in her pocket to capture the details of her mother’s stories. In the evenings when the women returned to the family’s Cornelia home, Teddy Tutt wrote down the day’s conversations.
“I didn’t know that she was going to write the book,” Ladell Tutt said, laughing.
“I love to talk so I kept on telling her all my stories and things about how I come up and all that,” the mother continued. “Next thing I know, she was jotting all that down and she was getting ready to write a book. When we got home, she’d say ‘Now what was that you were telling me a while ago?’”
Many stories are told in Ladell Tutt’s voice and detail the struggles she faced as a young African-American in rural Georgia.
Teddy Tutt said the process of writing the book taught her about her mother’s childhood working on a cotton farm — a detail she never knew.
“There is a lot about my family that I don’t know,” she said. “With my mom’s generation especially, they didn’t talk and tell you a lot. They were just a quiet generation.”
Teddy Tutt said she hopes her book will encourage others to learn about their own family history and help preserve the stories of older generations.
“Walking and Talking with Mom: A Collection of Shorts” is available for purchase on Amazon.com and at Books with A’peal, 301 Main St., Cornelia.