COOK OF THE WEEK: Blue Mountain retiree likes to try her hand at ethnic dishes

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

BLUE MOUNTAIN – Linda Dowdy’s earliest memories of cooking involve her mother, her grandmother and her grandfather in the kitchen together.
“My grandfather was Greek and my grandmother was Mexican, so you can imagine we had some interesting meals,” said Dowdy, 65.
Dowdy took with her that rich heritage of different cooking flavors and today she prepares a variety of meals for her husband, Bill, who is the head of the art department at Blue Mountain.
“I cook Italian, Chinese and Mexican, but not Greek too much because it’s too involved,” she said, although her two favorite cookbooks are “It’s Greek To Me” and “Grecian Gourmet.”
Dowdy, who retired from Benchcraft in 2007 after 24 years with the furniture maker, is more likely to make something simple, yet delicious, like chicken piccata over rice with green beans and a big salad. Or maybe her mother’s manicotti with salad and rolls.
“I do desserts all the time, but it’s not something I really enjoy making,” said Dowdy, who likes to play cards – particularly competitive spades – online. “I’d rather do the main dishes, like manicotti, Greek chicken or pork chops.”
Dowdy is looking forward to New Year’s Day, when she’ll serve her Farmer’s Casserole.
“I’ve been making that recipe for 15 years,” she said. “I normally have a brunch for women during the month of December and I usually fix that. But it’s good for New Year’s Day, too, because you make it the night before and then you bake it the next day.”
She’ll also make her Mexican Black-Eyed Peas on the first day of the new year.
“I make that a lot and take it places,” she said. “I guess they eat it whether it’s good or not, because I never return home with anything in the dish.”

Voracious reader
Dowdy and her husband live in Blue Mountain in a home they share with their “children” – three dogs named Andy, Nikki and Sweet Pea. The whole house is covered in paintings Bill has created over the years.
“Oils, acrylics, mixed media – the house is filled with his artwork,” said Dowdy, who serves as an alderman and vice mayor for the town of Blue Mountain.
But one whole wall in a hall outside the kitchen is reserved for Dowdy’s passion: her cookbooks.
“I probably have a couple of hundred cookbooks, and I recently gave 150 to the school library for the home economics department,” she said. “I read everything, including the labels on boxes. I’m not a ‘Harlequin Romance’ reader, but I read everything else. I keep the library busy around here.”

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 ginna.parsons@djournal.com.