Rena Belle’s Yellow Squash Casserole – A Story about the Glue That Binds Us Together & Stands The Test of Time

 

In Loving Memory of Rena Belle Henning Monceaux, May 31, 1029 – November 18, 2017

Rena Belle’s Yellow Squash Casserole

It’s the holiday season and at this time of year, many of us can remember the best food we’ve ever had while dining at another person’s house. Rena Bell’s yellow squash casserole was one of the best. Whether it was just the company, or the most magnificent family-prepared meal, I will always recall how great everything tasted.

Yellow Squash Casserole pic
An image snapped at her home during one of her Sunday lunches. 

Rena Belle Henning Monceaux (aka Maw Maw Belle) is from Welsh and made it her life’s goal to create a family tradition of preparing lunch each and every Sunday. She’d invite family and friends over after church, keeping family togetherness alive and well. Rain or shine, in sickness and in health, she’d do this faithfully right up until the final months of her last year in 2016. According to her grandchildren, this went on for over 51 years.

I realized that the family’s closeness was kept alive through the technology age by this kind, little old lady who stood only about 5 feet tall and whom everyone genuinely loved. She held the knowledge of how to bring and keep a family close together through bonding over a well-prepared Sunday lunch. I also knew she had many family recipes that she created from memory that needed to be shared.

I gathered with other family members and friends as we came together to say the blessing, and then enjoyed her delicious meal. The day I visited, I believe she was 94 years old. I remember sitting down with her and asking if I could do a story on her family tradition and get some of her recipes. She agreed, but we never had the chance to get the interview done before she passed away. I happened across these images by chance and I wanted to share her uniqueness that was known to not only Rena Bell’s family, but the town of Welsh as well.

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Some of her scribes that she wrote and hung in her home. 

She was in Ronnie Collins’s official music video, ‘Town of Fewer People’ that was about Welsh. In fact, she can be seen walking into the church in that video. I’m sure that when she left, she went home and lovingly prepared her usual traditional meal to feed not only her family and friends, but a memory that will last in their hearts, bringing them closer together for generations to come. I know that even though I was among a lot of people I didn’t know that day, I was greatly touched by her efforts and I that I belonged there at that moment in time.

Maybe her Sunday lunches will live through one of her family members, who will keep the tradition alive. I’ve also thought of starting some tradition like this for my own family. This is what we need in today’s society and what we need to hang on to, as it is the glue that binds us together and keeps us in each other’s lives – this breaking of bread together.

May we all be so blessed to have a Maw Maw Belle in our lives. She will be remembered and loved by all who knew her. I will never forget that Sunday lunch, and thankful that I was blessed enough to have been invited to dine at her table. To quote my mother, Dorothy Hughes (who has also dined at her table), “I want to be more like her when I grow up!”

Yellow Squash Cass maw maw belle
Rena Belle’s handwritten recipe card. The right corner is worn not from her use of it but from pulling it out to share with family and friends. 

Rena Belle’s Yellow Squash Casserole

2 cups yellow squash, sliced to preferred size
3/4 stick of melted butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup grated cheder cheese
1 cup cracker crumbs
1 can cream of mushroom soup
Sprinkle on top
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon parsley
Combine all ingredients, pour into a greased casserole dish. Sprinkle paprika & parsley on top.
Bake in oven preheated to 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
Let sit for about 10 minutes before serving warm.

 

 

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