A Pickens County woman is taking her passion for healthy cooking to the airwaves.
Mary Beth Oxendine of Central hosts the show “Cooking With Mrs. O” on Channel 16.
Mary Beth’s husband, the late Tom Oxendine, was a teacher at Easley High School.
At the end of each show is a memorial to Tom.
The health of her daughter Marie spurred Oxendine to change the way she and her family cooked and ate.
“She was dying,” Oxendine said. “She had cystic fibrosis and the doctors said she only had 10 days to live. She couldn’t eat anything in the grocery store. She was so precious and we were going to lose her.”
Praying for guidance and for the Lord to save their child, the Oxendines found that they needed to change the way they ate.
A local woman Virgina Caswell, a missionary’s wife, heard about the family.
“She was teaching about people in the Clemson, Central, Seneca area cooking classes on how to grind your own wheat and make bread,” Oxendine recalled, adding that she’d wanted to take those classes herself but couldn’t leave Marie.
“I didn’t know how long I would have with her,” Oxendine said.
One day, Caswell called Mary Beth.
“She said, ‘I think I can help you,’” Oxendine said. “I’m a Seventh Day Adventist and I want to teach you what I’m teaching everybody else.”
Mary Beth said she thought Caswell’s offer was a blessing.
“I love to cook anyway,” she said. “I thought, ‘I’m going to get to do something I haven’t been able to do (lately).’”
But she didn’t realize Caswell’s lessons would change their lives – and save Marie’s life.
“She said, ‘I really believe we can help your daughter,’” Oxendine said.
Seventh Day Adventists “heal with food,” she said.
“She came here and for three months she taught me how to cook with grains,” Oxendine said. “That’s when I started grinding own wheat.
“Within three months of grinding my own wheat and getting everything from the Mid-west, fresh, they changed the diagnosis,” Oxendine said. “Marie got well. She wasn’t gray any more. She was eating great. We were all thriving. Our food costs had gone down. It was really amazing.
“All I was really doing was changing our recipes to the fresh, ground wheat … going to all-natural foods, organic foods,” Oxendine said.
The health of her whole family improved as they changed their diets, she said.
“Marie was the barometer for what food was not healthy,” Oxendine said. “If she ate a strawberry out of the field, even washed, that had been sprayed with pesticides, she broke out all over the place.”
Tom died suddenly on September 11, 2007, but Mary Beth knows that their change in lifestyle added years to his life.
She was angry at his passing, not wanting to continue teaching healthy cooking, believing her cooking hadn’t allowed him to live to old age.
“The autopsy revealed that he was in perfect health – except for an undiagnosed genetic arterial condition.
“He lived about 15-20 years longer than they do with this condition,” Mary Beth said. And they’re not in good health. They usually have 4-6 heart attacks before dying. He could have died earlier. He should have died earlier.”
Oxendine says she takes “Southern food and I make it healthy.”
One of her cookbooks is called “Healthy, Simple Southern-Style Cooking On One Income” and is full of her families’ favorite recipes, including cinnamon rolls, corn bread, French Toast, pimento cheese, chicken tenders and meatloaf.
The recipes are based on Mary Beth’s mother’s staples, but with a twist.
“I took her recipes and I changed them to be healthier,” Oxendine said. “I make my gravy for my pork chops and my round steak out of whole wheat flour, fresh ground.”
In the intro to her Southern Style cookbook, she remembers what a challenge that initial change was.
“I thought to myself, ‘How do you cook Southern style with soy and tofu?’ she writes.
The recipes also focus on being economical, as Mary Beth came up with them when the family was relying solely on Tom’s income as a teacher.
“Christ is compared to wheat all through the Bible,” she said. “The bread of life, the staff of life.”
Her cookbook is available at Riverhurst in Clemson.
Her new cookbook, on healthy desserts, will be released November 1.
A book signing will be held at Riverhurst that day.
She said she'd also like to write a cookbook about cookbook for widows, with Scripture interspersed with the recipes.
“I've been working on developing healthy recipes that are easy for them,” Oxendine said.
Her cooking show came about after she saw a show on Channel 16 that featured someone grinding wheat, and called the station to compliment them.
Station officials asked if she would like to do a show, and to bring some food for everyone to try.
At first, Mary Beth didn’t think she was winning the producer over – until she tried Mary Beth’s food.
“I could tell she wasn’t excited to taste my food,” Oxendine said. “She tried my brownie. She tried my pimento cheese. She said, ‘Y’all, this is really good! You have to try this!’”
The reason the producer had been slightly cold to her beforehand was she had sampled so much healthy food on her show that tasted terrible and had to act like she liked it, she told Mary Beth later.
A show featuring Mark Beth’s cookbook as a segment caused the cookbook to nearly sell out completely.
She tapes her show at the WGGS studios in Taylors.
“Cooking With Mrs. O” airs at 10am Saturday mornings.
Mary Beth invited Patch to a taping of her show in June.
During each show, Mary Beth shares the healthy attributes of her dishes.
I watched her make whole wheat waffles with fresh fruit topping
She taped her first show in January of this year.
“It’s like having a big family,” Oxendine said. “I love cooking for them. It’s given me somebody to cook for now that Tom is not here.”
She has a web site, marybethskitchen.com.
If you're interested in advertising or being a sponsor for the show, contact Mary Beth at email@example.com or call 952-9612.
She's very excited that she has been given the opportunity to share the recipes, lifestyle changes and the faith that have been so beneficial to her own family.
“God is very good,” she said.