Cooking series combines family recipes, voting memories and election advice

KITCHEN CABINET: Juanita Grier, Je'Wana Grier-McEachin and Viola Williams share family recipes and advice on voting safely via "Historic Recipe for Social Change." Photo by Andre Daugherty

People who tune in to AARP North Carolina’s three-part cooking series, “Historic Recipe for Social Change,” can expect a lot of laughs, family recipes and helpful information for both seniors and first-time voters on how to safely participate in the 2020 election.

Rebecca Chaplin, associate state director of AARP NC, says this will be the organization’s first YouTube venture. And the three generations of cooks who star in the videos are also making their small-screen debuts.

“We are total novices when it comes to this,” says Je’Wana Grier-McEachin, executive director of Asheville Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement. “But we all like to cook and bake, and we had a lot of fun doing it. We laughed a lot and hope people will laugh with us.”

“We” includes Grier-McEachin’s mother, Juanita Grier, and aunt Viola Williams — both AARP volunteers — along with daughters JyAire McEachin, 18, and JaiEssence McEachin, 21, who are college students in Alabama.

The local project is in concert with the AARP’s national Protect 50+ Voters initiative, which is intended to inform people ages 50 and older about how they can make choices that work for them to vote safely. AARP and ABIPA have partnered on projects in the past, most recently on the “Creating Advocates of Change: Racial Justice and Equity” series of webinars. “We have a history of opening doors for one another,” says Chaplin.

“As we had conversations around programming and intentional partnerships for the remainder of this year, we talked about doing voter engagement in a different way,” Grier-McEachin explains. “We know that many conversations take place over food, so we decided to pull together a cooking show.”

They enlisted a production crew, gathered favorite recipes and drove to Huntsville, Ala., where Grier-McEachin’s daughters live, to tape the shows. “It wasn’t an HGTV kitchen,” says Grier-McEachin with a laugh. “We couldn’t all fit in there at once!”

Both daughters were responsible for an individual dessert, her aunt made ribs, her mother made a sweet potato casserole, and she put a twist on traditional greens by cooking them in an Instant Pot. Grier-McEachin also made her “decadent” version of her grandmother’s macaroni and cheese. “It was one of her specialties everyone looked forward to at Thanksgiving and Christmas,” she says.

Throughout the series, the older women also sit down together and talk about their family history of voting going back to Grier-McEachin’s grandfather, born in 1921, who was still alive to vote for President Barack Obama. The daughters share their excitement about voting in their first presidential election and demonstrate how to request online a North Carolina absentee ballot (deadline to request is 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27).

The message from all three generations — and AARP — is to have a plan that works and cast your vote. “For some of us, that might be absentee ballots,” says Chaplin. “But many of my volunteers who are Black are determined to go to the polls to vote because that is so entrenched in their personal experience.”

The first hour of “Historic Recipe for Social Change” aired October 8; the next two will be released Thursday, Oct 15, and Thursday, Oct. 22. The series is free to view, but preregistration is required at


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About Kay West
Kay West was a freelance journalist in Nashville for more than 30 years, contributing writer for the Nashville Scene, StyleBlueprint Nashville, Nashville correspondent for People magazine, author of five books and mother of two happily launched grown-up kids. To kick off 2019 she put Tennessee in her rear view mirror, drove into the mountains of WNC, settled in West Asheville and appreciates that writing offers the opportunity to explore and learn her new home. She looks forward to hiking trails, biking greenways, canoeing rivers, sampling local beer and cheering the Asheville Tourists.

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