By Ginna Parsons
TUPELO – Alan Paul didn’t realize it at the time, but he was forming a foundation for cooking at an early age.
“I was a mama’s boy, always hanging on her apron strings,” said Paul, 29. “Growing up, I have to give all the credit for my sense of taste to my mother. She always had good, home-cooked meals on the table for us.”
Paul grew up in Jackson, the younger of two boys born to Charlotte and John Paul. He moved to Tupelo in 2011.
“I bounced around after high school, worked, traveled, played – I did a lot of playing,” he said. “I’ve done very little planning my entire life. But Tupelo is by far my favorite place I’ve ever lived. I love it here. I hope to stay.”
Paul is currently enrolled in the Radiologic Technologist program at Itawamba Community College. He will earn his associate’s degree in the spring of 2015 and, after passing a national certification test, he’ll be able to practice.
So what cooking he does now is usually limited to the weekends, which he spends with his girlfriend, Emily Tubb of Amory.
“I love to cook for people, and I think sharing a meal is one of the greatest social events there is,” he said. “We can’t afford to eat out all the time. I think Emily and I had three really nice meals last weekend for what it would have cost us to go out for just one meal.”
Paul, who has no classical training, said the inspiration to put different flavors together hits him at the strangest times.
“I’ll see all these different ingredients and think, ‘Oh, those would be good together.’ I just have to decide what vehicle I want to put those flavors together in, be it a stew or a casserole or a pizza.”
Paul eats lots of whole foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, and is growing five different varieties of heirloom tomatoes. In the past year, eating right has been a health issue for him.
“When I moved to Tupelo, I weighed 265 pounds,” he said. “I needed to reclaim my health. I’ve lost about 45 pounds and am much healthier all around.”
He admits he does have a sweet tooth and often enjoys homemade cakes that Emily makes.
“I’m very intimidated by baking because I’m very poor with keeping accurate measurements of what I put in my food,” he said. “I’ve had lots of failures, like biscuits that were supposed to be a loaf of bread. Sometimes, with a stew, I’m just winging it. Sometimes it turns out well and sometimes it doesn’t, but when it turns out well, I know I need to remember how to make it.”
Paul doesn’t have a single cookbook in his Tupelo apartment. But he doesn’t need one.
“The one cookbook I consult the very most would be my mother,” he said. “I’m always calling her for stuff.”
Do you know a good cook? Send your nominations to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, P.O. Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can fax them to (662) 842-2233 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.