Meredith Boatright Collins learned the value of southern cooking after living in San Diego, California, for two and a half years with her husband, Joshua Collins, who serves in the U.S. Navy.
Meredith was born and raised in Claxton, Georgia, and Joshua was raised in Glennville, Georgia. Both of them grew up on good, southern fried food, delicacies that are very uncommon in California.
“Southern small-town cooking became very special to me after moving to California,” Meredith said. “One evening, I went to the grocery store, searching for cubed steak that I was going to cook for Joshua and some of our friends. I was shocked when they told me they didn’t have that. The gentleman in the meat section had to order the cube steak. After that situation, the grocery store workers nicknamed me ‘Savannah,’ since that was the town where I lived close to back home that they had heard of. That was when I realized I had taken small-town southern food for granted and how much it had impacted my life growing up.”
Meredith, 26 now, often stood on a stool in the kitchen of her mother’s, grandmother’s, or great-grandmother’s homes and helped them cook when she was younger. She remembers her great-grandmother Iona DeLoach’s delicious peanut brittle and pear tarts. Her father’s mother, the late Joann Boatright, had an amazing red velvet cake recipe. When Meredith was a teenager, she found her grandmother’s recipe for the exact cake that she would make for her father when he was younger. Now, Meredith enjoys making that cake for her father for special occasions.
“Now that I am older, I wish I would have taken the time to write down more recipes from my great-grandmother. I had such great influences when I was younger, and I cherish those memories with them,” Meredith said.
Her go-to meals include shrimp scampi and potato soup. Food that she deeply enjoys is her mother-in-law’s (Karla Collins) egg custard pie and her mom’s spaghetti, which was a hot commodity for her and her college roommates.
Meredith is the daughter of Wilson and Angie Boatright of Claxton, and she is the granddaughter of Glenda Coley and the late Harry C. Coley of Claxton. Her father works at Windstream Communications, and her mother is retired from Fort Stewart where she was the Chief of Environmental Services at Winn Army Hospital.
Meredith attended Pinewood Christian Academy in Bellville from kindergarten to 12th grade, graduating in 2014. She began dating her husband, Joshua, while they were both in high school. He attended Tattnall County High School, graduating in 2013.
While taking some time to navigate their lives and what they wanted for their futures, Joshua and Meredith remained friends throughout the years while Joshua was at different duty stations and Meredith graduating high school and going off to college. When Joshua was in basic training, the pair wrote letters to one another since cell phones were not allowed during that training. They always made sure to keep in touch or visit one another when they could.
While Joshua was stationed in Honolulu, Hawaii, Meredith and her family visited the area on vacation during the summer of 2017. After the vacation to Hawaii, Joshua flew to Georgia for a short weekend to go with Meredith to see John Mayer in concert. He then invited Meredith to visit Hawaii again in December for his military ball. He asked her to be his girlfriend in the parking lot of the airport with her favorite snack, a box of Honey Nut Cheerios.
Joshua got down on one knee on April 20, 2019, and they later married on May 8, 2021, down at Villa Ospo on Jekyll Island, Georgia. Meredith says the greatest thing for her and Joshua’s marriage was living in San Diego.
“Living in San Diego was scary, but it was the best thing for the start of our marriage. It was a great building block for our relationship, especially for our communication,” Meredith said.
Joshua is currently on deployment on the USS George H. W. Bush carrier. He has served in the U.S. Navy for nine years and currently is a Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Petty Officer. In addition to Honolulu, Hawaii, he has been stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, and is currently stationed in Jacksonville, Florida.
Meredith is a 2018 graduate of Georgia Southern University (GSU). She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education and later graduated with her Master’s degree in Special Education General Curriculum, with a concentration in Autism Spectrum Disorders, in 2020 from GSU.
“Teaching was not my first pick; it was nursing. I just was not feeling led to be a nurse after a while, and I knew I wanted to change my career path while still impacting people. I really love the individual bonds that I form with my students. The one bond that comes to mind is from my junior year of college where I was student teaching in a self-contained K-2 classroom. There was one student in there who I just had an immediate connection with. Through the rest of my college experience and up until now, I have stayed in touch with the student’s family, participating with them in the Buddy Walk in Savannah (an annual walk that happens all over the United States in October that promotes awareness for Down Syndrome), and watched him grow into the amazing middle school student that he is today. He and many of my other students are my reminders that I am in the right profession, even on the hard days,” Meredith said.
Meredith is currently a Special Education English Language Arts teacher for sixth and eighth grade at South Tattnall Middle School (STMS) in Glennville. There, she is also the assistant cheerleading coach. Prior to working at STMS, Meredith worked at Bryan County High School and at an elementary charter school in San Diego.
In her spare time, Meredith enjoys traveling to new places with her husband, spending time with family and friends, watching her favorite TV shows, reading, and spending time with her dogs, Bentley and Ellie, who are the lights of her life.
Meredith Collins’ Recipes
CREAMY SHRIMP SCAMPI
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and tails off
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 stick unsalted butter
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
juice from 1 large lemon
1-1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
1 box angel hair pasta
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Melt the butter and olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté garlic until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Pour in the white wine and lemon juice; allow to reduce to half while scraping any bits off the bottom of the pan.
Add in the shrimp and cook until pink, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low-medium, and add heavy whipping cream to shrimp. Season with salt and pepper to your taste. Serve over pasta with freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top.
EGG CUSTARD PIE
Courtesy of Karla Collins, mother-in-law
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 cups milk (2 cups skim and 1 cup Half & Half)
1/2 stick butter
pinch of salt
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 deep dish pie shells
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Beat eggs; add sugar and beat well. Heat together butter and milk until steaming. Pour heated milk and butter into eggs and sugar mixture. Add flavoring and salt. Pour into pie shells, and sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake approximately 20 minutes until mixture jiggles 2” in center.
RED VELVET CAKE
Courtesy of the late Joann Boatright, Meredith’s grandmother
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 cups vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vinegar
1 (2-oz.) bottle red food coloring
2-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. cocoa
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla flavoring
1 stick margarine
1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese
1 box powdered sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
Cream the sugar and oil in a mixing bowl. Add eggs and beat well. Add the vinegar and food coloring and beat well. Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa together and add to the creamed mixture. Add buttermilk and 1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring and beat well. Pour into 2 greased and floured cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 to 35 minutes.
Cream the margarine and cream cheese in a bowl and add remaining vanilla flavoring. Sift the powdered sugar and add to the creamed mixture. Gradually add nuts and mix well. Spread on top of cake layers and place layers together. Spread on sides of cake.