If you don’t like a good, hearty casserole, you should probably steer clear of Sally Hameister’s kitchen.
Sally was born in Indiana, then spent her high school years in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She attended Texas Christian University briefly before being drawn to the glamorous life of a 1960’s stewardess, living in New York City just off 5th Avenue where she got lost one evening after spotting Nat King Cole on the street, following him home and realizing she had no idea where she was.
During her brief stint with United, she met and married a West Pointer on a flight and began her life as an Army officer’s wife in Wiesbaden, Germany. She’d never cooked before but received Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks as wedding gifts, and, in a housewife’s trial-by-fire, she was asked to host frequent cocktail parties and soon became the toast of the base.
From the very beginning, Sally had a keen eye for spotting crowd-pleasing recipes with rich, savory flavors—asparagus wrapped in toasted, buttery bread with bacon and cream cheese. Deep fried artichoke hearts with mustard sauce. And, of course, casseroles.
She still used her cookbooks, but as she traveled the country as an Army wife, the majority of her recipes came from her friends and family: a barbecued beef from her mother’s best friend. Butter pecan rolls from a fellow Army wife. And the recipe for “Scott’s Chicken” —her son’s favorite casserole from her raucous going-away party in Shaker Heights, Ohio, wherein she ended up on top of her own refrigerator at 3 a.m., placed there by a friend who may have had one too many of her “Bourbon Slushes.”
Like most moms who are known as great cooks, her recipes are a roadmap of all the places she’s lived and all the extraordinary women who have filled her life with laughter, wisdom and bubbly cheese-covered casseroles.
In 2004, Sally moved to Portland and as the resident caterer for Live Wire (her daughter, Courtenay hosted the show), her appetizers and treats became favorites among the show’s guests. Thomas Lauderdale and Peter Sagal asked specifically for her horseradish-dill deviled eggs. And Storm Large, who was in a band called “The Balls,” was touched to see that Sally had created an entire spread full of balls—meatballs, cheese balls and Oreo Cookie Balls for dessert.
Now in her 70s, Sally is still using her dinner party guests as guinea pigs every week—creating and sharing recipes for dishes that make everyone in her presence feel like they’re home again.