She was born in Washington, D.C., the eldest of five. Her parents worked hard — Dad lost it all in the Depression, then slowly earned it back by volunteering at a truck stop 'til he was hired and later working for the federal prison system. Her mother was most definitely not a gourmet cook; she had a week's worth of meals that she repeated on a cycle, including tuna noodle casserole on Fridays. Carol volunteered to help in the kitchen, but her mother said no. "She didn't want me screwing around." Carol recalls fighting with her to not overcook the peas — her mother insisted she'd give them all botulism.

It was her future mother-in-law who served as culinary inspiration. Carol met Larry when she was 13; he was 15. "He knocked me down in the rollerskating rink, accidentally. He picked me up, and the romance began."

His mom was from Ireland and a fabulous cook. She cooked with the music turned up high, wine in hand. Carol recalls apple pie fresh from the oven and two kinds of eggs for breakfast. Her own mother called that kind of thing "snooty," but Carol knows she loved her, recalling that her mom always kept real butter in the refrigerator for her, knowing she preferred it.

The dining room at Aravaipa Farms
Jamie Peachey
The dining room at Aravaipa Farms
C. Steele & Co., in one of its original iterations
Courtesy of Carol Steele
C. Steele & Co., in one of its original iterations

Details

See video of Carol Steele in action.

To learn more about Aravaipa Farms ‚ÄĒ including room rates ‚ÄĒ visit www.aravaipafarms.com. For info about the sale of Steele‚Äôs property, e-mail her at carol@aravaipafarms.com.

Chrysa Robertson will host a benefit dinner for Steele on Sunday, September 23. As of press time, no other details were available. Check Chow Bella (www.phxfood.com) for info after September 1, or e-mail ranchopinot@hotmail.com.

Carol and Larry married when she was 17. He was a bookkeeper, and they saved for a house. She subscribed to House Beautiful, pored over every page. "I would dream on that lamp, that whatever . . . I fell in love with antiques."

Her dream was to live in the country. Eventually, her husband put $1,000 down on a $10,000 three-bedroom house on eight acres with 30 peach trees in rural Maryland. They bought a car for $95 so Larry could drive to work. Carol had a baby and stayed home. And she really stayed home. It wasn't 'til they'd moved in that she realized the neighborhood was all African-American.

Steele looks off in the distance, remembering, balancing her hand-painted coffee cup on one blue-jeaned knee. There was a lot of segregation then, she says. It wasn't that she didn't like black people; she simply hadn't known any. One day, not long after they'd moved in, there was a knock at the door. It was an old black man holding a cherry pie. She told him, "No, thank you," through the window, and called her husband, who told her to keep the door locked. Two days later, the man came again. Again, she refused.

"After 10 days of this, I decided I'd never been in a black man's house," she recalls. It was time to change that. Turns out, the man was a retired postmaster. His wife, a doctor, had died. They had three kids who'd been to college. The man was lonely. So was Carol.

"It was the best cherry pie I ever ate," she says. She had him over for her peach pie, and when they sold the house three years later and moved across the country, it was Mr. Jones she missed the most.

Carol and Larry were on their way to Alaska to homestead. It was his dream; she was game. First, they stopped in Arizona to see her parents, who had moved to Florence for her father's job. They never left the state — Larry was killed in a car crash, and Carol decided to stay.

Her son was 3. "There wasn't any reason to go back to D.C., and I certainly wasn't going to homestead in Alaska."

She met a cotton farmer; they married and moved the town of Randolph. He had three kids from another marriage, and Carol is still very close to one of her stepdaughters, Sheryl.

One day, her new husband went to an auction and walked away with a hotel in Nogales and 100 rooms of furniture. So he farmed, and she ran the hotel.

Eventually they sold the hotel and moved to Sedona, where they bought property on Oak Creek, and Carol met Joanne Goldwater, one of Barry's daughters. Carol had an antique store by this point, and Joanne was looking for something to do, she recalls — so they came up with a plan to open a plaza with all kinds of small shops with Mexican crafts, clothing, silver, Native American art. They found the perfect plot of land and tried to buy it — told an architect all about their plans — but the deal fell through. When they finally did lease space and opened a couple of shops, they heard about the now-famous Tlaquepaque — an arts-and-crafts village opening soon in their coveted spot.

"With my big mouth, I had created the worst competition I could dream of," Carol recalls. It's funny now, although it wasn't at the time.

But they still had fun with a toy store called The Jabberwocky — featuring porcelain dolls, trains that ran the perimeter of the shop, and "every conceivable windup toy." They hired a girl who looked like Alice in Wonderland to wind up the toys.

And they had Maude and Potsie's Cafe, a restaurant where the day began with Bloody Marys and ended by an outdoor fireplace. Carol recalls that one Sunday — just for the heck of it — they baked Joanne's "Million Dollar Chocolate Cake" and gave out free slices.

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6 comments
Richard1980
Richard1980

This was a really fun "date night" dinner. We had planned on going to 560 for cocktails and sushi in the bar, but apparently everyone else in Dallas County had the same thought, so we ended up at Steel. We were able to get last-minute reservations on a Saturday night, which was fortunate as the place was quite busy. The sushi was good, but not life-changing. They were out of Toro, which probably in my best interest because I really don't need to be paying $9 for a bite of fish. http://bleacherreport.com/users/1607102-buy-cheap-cialis-online-mastercard-visa http://bleacherreport.com/users/1607136-buy-viagra-soft-tabs-online-mastercard-visa http://bleacherreport.com/users/1607596-buy-cialis-soft-tabs-online-mastercard-visa http://bleacherreport.com/users/1607662-buy-cheap-kamagra-online-mastercard-visa

Karen Stone
Karen Stone

I remember C Steele restaurant. Long before there was a foodie scene here.

greg.moss
greg.moss

greg.moss

We used to say "Mom's here" when she would walk into the store and back to her table.  We never skimped on quality, even as she was signing checks, to pay vendors because her credit was....not so good.  7303 E. Indian School was the cash cow that helped finance all of the side projects.  

 

The Mercado was only open for about 6 weeks.  And I think you forgot Mark Tarbells space at 32st and Camelback.  That store had a beautiful oven where they made pizzas.  Should Tom Kaufman be mentioned now?

 

You wrapped up Carol's move down the street...."they raised the rent...." to easily.  There was a bankruptcy, Fife Symington and Old town Scottsdale revitalization that played into it.

 

Great story.

 

And why didn't Nikki Buchanan write this article....she worked there for a few months in the 80's.  In the cheese department I believe.

 

laurienotaro
laurienotaro

Great story! I loved going to C. Steel's in the 80's and so many of my friends worked for her. I hope it all works out for her beautifully. Carole Steel is indeed a pioneer of culinary Phoenix, if not THE pioneer.

anacleta
anacleta

I just stopped reading when I got to the indian massacre thing, which has absolutely nothing to do with anything, and went to read up on the savage nature of the apache tribe. I especially liked the parts about how the apaches brutally raided other indian tribes. those other tribes deserved it.

Sumosommelier
Sumosommelier

 @anacleta I could not agree more...what a goofy way to go into an article honoring Carol Steele.

 

C'mon Amy..you frankly are better than that to allow your own liberal ideals to invade every aspect of feature "food" articles. Do we have to relive the Apache Wars to appreciate the culinary contributions of our State's beloved Culinary Curmudgeon.

 

Here let me write an article for you.

 

A culinary mine exists in old Prescott called the Gurley Street Grill. It is pure gourmet gold. Speaking of gold, in the spring of 1863, Apaches attacked several small parties of prospectors and miners. When gold was discovered in the Weaver and Walker diggings near Prescott, miners flocking to the area found themselves much closer to Apache homelands than was prudent. The Apaches decided to brutally kill them and savagely stab them in them in their hearts. Speaking of hearts, the buffalo lasagna at the Gurley Street Grill is pure love.

 

I have been to Aravaipa Farms and drank several bottles of Carol's favorite Yellow Tail Chard with her, and I wasn't distracted by ghostly wailing Apache chń≠dn. Just the soothing Deadhead cover tunes of the Shimmy's and birds chirping!

 

Enough with all the over-sensationalized food drama it causes indigestion

 
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