GROVE CITY, Pa. — Beverly Henry was told she’d be blind in 18 months. Determined not to rely on others or go on disability, she went home, put on a blindfold and baked two Boston cream pies.
“I’m the type of person that everything goes back to its place — my dad was the same way — everything has its place,” Henry said about her ability to find what she needed to cook blindfolded.
In her home kitchen in Grove City, Pennsylvania, and now in her food truck — Grannies’ Kitchen — each utensil and ingredient has a home, which helps her stay organized and eliminates the need to read labels each time she grabs something.
When Henry was diagnosed with a hereditary eye disease, she left her job as a veterinarian’s office manger to start a business she could do even without her sight.
She is not able to make out details of faces or drive her food truck — but she can cook.
She started out making potato doughnuts.
Her husband was growing potatoes and not making much profit. She commented on the lack of income, and he said, “You think you can do better?” Yes, she did!
She set out to hone her recipe and buy a food trailer.
“My husband, kids and grandkids and pigs ate a whole lot of doughnuts before I perfected the recipe,” she said.
Once she started selling doughnuts and purchased the food trailer, she thought she might get bored with just doughnuts so she expanded the menu to include family favorites and popular requests.
Learning to cook
Henry learned to cook from watching her grandmother, aunts and mother in the kitchen.
“My father always said I treated him like a Greek god,” she said, “because I was always giving him burnt offerings.”
“On the farm, we were always feeding people — friends, the help, salesman — they all ate around our table.”
She has three brothers and two of them still operate the family dairy farm, south of Mercer, Pennsylvania.
Her grandma never followed a written recipe, so Henry had to watch her to learn what to do. There is one recipe she never perfected — her grandmother’s chocolate cake.
“I think she wanted to take it to the grave with her,” she said.
“Eating her food really is like sitting around my grandmother’s table,” said Maggie Mase, her niece and 4-H program assistant in Mercer County.
Today, Henry turns people away because her food truck is double booked on many occasions.
Her customers do the marketing by word-of-mouth. In July of this year, she worked every day except July 4.
Each week, she sets up at the New Wilmington Produce Auction, General Electric and the Odessa Auto Auction. Her favorite jobs are private events, when the host tells her exactly what they want and how many people will be eating. She has done birthday parties, high school graduations, class reunions and many other types of events.
Dedicated to youth
She has done some county fairs, but says she doesn’t like guessing games, when it comes to traffic to the trailer.
Still, she was at the Mercer 4-H Roundup, her home county.
“I do it for the kids,” she said. She even caters her menu to their favorites.
“I wasn’t going to make haluski today — didn’t think it would sell well with the kids — but when a last-year 4-H’er asks you for haluski, you make haluski,” she said with a grin.
“I try to take jobs I can do myself,” she added, although her sister, Debbie Mezzara, helps her cook and serve.
Her daughter, husband and a family friend also pitch in when needed.
Henry tries to make as much as she can from scratch. She works with Curtze Food Service to order her ingredients — they call her each Tuesday to get her order and deliver it on Wednesdays.
She is thankful for their call service, eliminating the struggle to get online and order with her failing vision.
Sitting across from her at a picnic table, she shared she couldn’t see my eyes or the details of my face, but she could make out my gender and the outlines.
She has a Facebook page for marketing, but doesn’t update it, because it’s difficult for her to maintain and she has a steady flow of business anyway. Her food truck goal is simple: “I want to enjoy it, to have fun cooking for people.”
In the last three years, her vision has held steady and she is committed to spending time with her nine grandchildren, who named her food trailer, before her sight is completely gone.
Connect with Grannies’ Kitchen, 724-99203146.
“It was on my bucket list to take a family vacation to the Outer Banks — and we did,” she said, as she plans to go again this summer to make memories and, of course, cook for her family.