Goliad woman serves 70 years of meals (Video)
Sept. 20, 2012 at 4:20 a.m.
Updated Sept. 21, 2012 at 4:21 a.m.
GOLIAD - She has been cooking in Goliad for more than 70 years.
And at 93, Allene Bethke said, even though she has tried to retire from the Goliad County Senior Citizens Center, she is still arriving there at 6:30 most mornings to start cooking.
"I've tried to retire about four or five times, but they wouldn't let me," Bethke said, laughing and shrugging her shoulders.
She quit three months ago, she said, but Mary Wade, the executive director, called her back after a cook quit.
"I needed the help and she just stepped in," Wade said. "We were short and I didn't have another cook, so I called her."
Bethke only intended to fill in for a few days, but when the cook didn't come back, and with her love for cooking for others rekindled, she decided to stay.
Born and raised in Goliad, Bethke said she first learned to cook from her mother. She really got into, she said, when she joined a cooking group in her 20s.
"After a while, I never used a cookbook. I just don't," Bethke said. "I hardly ever use a recipe. I just know how to do it. Someone says, 'Well how do you know what portion?' Well, it always works out so it must be the right portion," she said, checking the big pot of steaming dressing to her left.
Though she likes to make just about everything, Bethke said turkey and dressing is her favorite meal to put together.
Gladys Bolding, who has been going to the center for the past 20 years, said the turkey and dressing is her favorite dish of Bethke's.
"But anything, really, that she makes is just good. She just has that knack ... She has tried to retire several times, but we won't let her stay that way," Bolding said, only half joking.
The 55 or so senior citizens at the center on Wednesday waited patiently for Bethke to put the final touches on their lunch, as the smells of homemade hot rolls and dressing from scratch started to waft from the small kitchen, filling the room.
Another 20 to-go orders, which are delivered to those who cannot make it to the center, were carefully wrapped by Bethke and her assistant, Olga Gutierrez, 75, of Goliad.
The two women started cooking together just a few months ago, but Gutierrez said they just clicked.
In addition to similar cooking styles, Gutierrez said, they also share the same birth month. Bethke will turn 94 on Oct. 24 and Gutierrez will turn 76 on Oct. 7.
"We are going to go party, maybe drink a beer. I think I'm old enough to drink a beer," Bethke teased, excited for her birthday just around the corner.
Old enough for a beer, she said, but also old enough to feel exhausted.
"Some days are worse than others," Bethke said. "It makes me tired. ... Now, when I get home, the first thing I do is take off my shoes and I'm on that bed and I rest."
She has lived by herself since her husband passed away in 1980, and she said her two children, both of whom still live in the area, worry about how much she works.
"They didn't like it much when I went to work here, you know, because of my age," Bethke said. "But I told them, 'I know what I am doing and if I get too tired, I won't do it.'"
Still, she said when the day comes that it is too much to handle, she said she will quit again - permanently.
"It just does me good, I think. It is good exercise. I love it, every bit of the cooking and the baking," Bethke said, as she kneaded the dough for her hot rolls. "Just to see, really, how it is going to turn out, that is my favorite part."
Until then, she will wake up at 5 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, before the sun is up, to make sure a homemade lunch is served by noon.
"I just love cooking for the old people," she said, smiling. "Even though some might say I'm old, too. I like to spoil them."