Betsy Brumley-Bernier Talks Music & Food

Q - I'm talking again with Betsy Brumley-Bernier, granddaughter of famous songwriter Albert E. Brumley. She's shared with us about her life in the music business. Betsy, you grew up in the Ozarks, with lots of woods and wide open spaces. But then you've had opportunities to travel the world. How did you decide that the area should remain your permanent home?

A - I am a gypsy at heart I think. I have never been one to stay in one place too long. I have lived all over, but after I got married, Kevin (Bernier) and I moved back to Northwest Arkansas to be a part of the family business. We are currently looking for a home in Nashville to split our time between Nashville and NWA. So I guess the answer is, I don't think I will ever have a permanent home. I don't think it is in my nature to stay in one place too long.

Kevin Bernier and wife Betsy Brumley-Bernier celebrated their
4th wedding anniversary in Germany, where the chef made them sugar-free cakes.

Q- So, you and your husband decided to organize a dinner theater just a few miles down the road from where you grew up. What's the food going to be like?

A - The food will be from Fred's Hickory Inn. People from all over the world have been to Fred's, so we teamed up with them for our dinner. We will have a different menu each month. We will have everything from pork shoulder, prime rib to lasagna and turkey and dressing. We will have a great variety.

Q - Do you or your husband cook at home? What would dinner be like in the Brumley and Bernier household?

A - Kevin and I cook all the time. I find cooking therapeutic so our house if filled with yummy smells most of the time. I love to cook with fresh herbs and spices, so we tend to travel around the world when we eat. Dinner usually consists of starting with a homemade soup or salad, then we love to have grilled chicken or steak. Kevin is a wonder on the grill and makes the best hamburger I have ever had. It is truly a variety at house, but it is always fresh. We don't use canned or boxed food.

Q - I hear you're into organics. How easy is it to get locally grown organics? Do you garden?

A - I have been eating organic since 2000. Back when it wasn't fashionable at all. We frequent our local co-op for most of the vegetables and bulk items. We do the farmer's market. Fayetteville has a large organic community, so we support them. We get our beef from a man just down the road from my mom and dad's house. We will drive to Tulsa (2 hours) about every 4-6 weeks and do a big buy on meat that we can't get locally.  As far as a garden, I do not have one, but Dad has a huge one. In fact it is the same garden we have had since I was a kid. We help him with that.

Q - What about sugar or any other special dietary considerations?

A - I am a huge fan of stevia, but only the pure liquid, not the powder. I get all my stevia and other supplements from a Chinese doctor in California because of the source of the products. He grows everything organically and most of his products are Kosher and Halal. I gave up sugar for three years and only used stevia. I felt so much better. I eat a little sugar now and again, but not too often. We are also not big dairy fans.  Kevin and I recently went gluten free. We have just completed three months with zero gluten. We love the lifestyle so we are going to continue it. We will take one day a week and eat whatever we want, but then six days gluten-free.

Q - What advice would you give someone wanting to try a healthier approach to food?

A - Open your mind and try things you never thought you liked because food grown organically tastes completely different from commercially grown food. And don't just dive in because it says organic. There can be tons of sugars in organic food, especially snacks, so read the ingredients. Yes, the body will metabolize cane sugar differently than processed sugar, but it is still sugar.  So I would tell someone to take it slow, find what you like and keep your mind open to foods you never thought you would like.

Q - Would you like to share a recipe?

A - I don't really use recipes. I find something that sounds good then I modify it to my liking. I am into soup right now. I make soup all the time. We always have a pot on the stove.  Chicken is my favorite.

Betsy's Chicken Soup Recipe
1 gallon of water
1 whole chicken
5-6 carrots peeled
1 medium onion
2 celery stalks
1 tsp tarragon
2 bay leaves
2 tsp herbs de provence
salt and pepper

Place all ingredients in the water and let it slowly simmer til the chicken is cooked.
I take the chicken out, de-bone it, cut it up and set it aside leaving the chicken stock and vegetables in the big pot.  Take an immersion blender and puree the veg with chicken stock in the pot. Put the chicken back in with any left over veggies I have. I will also use frozen vegetables if I have not fresh. Then I cook it for about 1 hour. Top with a little fleur de sel and serve. I serve it over fried cabbage and we love it.

Sounds wonderful!  I'll have to try your recipe.  Best of luck with the new dinner theater.

More on the Brumley family's musical legacy...

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