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Arlene Williams is back 'At Home' on television

Thursday, August 29, 2002

By Karen Novak

Fans of cooking hostess Arlene Williams will be treated to a new series of "At Home With Arlene Williams" at 4 p.m. Sunday.

As the camera rolls, Arlene Williams, center, stirs chicken and vegetables for Feta, Chicken and Pasta on the set of her new cooking show. Joining her is Cornerstone TeleVision CEO Oleen Eagle. The camera woman is Whitney Cicco. (Joyce Mendelsohn, Post-Gazette)

The Cornerstone TeleVision WPCB-TV 40 cooking show had been in reruns for five years while Williams developed her Internet cooking site, worked on a new cookbook (she's already published two) and taught several cooking classes. Cornerstone TeleVision, a viewer-supported Christian network broadcasting more than 100 programs, 24 hours a day, has recently merged with Good Friends Inc., another religious network broadcasting from Arizona and Canada. This merger, along with government mandates, has launched a new beginning for the station, as well as for Williams' "At Home."

The original "At Home" show debuted in 1991 and is seen in more than 100 markets across America.

"Our new logo is the apple," said Williams, seated amidst ceramic apples peeking out of cupboards, on-the-wall borders and in every nook and cranny of the homey new kitchen viewers may enter three times a week. "I love the apple. The Bible teaches we are the apple of God's eye; it's patriotic, as American as apple pie; and it speaks of nutrition and good healthy eating."

The show is not about low-fat eating, but rather serving wholesome, balanced meals. "We are focusing on menus," she said. "A lot of viewers aren't sure how to put a meal together. We hope to present things like how to serve a brunch, a special breakfast or a midnight supper."

Williams plans "on the road" shows -- tailgating at the stadium, sipping high tea in a parlor and visiting private kitchens. "We've got a lot of good things to share.

"I want my show to be about no-intimidation cooking. I want people to have the confidence to really try what I'm cooking. We all

make mistakes. Don't throw things out: Learn to fix them."

She recounts the time she made rice pudding on the air: "The rice had a mind of its own and it just kept growing; it sort of took over the kitchen."

She remembered the dried-out cake that had to be revived with orange juice and glaze. "That was one of the best cakes we ever ate."

Alyson Hayes, marketing manager for Cornerstone TV, is part of the new crew on "At Home."

"Working with Arlene is so refreshing," Hayes said. "She makes hard things seem easy and the practical wisdom she brings to the show is wonderful."

Williams said: "I learned from the best -- my mother, Lillian Bobak. I was a preacher's kid [her dad, the Rev. Paul L. Bobak, pastored the Calvary Temple in Elizabeth] and we did lots of entertaining. Mom could whip up an entire Sunday dinner in just 45 minutes. It was a lot of planning and organization. I was raised in an atmosphere where I could really bloom in the kitchen. If something didn't work out, my dad and brothers would eat it."

At the age of 9, she was taking requests for pies and baked goods.

"This made me feel so good, when someone remembered what you made and asked for more. For me, this is one of the joys of cooking."

Assistant producer Linda Wilson believes this joy of cooking and great love for God and family is what endears Williams to the public. "She really is what she seems. Her fans span generations and genders."

Williams reads every letter and often replies. "We've had such moving moments with Arlene's fans," she said.

Williams told of a young girl afraid to start school, a family's struggle in the aftermath of a suicide, and the one that most moved her after the death of her father -- the empty place at the table when a loved one dies and life goes on.

Williams' culinary message is just try it, you can do it. "Arlene's fans have anxiously awaited these new shows," said Wilson.

"The universal comment is the wonderful sense of encouragement she offers in and out of the kitchen."

Fan Tanya Shumaker of Plum said that when she felt "love impaired" with the stresses of family life, "Arlene offers a gentle reminder of what's really important and how we can show our family love by what we cook."

Another voiced the warmth and sense of home she instills: "It's like she's my best friend making a meal for me each episode; she makes everybody feel special."

"The fans are so important," Williams said.

"They invite me into their homes each week and I try to give them inspiration, recipes and a reflection of God's love. If we can reach out and touch someone, then I know God has used me."

Related Recipes:

Feta, Chicken And Pasta
Barbecued Bundles
Calico Beans

For those who can't get enough of "At Home" at 4 p.m. Sundays, (repeated at 2 p.m. Mondays and 10 p.m. Wednesdays), Williams' Internet site is www.arlenewilliams.com

A new holiday cookbook is in the works, and the "At Home Family and Friends" cookbook will be back in print and available Nov. 2 by calling 1-800-820 4808.


Karen Novak is an East McKeesport free-lance writer.

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