“We gather under flags and bunting to share food and memories…and to create new memories as well.”
Happy Monday, friends!
I hope you’re having a special time with friends and/or family on this Memorial Day. As we remember the American soldiers who have lost their lives in service, I also want to send out a very heartfelt ‘thank you’ to those who are actively serving and are away from their families, and to those who are at home and away from their soldiers. Thank you for your dedication and service. Because you do what you do, we can all do what we do in America!
I know a lot of folks will be getting together to break bread today, so I thought I’d share a fun article and video about a famous breadmaker from right here in central Alabama. Some of you may already know of and love her, but for those that haven’t been introduced- her name is Patricia Barnes, and she’s gone by the nickname “Sister” since childhood.
She began baking as a young girl, standing next to her Grandmother Gommey’s side atop a worn-out wooden kitchen stool, and today, her ethereal, light-as-air rolls and have become as traditional in the South as saccharine-sweet iced tea.
Whether they’re stuffed with sausage, swimming in blackberries and vanilla ice cream, or served alongside homemade chutneys, relishes, and spreads, ‘Sister Schubert’ rolls are a family gathering staple around these parts.
(Photo: Nealy Dozier)
She was recently interviewed at her beautiful antebellum home in Andalusia and I just loved hearing how the interviewer described her.
He said, “She is a charming woman with gentle skin and eyes. She carries herself with the poise of someone who is not in a hurry, another Southern attribute she learned at an early age. Her smile is genuine and her humility is magnetic”.
The article went on to say that Sister grew up baking and cooking and although she “loved every bit of it”, she studied interior decorating after high school and worked with her father in the furniture industry after college. But her passion for cooking never waned. So when her church held a food fair in 1989, she used one of her grandmother’s old recipes to make twenty pans of rolls.
People absolutely loved them, so she made them again the next year, but this time, she made 300 pans of rolls, and froze them after they were baked.
You can imagine how excited people were to discover they tasted like they were just made! And that was when Sister Schubert the company was born. (Schubert was her surname at the time.)
Sister continued selling her rolls at the church and within two years, she had 20 employees working out of a makeshift bakery in one of her father’s old furniture warehouses. Another year went by, and she was making one and a half million rolls a day out of a commercial plant in Luverne, Alabama.
It was around that time that she reached out to food broker George Barnes to help her with her fast-growing company. “I knew I could sell those rolls,” he told her later. “I just didn’t know how I was going to get the roll lady to marry me.”
They married in 1996. 🙂
Sister and George have also started the Barnes Family Foundation with the mission of helping people in need, including several adoption efforts here in Alabama. Adoption is close to their heart because one of their sons was born in the Ukraine. His name is Alexander, and Sister said this of the moment she first saw him:
“I was visiting an orphanage one time when my eyes locked into the eyes of this little boy, and I just knew I was going to adopt him.” He had clubbed feet and Sister was told “not to expect much”, but today, he is active in many different sports and brings unending joy to their entire family.
Sister’s life philosophy?
“When God blesses you, you in turn, are to bless others”.
Where she sees herself and her company in five or 10 years?
“If God is willing, I will be baking bread. I will be kind, and will try to do the best to my ability to help others. I will live every day like it’s my last”.
Sister now uses a kitchen stool similar to the one she used as a preteen to teach her grandkids how to bake. It’s not worn-out or wooden, but the legend continues, because she learned from an early age that food not only feeds your hungry stomach, but also has the power to bring families together.
Click play on the video below if you’d like to watch a short video about her, her rolls and her family:
I love what her Grandmother Gommey said when, as a young girl, Sister suggested Gommey didn’t need to set the table with her fine china and silver, because “It’s just us. It’s just your family”. She said, “I can have no finer company than my own family, and don’t you ever forget that.”
Blessings to you and your precious families today, friends!
PS- Putting together posts about people is my absolute favorite kind to write so I’m thinking about making “Meet:” a regular thing around here. What do you think? 🙂