Sunday, April 8, 2012

Stew Pot Conversations

I had the pleasure of spending a day with an amazing person last November. Melvin Nelson is a man of many talents. He’s a beekeeper, selling jars of honey to locals and to restaurants; he grows vegetables in one of the most productive gardens in the county; he can build, weld, mold, shape anything he sets his mind to do; he’s a master storyteller, Brunswick Stewmaster and he can cook a hefty pot of some of the best chicken and dumplings you’ll ever taste. Melvin is also a master at frugal living and the father of my friend, Frugal Poet, Susan Nelson Myers.

At (soon-to-be) age 77, Melvin shows no signs of slowing down. I learned many things while helping him stir the dumpling pot outside near his garden that day, but one of the most important things I learned was to hush-up and listen when he starts a sentence with a slow southern drawl of “Well...” What often follows is a bit of wisdom or a story steeped in good old-fashioned common sense, sage advice from which anyone can benefit. Many of us have a family member or someone we know like Melvin, willing to share their real world experiences if we’ll take time in our schedules to pause and listen. Spending time with Melvin that day was a treat for me. I hope I have the pleasure of spending time with him at a stew pot again.

Conversation has always been easy around Melvin. We verbally traveled the world that crisp November day. Highlights of our talk included Sandy Ridge, NC (where Melvin was born and raised), to the western states (Melvin enjoys Louis L'Amour’s Sackett series of movies while I’ve read the novels), to Australia (we are both fond of Tom Selleck’s motion picture Quigley Down Under), to Africa (we discussed Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan movies), to back home, here, not far from Tobacco Road where I confessed to Melvin that Gene Tierney's performance in the movie Tobacco Road was among my favorites by the glamorous movie star.

Here are a few pictures I took  that day.

Melvin's 25 gallon stew pot
Melvin Nelson stirring the dumplings
Melvin Nelson storyteller and stew master
Melvin with his granddaughter, Lindsay Grummett
Chicken and dumplings southern style

The recent cool April mornings have set my appetite to craving chicken and dumplings again. Here is a scaled-down crock pot version of chicken and dumplings. I use a seven quart crock pot for this recipe. It is also one of the few recipes I use that calls for canned biscuits.  (Susan’s on hiatus this week so I’m using ‘em where I can get away with it.  For purists, please see a homemade biscuit recipe here.)

Crock Pot Chicken and Dumplings

6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
(You can also use thighs, just cook the chicken until the meat falls off the bones. Remove the skin and bones when the chicken is thoroughly cooked.)
½ stick butter
1 - 26 ounce can cream of chicken soup
1 - 10.5 ounce can cream of celery soup
chicken broth
1 - onion diced
2 - (10 ounce) packages refrigerated biscuit
dough, torn into small pieces


Line the bottom of your crock pot with chicken.

Add butter, soup and onion.

Add enough chicken broth to cover the previous ingredients

Cover with crock pot lid and cook for 5 to 6 hours on high.

Add the torn biscuit dough (dumplings) to the crock pot an hour before serving time. Allow the crock pot to cook the dough until it is no longer raw.

I'll close with a contemporary haiku I penned during my time with Melvin.

hoar frost...
gleaning stories
around the dumpling pot


  1. I have done work with (through Osborne Const.)and for Melvin. He is indeed an amazing man. Gonna have to try this recipe too.

  2. Had the pleasure to meet Melvin only once but he left a life time impression on me