COOK OF THE WEEK: ‘Breakfast at Big Mama’s’ text packs the table in Plantersville

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

Melody West likes to be prepared.
A registered nurse at the North Mississippi Medical Center, West and her husband, Jimmy, live in Plantersville, just a few minutes from grocery stores in Tupelo.
But still, West likes to keep her freezer and pantry filled with all manner of foods she might need in the event she gets the urge to head into the kitchen and whip up something.
“Most of my recipes are similar to my mother’s in that she used simple things,” said West, 54. “I like to cook with things I have around and I try to keep well-stocked so I can. Last Christmas, my daughter, Kayla, laughed because I took inventory of everything to see what I needed to buy for holiday cooking. And I counted and I had 14 packages of cream cheese. And Kayla said, ‘Mama, I’ve been to Kroger before when they didn’t have that much cream cheese on the shelf!’”
West and her husband, who have been married just seven years, share seven children and nine grandchildren and several nieces and nephews, and often, many of them are at their home on Saturdays.
“The kids tease and say they come for breakfast and stay for supper,” said West. “Just about every Saturday you can find them here. I usually have at least 10 or 12. I’ll fix biscuits and gravy and chocolate syrup and two or three kinds of meat and make eggs to order. I never really know how many I’m going to have. I just send a text that says, ‘Breakfast at Big Mama’s’ and they all just show up.”
West, the youngest of five children born to Curtis and Drucilla Tutor, grew up in Pontotoc. She learned a little bit about cooking from her mother, but not because she had to.
“I was spoiled. I was the baby,” she said. “But because I was the last one and the only one at home, she took time and taught me. I married the first time at an early age – 16 – and my mother-in-law actually taught me a lot.”
Today, you can find West in the kitchen most every night, making what she calls her “meat-and-three” meals.
“Jimmy likes meat and potatoes, but I always fix greens or Brussels sprouts or broccoli – I always have something green,” she said. “I’ll fix pork chops, mashed potatoes, English peas and Brussels sprouts or maybe something simple like salmon patties, sliced tomatoes and biscuits and gravy.”
And she’s all the time cooking for co-workers at the hospital.
“I cook a lot of desserts, but we don’t eat a lot of desserts here,” she said. “I make them and I haul them off to work or I send them to work with one of my daughters.”
But she hasn’t always been a good dessert maker. The first thing she ever remembers cooking as a young newlywed was a banana pudding.
“I don’t eat banana pudding, so I asked him, ‘Was that good?’ And he said, ‘Well, it was good, but not very sweet.’ And that’s when I realized I forgot to put the sugar in it.”
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 ginna.parsons@journalinc.com.