COOK OF THE WEEK: Booneville man recreates romantic French dinners for wife

OONEVILLE – In June 2008, Jake Miles and his girlfriend, Belinda, went on a 10-day trip to London and Paris. Unbeknownst to Belinda, Miles had packed a diamond ring and planned to pop the big question while they were on vacation.
He just wasn’t sure when.
“I was going to ask her on the big Ferris wheel – the London Eye – but we got mixed up and separated there and I didn’t even know where she was,” said Miles, 47, a student at Itawamba Community College.
Next, the couple went to Canterbury and Dover.
“And I thought, ‘Hmm. The White Cliffs of Dover would be nice.’ But it was windy and cold and nasty,” he said.
Miles’ third chance was at the famed Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
“But it was so crowded in there, I couldn’t even get near her,” he said.
Two days before the couple left Europe, they made it to the top of the Eiffel Tower, which had been lit with blue lights for a special occasion.
“It was perfect,” he said. “She was at the rail and I came up behind her and I put my arms around her and whispered in her ear, ‘Will you marry me?’ Of course, I didn’t think I was going to ask her that night, so I didn’t have the ring with me.”
She said yes anyway, and when they returned to their hotel that evening, he made it official.

Presentation important
To celebrate the first anniversary of their engagement in 2009, the couple worked together to prepare a French dinner like one they had enjoyed in France: chicken cordon blue, ratatouille and homemade croissants.
This past June, for their second, Miles prepared a special meal for his bride: steak au poivre, tartiflette (a French potato casserole), haricot vert (French-style green beans) and a strawberry and mascarpone trifle for dessert.
“We went to Whole Foods in Memphis and got our stuff,” he said. “We cook together a lot – probably three or four nights a week. I usually bake the bread and the meat and Belinda fills in with vegetables and salad.”
Two years ago, Miles took a culinary class at Northeast Mississippi Community College to brush up on his knife skills and basic cooking techniques, including baking.
“As part of the class, we went to a culinary competition in Raymond,” he said. “We all had to make beef brisket in one hour. So I pounded the meat with a mallet and sliced it thin, put it in a thick marinade and cooked it on the grill. The judges said my food tasted the best, but they took off for presentation.
“Other people brought black plates and garnished their stuff with lemongrass. My plate looked like diner food. After that, I started paying attention to how my food looked. Sometimes, if it’s pretty, people don’t care how it tastes.”

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.

Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal