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Women's History Month: The Women of Windsor, North Carolina

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

My Great Aunt Maggie Taylor White was born in 1903 in Windsor, North Carolina. By all accounts she was the best cook in her family (after her mother Matilda). She developed a reputation for making an abundance of great food out of scraps, handouts, leftovers, and a black cast-iron skillet. Maggie married Charlie White of Windsor. The couple had a daughter named Katie and three boys named Booker, Charlie, and Horace before they split and Charlie began another family with another woman in Windsor. Maggie, following the lead of her sisters Bertha and Luesta, migrated with her children to Ossining, New York, in Westchester County during the Depression where she worked as a cook for a wealthy white family named the Brants and rented a flat in the Italian immigrant section of the village. Katie, Maggie’s only daughter, and one of our family’s best cooks, remembered her neighbors well. “You know I learned how to cook using Italian” seasonings like sage because the neighbors “used to give us food.” Merchants “would give mama different things you know, meat leftover that they didn’t sell.” I lived with Cousin Katie while I attended grad school at Syracuse University in the 90s. Cousin Katie was a culinary genius particularly when it came to simple dishes. I count her meatloaf as one of her soulful signature dishes; I imagine her mother taught her how to make it. 

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