Click for the downloadable version of Issue 52 of the Yachats Gazette.
Interview with “Huck” Huckins and Claudia Price Of Just Good Cookin’
Just Good Cookin’s brochure and menu can be found by clicking here.
TYG: How did you meet each other?
Claudia: Through the Yachats Ladies’ Club. We got to be friends, then I joined. Huck had been a member for...
Huck: ...About 14 years.
TYG: So you guys have lived in Yachats for a long time, then!
Claudia: I’ve lived here for about 14 years.
Huck: I’ve lived here for the last five years, but I’ve lived here in the area, on and off, for the last 20.
TYG: We’ve lived here for eight years, ourselves. So how did you guys come to Yachats?Huck: This is where we retired. After we retired in Portland from the Air Force, my husband retired again and then we came out here.
Claudia: Yep, same here. We retired here; we loved the area and knew we’d always come back.
TYG-Editorial Assistant: How did you find it?
Claudia: Well, my husband and I managed the KOA up in Waldport for a few years at the turn of the century, and fell in love with it then. We did some traveling on and off, but always managed to migrate back here, and Yachats was just our place to go to get away from the campground. We always liked it, and we just wanted to come back.
TYG: What was the Air Force like?
Huck: Well, we traveled around for 23 years. We’re both from southeastern Montana, but we knew we wanted to retire on the Oregon coast or somewhere near Portland. So we were in Portland for about eight years, and we visited all the way from Lincoln City down to Gold Beach, and Yachats fit the bill.
TYG-EA: What was it that caught your eye?
Huck: Just the quaintness of it, and the friendliness of all the people. My husband worked for the Nature Conservancy, so we were up at the site in Lincoln City, up Cascade Head, and different sites around—we just really liked the people here.
Claudia: There’s just a spirit about it.
Huck: I’ll say.
TYG-EA: What caught your eye about Yachats?
Claudia: The scenery, mainly. From here down to Florence is the prettiest 25 miles of the coast. The scenery, and then when we got to know the people, of course—the spirit, and the magical nature of the town.
Claudia: Yes. Campgrounds of America—with a “K”. They do everything—if there are camping cabins, they do Kamping Kabins with a “K.”
TYG-EA: It’s kitschy.
Claudia: Yeah, it’s a grabber.
TYG: I would imagine it’s just like a brand deal, or something—sounds like a nice place.
Claudia: Yes, they’re a franchise situation. There used to be about 500 of them; I don’t know if there are still that many. We managed the one in St. Petersburg, Florida; and the one in Nashville, Kentucky; we’ve been all over.
Huck: The next time you’re driving north, just past the Waldport Bridge, it’s just right off to the left there.
Claudia: Yeah, those ten cabins that you see as you’re coming south, if you look over and see the campground—it’s right on the bay, right by the bridge—my husband and I built those.
Claudia: Back in our much younger days. [laughter]
TYG: So, how has business been going?
Huck: It’s going very well! We have been very gratified, and surprised, and happy! It’s a pace we can keep up with, and steady; we love our customers, and we love doing the work.
TYG-EA: How’d you get started doing this?
Claudia: Well, we had been kind of the main cooks for the Ladies’ Club for the last two or three years, and we get along so well, and we like the same kind of cooking. The sad point of that is that we’re both widows, but we didn’t want to lose our cooking skills. It took us 40 years to polish them! We just enjoy cooking for a crowd.
Huck: And we were cooking for one of the Ladies’ Club events, and we were just back there, talking, and working, and I said “What do you think about just doing this together, for a business?” and Huck said, “You know, I was just thinking that too!” And that was about how it got started. No formal business plan or thought went into it; it was just kind of “Hey, why don’t we do this!”
TYG: [laughs] Same thing for the Yachats Gazette! One day we were just walking down the driveway, and I said, “Maybe some day I’ll start a newspaper!” and Dad was like “Wait! That doesn’t have to wait 20 years—that could happen now!” [laughter] [...]
TYG-EA: So what are some of your favorite items that you make?
Huck: Well, I’m a baker and a dessert creator, but one of the things we had done as a requested item for the Ladies’ Club was Swiss steak and mashed potatoes. So one of the first times we delivered to one of our customers, her comment about my mashed potatoes was that they were “knee-buckling” mashed potatoes. [laughter]
TYG: “Knee-buckling”? What does that mean?
Claudia: They were so good, that...
TYG-EA: ...they made you weak with delight.
TYG-EA: Do you mostly find yourselves doing smaller groups, or larger ones?
Claudia: It’s a mix!
Huck: We have a couple of repeat customers who are just a one-day dinner, or a left-overs thing; but we’re getting ready to do a memorial for a hundred! Huck: We started out by saying we’d limit it to maybe 50-60 people, because it is just two of us, and we’re grandmas, and we’re old, and we can’t do a lot of stuff. So we didn’t want to get into situations we couldn’t manage.
TYG: Like cooking for a whole village!
Claudia: So we set our marketing limits at that. But you know, it’s hard to turn down jobs when they come! We have taken on a couple of larger ones, but we do prefer the small ones.
TYG: We learned about you guys because of one of our neighbors: we kept on seeing your truck there.
Huck: It’s just spread by word of mouth, because our regular customers, the Ladies’ Club dinners, heard we were doing this, so they’d already had a taste of our wares. We officially started on the first of July, and we had four orders within the first week, which was amazing. We’re really filling a niche.
Claudia: Yes—we were delivering our first job while at the same time as we were baking our pies for the Ladies’ Club July Fourth pie social.
Claudia: It was a bit of a challenge.
TYG-EA: Did either of you cook professionally in the past?
Claudia: For a while, in my younger days... I was a salad chef at a Ramada Inn, and my husband and I catered. My husband was also an excellent, excellent chef. So we catered for a lot of the campgrounds that we worked for, if there was a group coming in. We did pig roasts, and catered chicken dinners and that kind of thing. I don’t know if you can call that professional. [laughs]
TYG: Well, if you make money on it, it’s professional... if you’re cooking for the Ladies’ Club, I don’t think that’s professional.
Huck: Well, we cooked for 40 years, learning from our moms and grandmas—so I think that’s where our skills come from.
Claudia: It’s all home cooking. We don’t do any French cooking, or gourmet cooking, or any haute cuisine or that kind of thing.
TYG: I once tried cooking a French dish, and I was like, none of these ingredients make any sense at all.
Claudia: [laughter] Some of them you don’t even recognize!
TYG: Yes, you’ve got some basic ones, even some exotic ones I know like watercress and rocket. But there was one cheese, something that’s just about impossible to get, it was like the key. I think it was some kind of rare goat cheese, and it was the key to the whole recipe. I was like, “Nope, not doing that one!” [laughter]
Claudia: We cook what we know. That’s why we named it that, “Just Good Cookin’”. We didn’t want to present ourselves as something we weren’t.
TYG-EA: Are you still taking orders for the holidays?
Huck: Yes, we were just finalizing one yesterday.
Claudia: We don’t turn down any work unless we’re booked and we can’t handle it.
TYG-EA: Do you guys have a website, or just phone?
Claudia: We have not needed a website so far, so we have not invested the time and the money so far. We’ve had offers, friends of friends who have offered to help us do a website, but honest to goodness, we have not needed it.
Huck: We thought maybe we’d do a marketing thing for the holidays, for holiday baking; but there again, we have just not needed it.
Claudia: It’s a good thing we didn’t, because we wouldn’t have been able to do it!
TYG-EA: Where do you publicize?
Huck: We don’t.
Claudia: We just started cold-calling all the businesses in town when we got our brochures. We put brochures in the Visitors’ Center, and Leon has them at the Commons.
Huck: And the vacation rentals.
Claudia: And that’s really all we did! We did about four to five days of that. [...] So yeah, until we get a break or slow down, we’ll just keep going!
Huck: Right now, we’ve had a few days off, but we did three jobs last week. So four or five days off is a rest, because we have some big jobs coming up. The down time is a blessing!
Claudia: We’re not a money-driven organization.
TYG-EA: What does motivate you?
Claudia: Just that we like to cook! And people like to eat it! [laughs]
Huck: There’s also the instant gratification of “Oh my goodness that’s good. Can I have some more?” [laughs]
Claudia: We love that positive reinforcement!
TYG: Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?
Huck: Well, you could ask us about our favorite dishes. I don’t know that we have any favorite dishes!
Claudia: We have some signature dishes that get requested a lot.
TYG-EA: For example?
Claudia: Our layered lettuce salad, that isn’t even in there [the brochure]. [laughs]
Huck: But it’s a recipe that my mother-in-law did years ago, and they used to do it for all church potlucks, or family gatherings and funerals. They used to do it in a long cake pan, a 9x13” cake pan, but we do it in a bowl, so that you see the layers.
TYG: In an upright glass bowl?
Huck: Yes. You can see the layers of the lettuce, and it’s just quite attractive.
Claudia: Once we started doing that—it’s usually just topped with mayonnaise—but we dressed that up a little bit and made it a ranch dressing thing. So that’s become one of our more-requested items.
Huck: And lemon bars, and brownie bites.
Claudia: She makes the best lemon bars in the world. Home-made. Our fruit salad is another requested item.
Huck: And wraps.
TYG: What are wraps, anyway?
Claudia: You start with a tortilla, and we do a salsa-cream cheese spread.
Huck: And if it’s a meat item, a choice of ham, turkey, or chicken, and a couple of vegetables. And we do it as a vegetarian option, and we’ve even done it gluten-free.
Claudia: We actually stumbled on that...
TYG: I didn’t even know there were any gluten-free tortillas!
Huck: The corn tortilla can be gluten-free, and then there are [flour-like] gluten-free ones.
Claudia: We do accommodate our special needs customers. We get a lot of vegan requests.
Huck: We did a wedding reception up in Bayshore, and the lady who was organizing it let us borrow a gluten-free and a vegan cookbook.
Claudia: Yes, they had quite a few gluten-free and vegan people attending the wedding.
Huck: So, we cook here [at the Ladies’ Club], and we’re certified by the Health Department. And this is a certified kitchen. When we first got the idea, I had just had my kitchen remodeled at home. We thought we could do it at home, but they don’t certify home kitchens. This has to meet lots of county standards.
TYG: So this is where you cook for the business?
Claudia: Yes, we rent this from the Ladies’ Club and pay them based on the number of hours we use it.
TYG-EA: I hope they give you a reasonable rate!
Claudia: They do. It’s very fair.
TYG: Well thank you so much!
Huck and Claudia: Thank you!
Interview with Richard and Rosalie Clinton
The Yachats Gazette was pleased to catch up with some Yachats “old-timers.”
TYG: So, how did you come to Yachats?
Richard: Well, I just drove up and down the coast when I first got here, back in the mid-seventies, and this was the place that most attracted me. So genuine, and unspoiled, relatively speaking. I bought a little place over on 3rd Street and came, from then on, almost every weekend—from 1979 until now.
TYG-Editorial Assistant: What are some of the striking differences between then and now?
Richard: Well, it has gotten a lot busier, it seems like, people coming and going. Except the fourth of July: that was always the big day here, with the fireworks and all.
TYG: Yes, we do have an amazing fireworks show, don’t we.
TYG-EA: What was your favorite place to hang out and drink coffee back then?
Richard: Well, there wasn’t any. [laughs] I had to do it at home!
TYG: Interesting! So there wasn’t a coffee place back then!
Rosalie: Well, there was when I came to town. Dick and I were married in 1986, and shortly after, Blythe started her coffee shop.
Richard: Oh, right! The place that’s the wine store is now.
Rosalie: And everybody went there.
Richard: Yes, that was lovely.
TYG: Oh, interesting! So that means Blythe started there, then went up next to the video store, then came back down to 4th Street.
Richard: With a hiatus there, in between. And now she has her Bread and Roses place. I was going to say, about the fireworks: there used to be a guy who lived up on King Street here who made fireworks for a hobby! And he put on the show, some years.
Rosalie: Do you remember that?
TYG-EA: Before our time...
Richard: He actually had a magazine built up into the hill, behind the house. It had a big door on the front like a safe, almost. It’s where he kept his gunpowder.
TYG: That makes sense, because if anything happened to that storehouse, you’d definitely want it sealed tight.
Richard: That’s right! [laughter] [...]
TYG-EA: So you got here in ‘79, and you two married in ‘86. And how did you two meet?
Richard: We were in the third grade together. [laughter]
Rosalie: In Orlando.
Richard: And then every year thereafter until we graduated from grade school. Except for one year—they had a different school set up and we missed one year.
Rosalie: And when we graduated from high school, Orlando was about the same population as Corvallis is now. Probably less.
Richard: About 50,000.
TYG: Orlando is a huge city, now!
Rosalie: Corvallis is our main home, and Yachats is where we go on weekends.
TYG-EA: How did you end up in Corvallis?
Richard: Got a job offer there at Oregon State. So we came out from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
TYG-EA: That’s where my wife, Allen’s mom, went to grad school.
Richard: Did she! I did too. I got my doctorate there.
TYG-EA: What’s your field?
Richard: Political science, international relations.
TYG-EA: And you taught at Oregon State most of your career?
Richard: At Chapel Hill for five years, and then here for forty.
TYG-EA: What are some of your special interests?
Richard: Latin America was my main interest, and the relationship between population change and development were my research interests. Increasingly, I got into environmental stuff through the population things, and so I’ve been in environmental politics, too.
TYG-EA: My father, Allen’s grandfather, taught Spanish language and Latin American literature.
TYG-EA: Michigan, where I was born; then we moved to Berkeley when I was two. Later, he got into university administration, and was the Dean of the Panama Center of Nova University in Panama for 16 years.
Richard: What was his name?
TYG-EA: Martin Taylor. Still is his name.
TYG: He’s still up and running.
Richard: Is he really!
TYG-EA: He actually just rewrote what was originally his dissertation, called “The Religious Sensibility of Gabriela Mistral,” whom he admired very much in the 50’s. She was the first female winner of the Nobel prize for literature.
Richard: Oh, she was wonderful—Chilean poet.
TYG-EA: He also just came out with a book on translation, specifically spoken interpretation.
Richard: Does he ever come to visit? I’d sure like to meet him.
TYG: Yes, he comes out every couple of years.
Richard: Oh, we have a lot to chat about. Spanish was my first love—that’s what got me into Latin American politics.
TYG-EA: Do you teach other areas besides Latin America?
Richard: Yes! I taught International Relations, primarily, and American Foreign Policy. Since I’ve retired in 2004, I’ve been teaching in the Honors College, and I do a course called “Adapting to Global Interdependence,” which is kind of a hodge-podge of all the things I’ve been teaching over the years: population and environment, together with international relations and global interdependence.
TYG: What is the Honors College?
Richard: That’s a section of the Undergraduate College at Oregon State. There is a separate application; you have to have a very high GPA and recommendations and so forth to get into the Honors section. And from then on you can be in smaller courses and colloquia. What I teach are colloquia—two-hour courses, two credits, maximum of twelve students. That’s really a fantastic situation, twelve students to one professor.
TYG: And this is for undergrads?
TYG: Admittedly, considering how many people are applying to college, twelve to one must be a real privilege—and a treat! Especially when you have the two-hour time, instead of one hour.
Richard: It really is! They have a new building at OSU that has one big room with a circular amphitheater for six hundred students. The professor is down there in the middle kind of rotating around, and there are great big screens all the way around the periphery of the room, and there’s another one just like that for three hundred students.
TYG: That must be horrible for the professor, having to speak to six hundred students, and not being able to answer almost any questions!
Richard: That’s right. Although for big courses like that, they usually break up into sections one time a week with a graduate student.
Rosalie: There was a class Dick taught and he really enjoyed; it was called “Visions and Bridges: What Kind of a World Would You Like to Live In?”
TYG: For me, it would be a world with clean steam power.
TYG: But clean! It would probably be based off of geothermal hot spots, and those would be producers for the world.
Richard: But they aren’t everywhere.
TYG: Or perhaps solar. Because we already do that.
Richard: Right. What are you expecting to major in when you go to college?
TYG: Engineering. Structural and Mechanical Engineering. And a minor in Roman Studies.
Richard: Roman studies! Now that will be a unique combination.
TYG: Certainly that’s a dream of mine, to go around the world and visit the Byzantine and Roman ruins.
TYG-EA: And of course he plans to go to...
TYG: ...OSU. It’s because the U of O don’t have an engineering [program]. They do have journalism, but they don’t have engineering.
Richard: That’s because back during the Depression, when funds were so scarce, the two universities sort of specialized. So Oregon State was the land grant university, and already had agricultural interests and the engineering went naturally with that. The University of Oregon was more humanities and social sciences, and they each developed real strength in those fields. Then Oregon State eventually added forestry and oceanography, which are two of its really major programs now. The University of Oregon gradually expanded and got its forestry school. It even has some engineering, but I don’t know if it has a major in it or not. They’ve been better than Oregon State has been at filling in what they’d given up back in the thirties.
TYG: Well, they have physics and pure science, but they don’t have nearly as much applied [science].
TYG-EA: [to Rosalie] So what’s your story?
Rosalie: My story... well, I was born and raised in Orlando. After high school I worked in insurance for six years. I married when I was almost twenty, and five years later had our daughter, Shannon. My husband worked for the original Minute Maid company, which was two or three hundred people; Orlando was its base. My husband was in the sales department and they moved us to Long Island in 1967, and we lived there for a year and a half. And one day he opened the New York Times, and “Oh no, oh no! Coca Cola has bought Minute Maid!” And they kept the main branch: Minute Maid, Hi-C, all the labels remained separate, but it became a division of Coca Cola. He continued working for them, but things changed greatly. We lived in Pennsylvania for four years, and then back to New York, and then back to Florida when my daughter was ready for her senior year. We were there for a few years, and my husband died at the age of 45 of a heart attack. So we had been married 26 years by that time.
I was widowed three years, and then I was helping with our thirtieth year high school reunion at Edgewater, and Dick—he’s an only child; his parents were still in Orlando—he came to visit his parents en route to Mexico to teach for the summer. He hadn’t planned to come to the reunion, but his friends persuaded him—and that was IT! [laughter]
Richard: Those thirty year reunions are really dangerous!
Rosalie: We were married in November of that year, and I came to Corvallis, and I’ve been a homemaker.
TYG: Thank you so much! It’s been a pleasure talking with you.
Richard: Thank you!