COOK OF THE WEEK: Calhoun County woman shuns new recipes for old-fashioned goodies

BY GINNA PARSONS

Daily Journal

CALHOUN CITY – Every Sunday, Jo Tedford fixes dinner after church, even if no one's coming to eat.

“I don't always have company, but I always cook,” said Tedford, 67.

And on the Sundays when she does have guests coming, she really cooks.

“I'll have at least two meats then,” she said. She rattles off a typical menu: beef roast, baked ham, squash dressing, turnip greens, creamed potatoes, corn, broccoli, cornbread and rolls.

“If it's summer, I'll fix peach cobbler or apple pie for dessert,” she said. “If it's winter time, I'd fix a pecan pie.”

Tedford learned to cook when she was a teenager growing up in the Duncan Hill community in Calhoun County. Her mother, Lala Alexander, who lives just down the road from Tedford, is the one who taught her.

“When I was a child, we'd make candies – chocolate fudge, peanut brittle and divinity. Girls would come home with us from school and we'd make candy,” said Tedford, a retired hairdresser.

Tedford quickly learned how to cook more than just sweets after she married and started her own family.

“Fried chicken, creamed potatoes with gravy and little butterbeans – that's what my three kids wanted to eat,” she said with a laugh. “That's what they still want.”

In 1998, Tedford's longtime husband, Jerril Parker, died from Huntington's disease. Not long afterward, some of the women at her beauty shop conspired to get her together with a recent widower, Jim Tedford.

“We dated for a year and then we got married and we'll soon have been together four wonderful years,” she said. Together, she and Jim share six children, 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They own and operate Duncan Hill Nursery.

Chicken is specialty

When Tedford's not cooking for family, she's likely preparing something delicious for the folks at Duncan Hill Baptist Church.

“Every fifth Sunday, we have a potluck dinner after services,” she said. “I'll carry a big pan of dressing, gravy, a big bowl of fruit salad and a gallon of iced tea. Chicken dishes are my specialty. They like chicken and dressing, Chicken Spectacular and chicken fingers.”

She doesn't use new recipes much anymore.

“I used to take me two to three cookbooks and go to bed with them, but I don't do that now,” she said. “If I do use a new recipe, once I've made it as much as twice, I don't need to look at the recipe anymore.”

Whatever Tedford prepares – whether from a new or old recipe – is always going to be served in beautiful dishes.

“I like to serve things on pretty plates and in pretty bowls,” she said. “I think food that's served pretty tastes better.”

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. Each Cook of the Week will receive $10 from the Daily Journal.