Aug 11, 2010 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
Ruth Anne Reagan, of Marcellus, is a top 20 finalist in Nightline’s “People’s Platelist” contest, which asked viewers to nominate their favorite local chef by writing a letter of 500 words or less. Out of the 20 finalists, Reagan stands out — she’s the only one who doesn’t cook for a restaurant.
Reagan was nominated by her son Tim, a drama teacher at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C.
“I watch Nightline, and I kept hearing about this People’s Platelist,” Reagan said. “And I thought about it and I said, ‘My mom’s!'”
Ruth Anne is an avid painter and musician, having studied both at Syracuse University. She was once the full-time organist at St. Francis Church, and she still substitutes when she can.
“Although she wouldn’t like to be remembered as being a cook, she’s pretty amazing when we go to visit,” Reagan said. “In the mornings she runs that kitchen like a breakfast diner.”
To say Ruth Anne was surprised to make the list would be an understatement.
“I thought at first it was a joke when ABC called,” she said. “But it’s a real boost.”
A mother of eight and a grandmother of many, Ruth Anne’s had plenty of mouths to feed over the course of her nearly 60-year marriage to her husband, Bernard. But when she and Bernard first got hitched, she knew little about the trade.
“I could barely make a tuna fish sandwich,” she said.
She learned quickly enough, with some help from cookbooks.
“I like to eat, I like food, and I can read!” she said.
Ruth Anne and Bernard have lived on Flower Lane in Marcellus for about 55 years. In that time her kids have grown up to have families and impressive careers — which Tim artfully addresses in the opening paragraph of his nomination letter:
“Nestled among the rolling hills of Central New York, in the tiny hamlet of Marcellus sits a kitchen that has fed the likes of nurses, doctors, lawyers, judges, teachers, engineers, musicians, athletes, artists, politicians, civil service workers, businessmen and women, parents, children, and students for close to 60 years.”
The letter continues, “The menu is an eclectic mix of the mundane to the magnificent that includes quaint early morning breakfasts, savory breads and desserts, delectable bistro dishes, sumptuous holiday meals, and even bag lunches for the hurried traveler or weary student.”
Tim also mentions how Ruth Anne has combined her love for music with that of preparing a meal: “Ruth Anne has been known to pull up the piano bench and begin playing Bach or Chopin while the potatoes are boiling or the bread is rising.”
Tim’s letter makes clear that Ruth Anne has not slowed down since 1967, when the family expanded to 10 and his mom reached “professional status.”
“Mom continues to lovingly prep, mix, stir, baste, boil, bake, thaw, pour, saut (c), fry, and sprinkle for her brood. After 20 years of my own marriage, my wife still marvels at how Mom can magically rustle up a meal for 10 from seemingly bare cupboards.”
Tim’s letter is, in many ways, a tribute to his mother. Ruth Anne loves to write, “and every now and then I like to write,” Tim said.
“I just felt passionate about it,” he continued. “Living down here in Washington I don’t get to see them as much as my sisters do. So it was a nice way to sort of be there without being there, writing this, because I know what goes on with her cooking.”
Ruth Anne’s ambition for cooking is very much connected to her love for her family. She was an only child, and her parents died when she was very young.
“I like to have the family come together,” she said. “I think that’s why I do it.”
As a finalist in the “People’s Platelist” competition, Ruth Anne has until Aug. 13 to submit a three-minute video to be voted on by the viewers. Upon news of his mom’s top-20 ranking, Tim met with a videographer from ABC to film Ruth Anne preparing her famous barbeque chicken.