Pastor Charles Deaton of St. Francis Episcopal Church began cooking when he was young and continues to hone his skills.
Pastor Charles Deaton of St. Francis Episcopal Church began cooking when he was young and continues to hone his skills.

Meals are central all the way around in life,” says Charlie Deaton, pastor at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.  He learned most of his cooking from his father, who had a synchronized process for completing household tasks while simultaneously cooking family meals. Charlie’s interest in the culinary arts was driven by observing his father’s coordination of dishes and ability to “eyeball” measurements without instruments. 

As a result, Charlie takes a less exacting approach to his own cooking. He will work from a recipe, but improvises and tastes along the way. Some of it is trial and error, but Charlie says, “you get the feel, and you pour in some of this, some of that, until it tastes good.” 

He continues his culinary education by watching food programs like the Great British Baking Show and reading cookbooks. One of his favorite books is Food for the Multitudes, a work that specializes in feeding large groups. Segments of the book cover, “cooking for 50, cooking for 100, so when you have to cook for everybody, here’s simple recipes like breakfast casseroles to feed the masses.” He likes the book because it acknowledges the importance of recipes for the family, but also scales these up for larger congregations.

“There is great importance in food and how it figures into hospitality as both biblically and ‘Southernly’ senses.”

Charlie Deaton grew up in Greenwood, Mississippi, graduated from Millsaps College in Jackson in 1992, and taught on the Gulf Coast at an Episcopal school, and then went to seminary at Sewanee. He met his wife, Jennifer, just months before beginning his studies and they were married in 1996. Since then he has served as chaplain at Ole Miss and moved to New York City in August of 2001. After his wife completed her seminary studies there, the couple returned to Mississippi and raised their son, Charlie. Family meal times have become less frequent recently, as their son now studies english and teaching at Ole Miss, but the times together become more special. Deaton says he’s not necessarily empty-nested, though, “there’s still a few four-legged friends.”

Charlie Deaton comes to Philadelphia every Sunday as pastor at St. Francis Episcopal Church. The tradition of the church’s patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi, was the care and blessing of all animals.This gentle spirit is maintained with annual blessings of community animals on, or near, the Saint’s Feast Day, October 4th. “Our policy is, if you can bring it, we can bless it,” says Charlie in regards to what kinds of pets and animals he’s seen over the years.

When asked what he enjoys the most about Philadelphia and Neshoba County, Deaton is always impressed by the relationships among families, the closeness of the community, and the ability to draw on the collective wisdom to accomplish some of the church’s active missions. “That seems like one of the reasons to have a church, see the needs in the community, plug in and try to fix some of those needs,” says Deaton.

For instance, the church prepares bags of mylar blankets, basic goods, and bibles for individuals in need. Having lived in the metropolis of New York City, Deaton likes how a smaller church can still maintain a high level of activity, “it’s very much like family, and that’s always appealed to me about church.”

Deaton also appreciates the welcoming nature of the church and encourages community members to visit any Sunday at 11am.

Barbecued Shrimp

5 lbs. “heads-on” lg. Fresh shrimp 2 lbs. butter

1 doz. lemons

1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce Black pepper

Red pepper

Place shrimp in large shallow pan Slice butler over shrimp. Add lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. Cover with lots of black pepper. Lightly sprinkle with red pepper, Broil In a 450~500 degree oven. Turn often and baste with a large spoon. Should be done in about 45 minutes. Taste and see.

To serve: Place unpeeled shrimp on plates with French bread and a small side bowl of the sauce for each person to dip bread into. Place platter in center of table for shells. Have plenty of paper napkins or towels handy. Enjoy!

My Great Grandmother’s Pound Cake

3 sticks butter (at room temp.) 3 c. sugar

3 c. flour, scant

8 eggs (at room temp.)

1 T. vanilla extract 1 T. almond extract

Cream butter and sugar with mixer. Add eggs and flour alternately. Add extracts. Butter and flour bundt pan (or tube pan). Bake in 325 degree oven until done (about 1 hour).

My Mom’s Parker House Rolls

1 qt. sweet milk

10 oz. sugar

1 c. shortening (Crisco) 4 env. dry yeast

1 tsp. baking soda

 2 rounded tsp. baking powder

2 tsp.salt

7 c. flour (I like Pillsbury pre-sifted, NOT self-rising) 1 stick butter, melted

Scald milk, sugar and shortening to 150 degrees (use candy thermometer) in heavy, large pan. Cool to lukewarm (105-115 degrees). Stir in yeast and let set for 2 hours. Stir soda, baking powder, and salt into flour. Beat yeast mixture with hand mixer. Add flour (about 2 cups at a time), beating well after each addition. You will need to beat in the last batch with a large slotted spoon as it will be too thick for mixer. Let rise for 3 hours. (You may need to put toil rim around top of container so it won’t overflow.) Work down with spoon and store in large greased, tightly-covered bowl in refrigerator. Keeps several days this way. Roll out; out in circles (about 1 1/2 to 2 inches). Brush with melted butter; crease with knife just off center and fold. Use just enough flour to keep from being sticky and handle dough gently. (The less you handle the dough and the less flour you use, the lighter the rolls will be.) Place, touching, in greased pans. Let rise 2 hours. Bake at 350 degrees about 10 minutes or until light brown. Brush tops lightly with melted butter. Makes about 75 rolls.

Note: This recipe works just as well when doubled. Cooked rolls can be placed in airtight bags and frozen.

Super Easy (and Tasty) Spaghetti and Meatballs

1lb package of ground turkey (85% fat works best) 1c bread crumbs

1/4c Worcestershire Sauce

4 T Parsley

Extra-virgin olive oil

16oz box angel hair pasta

Big jar of spaghetti sauce (I use the 67oz Prego but other brands work as well) Cup of wine (red or white- your choice)

Pour the pasta sauce into a large enough pot for it and the meatballs. Bring just to a boil and add from 1/2 to a full cup of wine (taste and see). Drop back to a simmer and cover. Mix the ground turkey, bread crumbs, Worcestershire sauce, and parsley together in a bowl. Once mixed, divide into 16 even meatballs. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan to a medium heat. Place the meatballs into the heated pan, cover and cook 5 minutes each side or until done (and don’t stress about keeping them round- mine end up looking like little fat burgers and that’s just fine). Add the meatballs to the sauce and prepare the pasta. When the pasta’s done it should all be ready. Serve with salad and bread if you want. Serves as many as 8 but you might not want to share if you’re really hungry.

Bananas Foster

2 T. butter

2 tsp. brown sugar


2 bananas you didn’t remember to eat (soft and brown works well) 1 T. banana liqueur (if you’ve got it)

1 oz. light rum

Melt 2 tablespoons butter and 2 teaspoons brown sugar in skillet. Slice bananas lengthwise and then in half (4 pieces). Cook over slow heat in butter and sugar. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Pour 1 table- spoon banana liqueur and 1 ounce light rum over bananas and flame. Serve hot over vanilla ice cream. Serves 4.