Home is where the heart is for Faith Olson-Elsea.
When her house on the corner of Merry and Fairview avenues burnt to the ground 20 years ago, she rebuilt it all around her kitchen and JennAir oven.
“When I laid out the kitchen, it was for that purpose,” Olson-Elsea said of the huge oven.
“Five days before Christmas in 1999, it caught on fire,” she said.
The likely cause was a candle.
She approached an architect, armed with ideas for rebuilding. The new house would have an open floorplan, with the main living area on the first floor and room for guests and storage in the basement and on the second floor.
The wood-burning fireplace would heat the whole first floor.
It would be brick and the stunning floor-to-ceiling windows would overlook Bowling Green Country Club. Her vegetable, fruit and flower gardens would be restored.
Then she practiced patience.
They moved back in around Thanksgiving 2001, and that oven is still in use.
Olson-Elsea is sharing a chicken recipe that has been in her family for years. She’s adapted it to be healthier after taking diabetes and healthy heart classes through the Ohio State University Extension Office in Wood County.
“I have type two diabetes, but it’s so manageable,” she said.
Olson-Elsea has healthy alternatives for every part of the recipe, from the cooking spray to the topping.
“I don’t use regular mayonnaise because it’s very high in sodium,” she said. “The parmesan cheese, I get the Simple Truth stuff from Kroger.
“It just really is much better.”
She can’t taste the difference.
“It’s delicious,” Olson-Elsea said.
The healthy eating helps fuel her busy life.
The 78-year-old is senior fiscal officer in the College of Education at Bowling Green State University, where she’s worked for over 40 years.
She also advises students in the education program. They are thriving through the pandemic, she said.
“These kids grew up with computers so that transition was easier for them than it was for the faculty members.”
Olson-Elsea is reluctant to retire, but is considering it.
“Having the opportunity to work from home has been great,” she said, adding that she dearly loves her job.
She’s been married to husband, James, for four years. She has two daughters, who live in Cincinnati and New York City, and three grandchildren.
They are very involved in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where they met. She’s also active in Classified Staff Council on campus, and determined to finish her doctorate degree.
“I don’t sleep much,” Olson-Elsea said.
She learned to cook from her mother.
“My mom was an excellent cook. She was a wonderful baker, but she could not make cookies. But if you wanted angel food cake from scratch, my mother had it. She made the best pies.”
She said she had a middle-class upbringing and her parents wanted Olson-Elsea and her twin sister to be part of their transportation business.
“I didn’t want to drive a city bus or do taxi-cab business. I wanted to teach school.”
In her early years, she also worked in restaurants — so she knew she’d have one meal a day provided.
Olson-Elsea served the chicken with a couple other recent cook’s corner recipes, the power purple smoothie from the extension office and gluten-free Oreo cheesecake. Also on the table was corn on the cob, brown rice and a make-ahead kale salad, from a Kroger cookbook.
It was all served on fine china, in front of those spectacular windows.