Mary Parris

Mary Parris

It was one of the few beautiful Saturdays this spring that Mary Parris and I sat down to chat.

She came with gifts — flowers from her garden and treaties from her kitchen. Also, brought her personal, well-worn copy of the Phoenixville Sesquicentennial Cookbook that was published in 1999. I spearheaded the committee of seven who honored the town during the celebration with a collection of the town’s family favorites.

Originally from a small town near Boston, Mass., called Franklin, Mary’s three sister still live there. She went on to college in Vermont. She came to the University of West Chester for her BA in special education.

In 1981, Mary started her career with Melmark Home in Berwyn. Today, her title with Melmark is vocational coordinator.

In the mid-1980s, she moved onto a property on the outskirts of Phoenixville. She reared her four children there. Her oldest son, Benjamin, his wife, Dara, and their daughter live on a rental contiguous to Mary’s property. Her daughter, Heather, and her two daughters live with Mary in the main farmhouse. Her two youngest children, Brianna and Nicholas, live close enough for visits.

There is a barn, as well as a quite large swimming pool that has been added for their enjoyment, along with a hot tub. At times, the pool and the land can be a lot to handle along with her jobs.

Along with working at Melmark, Mary does respite for her special friends in their homes. The caring for others brings her real pleasure.

Even with a busy schedule, Mary served on the Phoenixville Area School District Board from 1991 to 2011.

Mary and Mike Verguldi have been together for six years. He is a retired Marine. Mike shares in the work around the property, as well as working at Lowe’s.

Mary is a true plant-based vegan. A vegan eats no animal products and does not consume or use anything that comes from an animal (egg, dairy, leather, fur, etc.). Being a vegan is quite time consuming, but she absolutely loves it.

She likes to make kombucha. It is a sweet black tea fermented with bacteria and yeast (called scoby). You will find different stages of kombucha in her kitchen.

She started by attending a class on making kombucha with Olga Sazano. Mary considers Olga the high priestess of kombucha making. Olga’s brew called Baba’s Brew is made in Phoenixville and sold widely in stores featuring health foods.

Along with Mary’s own kombucha, she orders several gallons a week from Olga for the family’s use. There are no animal products ever used. Mary believes that the vegan lifestyle has kept her free of medications.

The family enjoys life at a slower pace when permitted. Mary and Mike enjoy exploring new eateries and returning to their favorites on weekends.

The treat Mary shared with me from her kitchen is this easy peasy no-bake cookie. (The vegan diet is not necessarily low in calories.)

No-bake vegan cookie

1 cup natural peanut butter

½ cup pure maple syrup

1 cup rolled oats

3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

Combine peanut butter and maple syrup. Fold in oats. Add cocoa powder. Form into cookie shape. Freeze for at least 10 minutes on parchment paper before eating.


Let Bette hear from you: Search YouTube for “Look Who’s Cooking with Bette Banjack,” as well (search bar: Banjack) for this column. Find Bette on Facebook by searching “Bette Banjack’s Downtown Kitchen.” Her book, “2 Cups of Yesterday,” is available at Gateway Pharmacy or by contacting her.

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