Have food, will fellowship.
Even "God" knows of Chick Smithson's extraordinary culinary capabilities, according to Woodbury's highest-ranking government official.
Lifelong Cannon County resident Sarah Ellen "Chick" Smithson does not dispute that, as a long-time, now retired, "head cook of 25 years or more" at Woodbury First Baptist Church's popular Wednesday night "Fellowship Meal."
How popular was Chick's cooking in her famous cast-iron skillets?
"Chick's fried chicken and banana pudding are to die for," decreed Woodbury Mayor Harold Patrick. "Her cooking at the church is so famous, God and just about everyone else in Woodbury knows of Chick's culinary prowess, especially her pudding…"
For decades until 2010, before a health issue headed the now 73-year-old lady toward retirement, an estimated 60 to 80 people would flock to throw their feet under Chick's tables at Baptist fellowship hall.
Her assistant the last five years was Pam Northcutt, another regionally-famous culinary artist known presently for "16 flavors of fried pies" each Saturday at the Farmer's Market, held on grounds of the nationally-acclaimed Arts Center of Cannon County, 1424 John Bragg Highway.
"Peach (fried pies) are the most popular I serve at Farmer's Market," Pam shared while whipping out another recipe. "When I cooked for the Wednesday night meal at First Baptist, my specialty was roast beef, gravy and cole slaw…"
She too praised Chick's "fried chicken."
"But, Chick's fried chicken and pudding, they were the most popular Wednesday evening meal the five years I shared kitchen duty with her at First Baptist Fellowship Hall…," Northcutt acknowledged.
First Baptist Pastor Hunter Hay described the "value" of an evening meal at the church: "We have many dedicated volunteers, including current chefs Mike and Betsy Pollard who really contribute to our church mission…
"With our bus runs, including children whose parents cannot attend, we currently run from 70 to 80 diners, with children dining at no charge," the pastor testified.
He sang "the praises" of Chick and Pam.
"When the Pollards have to be out of town, word spreads and the crowd grows when folks know about Chick's famous fried chicken with all the trimmings," the Rev. Hay hailed. "Our Wednesday night fellowship meals are vital, since it allows folks of all age groups and economic status to come and fellowship together…to get to know one another in the name of Christian fellowship."
Is "Chick's" nickname related to her famous "fried chicken?"
"Actually, my nickname goes back to fifth grade at mighty Auburntown School," noted Chick. "It was fellow Auburn students who named me 'Chick,' instead of calling me by real name…Sarah Ellen, although I think Sarah is a real pretty name too."
She's had fun with various versions of her nickname down through the decades.
"When I'd shop at Arne Smithson's Grocery to buy the friar-sized chickens and other food items for the First Baptist fellowship meal," Chick shared. "His name for me was 'Chickaroo.'"
There's a holiday "Chick" version too.
"My niece (Tracy Larimer Wolford) calls me 'St. Chickalous' during the Christmas season," added Chick with a chuckle. "I've always had a lot of fun out of the nickname…"
"Food and fellowship" seem to go together.
"I think it does, and Baptists are well known for their fellowship meals," Chick added.
Her former "sidekick cook" Northcutt also steps back in time in Cannon culinary annals.
"We formerly had 'The Valley Deli,' on Old Murfreesboro Highway," Pam shared. "After that, I thoroughly enjoyed sharing the Baptist fellowship hall kitchen with Chick, a delightful and highly-talented person to work with…
"Today, my specialty is the fried fruit pies, all kinds of fried pies," Pam noted. "They must be pretty good, for I sell a tremendous number of them at Farmer's Market."
Some folks in Woodbury know to just "follow their noses" to get a taste of these regionally-famous cooks heavenly-tasting delicacies…
Pass the biscuits, please.