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350° gets it done: VA employee has a crumby story

Jeanette Watson adds icing to the cake. She is preparing two cakes with different flavors and a few dozen cupcakes for a VA employee retirement.
Jeanette Watson adds icing to a cake for an upcoming VA employee retirement.

Some people and anyone reading this article may fit the description of a person who lovingly enjoys the scented three-wick candle. You know, the candle that makes the home smell like a freshly baked birthday cake, brownies, banana bread, or warm apple pie or—well, you get the picture.

An invitation to Jeanette Watson’s kitchen extinguishes the flame of artificial scents and reignites the joy of cooking. By day Watson serves as the laboratory administrative officer at the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center. However, she’s whisking away on nights and weekends, cooking up family favorites—correction, baking, not cooking.

“Cooking is different from baking,” explains Watson, not to be confused with the Watson who lives in London. “Baking is almost like a chemistry formula; you need to have specific quantities of ingredients for a successful end product. If you stray too far from the original recipe, you’re looking at a possible failure.”

Watson, who retired from the U.S. Air Force in 2014, dates her love for baking to childhood. This whiz in the kitchen recalls the stir as young as 6 years old while helping her mother retrieve ingredients. She got her first lesson in “recipe shorthand” at the ripe ole age of 8.

“My mom was sleeping, and I wanted to surprise her by making pancakes,” she recalls. While interpreting mom’s handwriting, one-step seemed confusing—“use a teaspoon or so of soda,” her mother had written. “Not knowing the abbreviated terminology for baking soda, I went to ask her what flavor of soda I needed to use. She instantly got out of bed to see what I was doing.”

Following her Air Force career, Watson’s desire was business. The Watson family cleverly labeled a newly founded LLC Momma’s Munchies ‘n Crunchies. The business dream, although sweet to the lips, was overdone. After a few months, the books showed low earnings, and the need to contribute more to the family income became a burning reality. “I went on to a full-time position with the City of Shreveport. I still bake, but I don’t advertise it anymore, and I no longer work under an LLC.”

Watson came to VA in 2019, and she recently gave a baker’s pledge to bake and decorate a birthday cake celebrating the establishment of the different branches of the U.S. Military. “I love to bake, and Veterans are very proud of their military service. If I can provide something that makes a Veteran smile, then I am all for it, and my day is complete.”

Although this baker enjoys the oven, she relishes the stovetop. “I like to bake and cook. Cooking is essential because as we mature, we eventually want to create new meals. But I love baking. I like the stability of a tried and true recipe as well as the creativity you can do with the final product. Plus, it makes people smile. I love seeing eyes get big with excitement when I show up with a dessert that’s come out of my kitchen.”

This VA employee isn’t afraid to take whisks and accepts any recipe challenge. There is no loafing about it, and Jeanette Watson doesn’t blend the rules, although she admittingly has been caught bread-handed with one of those commercial three-wick candles. 

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