October 14, 2009 9:38:00 AM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
For Linder Burt, preparing lunch and supper for a dozen adults every day isn''t a hardship; it''s a life-saving blessing.
As head cook at Recovery House, a substance abuse treatment facility for women, Linder brings very personal insight to the unique environment. Only 18 months ago, she herself arrived homeless and helpless at the Lowndes County agency, in dire need of treatment.
"I had nowhere to go, no clothes, nothing. When I walked in the door I felt love, I felt warm, I felt everything," she shared.
For years, the Clarksdale native had been fighting an uphill battle, plagued by unhealthy relationships and addictions.
"I felt like I was running for my life," she said, recalling fleeing to Chicago in the 1980s to escape an abusive boyfriend. At one low point, she was homeless, living on the streets of the Windy City, deep into a crack cocaine habit.
It would take her sister''s death to bring Linder back to Mississippi in 1988. Unfamiliar with the drug culture back home, crack was replaced with legal and more easily accessible alcohol. Over time, Linder would make steps forward -- finding a place to stay, getting a job, raising her children -- but spiraling alcohol abuse was bringing her to a crisis point.
After enduring a seizure from long-term alcohol use, the 47-year-old mother of two decided enough was enough. Linder underwent detoxification for 10 days in Batesville and transferred to Recovery House on April 2, 2008.
"When I came to Recovery House, I felt like I had found a mansion," she said.
After three months in the recovery program and eight months in transition, a sober and settled Linder now lives in independent housing. To her delight, her 18-year-old daughter recently came to live with her.
Whatever doubts Linder may have had in March when first offered the position of head cook at the facility where she went through treatment have long since disappeared.
"Boy, now I feel like today this is my life. I am back at home, and I love it. There is just something about this place."
Prior to treatment at the United Way agency, Linder had learned how to prepare meals for large groups by volunteering at Care Station, a facility for feeding the hungry and homeless in Clarksdale.
"I like helping others; I like to work with the public," she said. "I can relate to the girls here; they can ask me questions, and I can help them keep a positive attitude while they go through this program."
Working within a budget, Linder is responsible for planning menus, doing all shopping and preparing lunch and supper Monday through Friday each week. Different salads and soups are some of her favorites to make.
"I enjoy being around these people, people I consider like me, and cooking for the clients here," she said. "It''s just the ideal job for me. I''ve worked on and off at fast food places before, but it''s nothing like cooking for people who enjoy my meals. I feel like I''m right here at home, where I learned to live a sober life.
"I hope they''ll let me retire from here."
Linder shares three favorite Recovery House recipes below. All will serve at least 12 people.
(Editor''s note: The editor thanks Meagan Coughlin, project coordinator of the United Way Community Volunteer Center, for information included in this article.)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Three eggs, beaten
One 15-ounce can of cream style corn
1 1/3 cups milk
1 tablespoon sugar
3 cups self-rising cornmeal
Three or four hot chilies, chopped
One onion, chopped
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
One onion, chopped
One garlic clove
Two small cans tomatoes
One can cream of mushroom soup
One package taco seasoning
1-1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
One 5-ounce package noodles, cooked
Recovery House Chicken Spaghetti
Chicken (Five leg quarters)
One to two onions, chopped, to taste
One to two bell peppers, chopped, to taste
2 pounds Velveeta cheese
2 cans Rotel tomatoes
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
16 ounces spaghetti noodles, cooked in chicken broth
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.