Martha and James Patterson
Martha and James Patterson
When James Patterson was asked by his buddy to come with him to visit a girl in Neshoba County almost 60 years ago, he had no idea he would be meeting his future wife, Martha.

Having been married 58 years, James and Martha Patterson both agree that Fair week is their favorite time of the year.

"It's the one time of the year all of our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and other extended family get together," said Martha.

A native of Neshoba County, Martha recalls going to the Fair as a young child.

"Mama would pack a picnic lunch and we'd go to the Fair and eat lunch. After spending the day at the Fair, we'd go back to the car and eat our leftovers for dinner. I've just always loved going to the Fair," said Martha.

Thirty-eight years ago, James and Martha built their own cabin at the Fair on the racetrack. They haven't missed a year since. In fact, James celebrates his birthday during Fair week each year.

Both Pattersons agree that the Fair is as much about family as it is about food.

"I have always loved to cook. We cook a big stew on the first Saturday night of the Fair. Years ago when we first started cooking it, we would only have about 30-40 people. As the years have gone by, James would invite one or two more people. Last year we served almost 100," added Martha.

Martha's grandparents owned a hotel when she was a child and she fondly recalls watching her grandmother cook for the guests staying at the hotel.

Like her grandmother, Martha enjoys preparing a huge breakfast for everybody each morning of the Fair, complete with homemade biscuits, eggs and perfectly fried bacon. She says it's not uncommon to feed over 30 people for breakfast.

James enjoys cooking steaks, ribs and hamburgers on the grill.

"I just enjoy being outside and watching the people go by while keeping an eye on the grill," James said.

While the entrees may change each year in their cabin, Martha said her family's favorite, and a required staple, is her fried chicken.

"I start with a whole chicken and cut it up myself. I only use Martha White flour to batter it," Martha added.

Another family favorite and required Fair food is James and Martha's fresh vegetables they grow in their garden.

"We always have vegetables still coming in from the garden, so I usually go home a couple times during the week and pick them. I bring them back to the cabin and cook them," she added.

The Pattersons enjoy visiting with all of the people that pass by their cabin. They also enjoy hearing the politicians speak and going to the horse races.

"I really enjoy going to hear the politicians speak, especially during big election years," said James.

When not busy with Fair week, James and Martha enjoy traveling in their RV around the country.

While traveling, the Pattersons make it a point to tell the people they meet on their vacations about the Neshoba County Fair. Oftentimes, the Pattersons invite the people they meet along their travels to come to Neshoba County to experience the Fair.

The couple also enjoys gardening and spending time with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In fact, there is usually a bevy of traffic going in and out of the Pattersons' home between grandchildren and great-grandchildren stopping by to visit and of course, to eat.

Martha enjoys cooking for the whole family every other Sunday after church.

They attend Spring Creek Baptist Church. James looks forward to driving the church bus on Sundays and drives a church group to Gatlinburg each year.

The Pattersons agree they have been blessed. They credit their long, successful marriage to their faith in God.

"It's not always easy. You have to take the good with the bad. God has blessed us, and we are so thankful. The Lord gets all the praise," Martha said.

Fair Stew

6 chickens, cooked and deboned

15 pounds stew meat cooked

15 pounds deer meat cooked

25 pounds potatoes

2 gallons tomatoes

3 pounds onions

4 large cans Rotel tomatoes

12 cans cream style corn

Cook potatoes, tomatoes, onions, Rotel tomatoes until done. Then add, chicken, stew meat, deer meat and simmer for about one hour.

Add corn and let simmer about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

Corn will stick to the bottom and burn if not stirred.

Homemade Pizza

1-1/2 cup milk, scalded

1/2 cup lard or shortening

2 teaspoon salt

1 package yeast

1/2 cup lukewarm water

6 cups sifted flour

2 pounds hamburger meat

3 cups tomato sauce

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon sugar

2 cups mozzarella cheese

Combine milk, lard and salt in large bowl.

Let cool to lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in water. Let stand for ten minutes. Add to milk mixture. Add five cups flour. Mix thoroughly.

Turn out dough on a floured board. Knead for five minutes, adding remaining one cup flour to form a soft dough. Place on greased pizza pan or large bowl.

Cover and let rise in a warm place for about one hour or until doubled in bulk. Divide dough in half.

Roll each half into 14-inch circles. Place each on greased 14-inch pizza pans, pressing out to edge of pan. Saute meat in large skillet until light brown. Drain grease.

Combine tomato sauce, parmesan cheese and sugar. Spread half of the mixture over each rolled out dough. Sprinkle half the meat over each and half of the mozzarella cheese over sauce mixture. Bake in preheated 450 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until done.

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

1 pound small elbow macaroni

1 large can Pet milk

1/2 pound Velveeta cheese, cut into small blocks

1/2 stick butter

Cook macaroni until done. Drain water. Add milk, butter and cheese. Cook on low heat until cheese is melted. Put macaroni in baking dish.

Pour cheese mixture over pasta. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Old Fashioned Egg Custard

4 egg yolks, beaten

3/4 cup sugar

2 cups milk, scalded

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 unbaked pastry shell


4 egg whites (I use two) beaten

1/2 cup sugar

Beat egg yolks well. Combine with 3/4 cup sugar and beat until lemon colored. Pour hot, but not boiling, milk slowly over this mixture, stirring constantly. Add salt and vanilla. Dry the unbaked pastry shell slightly before pouring in egg mixture. Bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees.

Reduce heat to 250 degrees and bake until custard is firm.