COOK OF THE WEEK: At 75, Saltillo woman too busy working to worry with cooking

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

SALTILLO – Most good cooks have a favorite small appliance or bowl or pot they think they can’t live without, the one they’d grab first on their way out of a burning kitchen.
For Billie Morgan, it’s a tin pan.
Or what used to resemble a tin pan.
At one time, it was surely a shiny 8×8-inch baking dish, perfect for making a cake layer or broiling a couple of chicken breasts.
Today, it’s beaten up, burned, bent, dented and even ripped in a couple of places.
“It was a gift I got when I married,” said Morgan, 75. “My kids just die to know I still have that pan. They see it and say, ‘Mother, why don’t you throw that thing away?’ But I won’t. It’s got sentimental value. I still use it to make a piece of toast now and then.”
A piece of toast might just be as fancy as Morgan gets some nights for supper. She works full-time at Room to Room and her husband of 53 years, Harold, is a traveling shoe salesman, so many evenings, she doesn’t even worry with cooking.
“I don’t cook as much now as I used to because Harold’s gone so much,” she said. “Even on Sundays, we’ve gotten spoiled and we like to eat out. Every once in a while I’ll cook on Saturdays and have the kids over.”
The kids are her son, Greg, and his wife, Susie, and their two sons, Noel and Eric, of Tupelo; and their daughter, Gretta, who teaches in Calhoun City but lives in Taylor.
“My family is not a bunch of ticky eaters,” she said. “They’ll eat meat and vegetables. They prefer chicken or roast and vegetables. Everyone in my family will eat fried okra. And I imagine Harold would eat anything I put in front of him.”

Not a computer whiz
Morgan grew up in Booneville, the youngest of six children. Her mother, she said, was an excellent cook and so the children weren’t allowed in the kitchen much.
“I did all my cooking after Harold and I married,” she said. “Most of the time, I just used a cookbook. A lot of them were church cookbooks.”
Morgan still turns to cookbooks and friends to get new recipes to try. But she doesn’t rely on the Internet for anything.
“I don’t ever look at the computer for recipes,” she said. “I don’t even know how to use one. I plan to learn if I ever retire, if I still have a good mind.”
But retirement is likely many years away, because Morgan seems to have a way of staying busy, whether it’s cooking for sick neighbors or working outside the home.
“I had the Clothes Closet in Booneville and Tots ‘n’ Teens for several years,” she said. “And I worked at The Velveteen Rabbit in Tupelo for 11 years and then at Hancocks, then I quit for a while. I’ve been at Room to Room for about four years now. I just enjoy being with people.”

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 e-mail them to