What a Year It’s Been

You do not need me to tell you what a year this has been. What I do want to say is that for legions of Americans, Hoosiers, and southwestern Indiana residents, 2020 has no silver lining. This past summer as the pandemic continued to reveal itself, we grasped for the positives. The magazine staff was able to continue working and we counted our lucky stars that the content of Evansville Living still could be a bright spot for so many homebound readers — and we hope that still is the case; that’s what we work hard for every day. But we understand there are no silver linings this year for so many of us.

Worldwide, COVID-19 has claimed 1.26 million lives (as of press time, Nov. 9, 2020); 50.7 million people across the globe have contracted the disease. In the U.S., there have been 10.1 million cases of COVID-19 with 238,00 deaths. The Hoosier state has seen 214,509 cases with 4,418 deaths. At home here in Vanderburgh County, we have seen 7,497 cases of COVID-19 with 90 deaths, the greatest majority of these illnesses and tragic deaths being recorded since August. In the eight-county area in southwestern Indiana containing Vanderburgh, Posey, Warrick, Gibson, Spencer, Pike, Perry, and Dubois counties, there have been 15,679 cases and 253 deaths.

While a vaccine is promised by early 2021, that will not change the number of seats that will be empty at holiday dinner tables around the world.

It was in this context that we framed the feature of this issue, “All in the Family” (page 37). Longtime readers may recall that some years we plan for the November/December holiday feature a year in advance — so we can capture the “Doors of Christmas” (as we did last year) or a homeowner’s festive décor. This year we left our options open; we did not shoot holiday photos last season for this season. We were glad we could shape a holiday feature story that felt right for this year.

Not surprisingly, our conversations quickly turned to the comfort of home cooking — a ritual that continues to sustain so many people during the pandemic. Would readers share their most requested, treasured, perhaps even sacred recipes enjoyed in their homes? We asked the question on social media and identified among ourselves a few supreme hosts we knew personally.

Roxane Patton shares her egg pie (you might call it chess pie) with our family. I like to call our family friend Janice Stratton the hostess with the mostest; Janice is not out to impress (though she always does) — her mission is to share and nourish. It also is not surprising to me that Janice and Jingle Hagey, who you also will meet in this feature, both volunteer at soup kitchens.

Managing Editor Trista Lutgring summed up the project:

“Features such as these are my favorite, not simply because of the amazing food we showcase (and eat!), but because of the enthusiasm from our cooks!

I got such a joy being in the kitchen with Janice Stratton as she talked about her love affair with cooking while we browsed her cookbooks. Leigh Anne Howard let me stand at her stove and stir her oyster stew while she made the grilled cheese sandwiches, which made me feel a little like I was a part of her tradition. The history pouring off the property of Houston Keach’s home was just as amazing as his family’s practice of smoking hams. And sitting around a table with Bob Renock, discussing spices and flavors, was just about as much fun as I could have on a Wednesday afternoon.

I truly enjoyed listening to our cooks speak on why these recipes mean something to their families. Most are simple, but all have a unique story.”

Staff Writer Riley Guerzini shares his visit with Jingle Hagey, a frequent source for story ideas. (Philip Hooper’s story on carriage houses, “Old World Spirit,” page 82 comes from Hagey alerting us to a similar story in the Wall Street Journal’s Friday “Mansion” section.)

“Just standing in Jingle Hagey’s presence gives you the impression she has been cooking for her entire life,” says Guerzini. “Her history and knowledge of food and her willingness to share everything she knows about her family’s rich history of home cooking is inspiring to those looking to create a delectable homemade dish.”

Staff Writer Dallas Carter spoke of a storied holiday tradition shared in our office.

“Miranda Simmons and her cheese log lit up our office,” says Carter. “Simmons’s story of a loving family and the inside jokes and quirks that can develop into traditions took the spotlight during our interview. Each staff member who came to try a bite left with a happy stomach and a full heart.”

And that is our wish for you this holiday season. From the staff at Tucker Publishing Group and Evansville Living, may you have a happy stomach and a full heart.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Kristen K. Tucker
Publisher & Editor

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Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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