TUPELO – In 2007, Annjeanette “Annjea” Clifton published a cookbook called “Annjeanette’s Soul Food Cuisine” filled with recipes that bring her memories of family and friends.
“While reminiscing for this book, I realized why cooking has always been such a labor of love for me,” said Clifton, 50. “It’s as much about friendship and fellowship as it is about food. Behind the whole process – the shopping, the planning, the preparing, the serving – cooking is really about love. Cooking is a way to show it, share it, serve it.”
Clifton, a Washington, D.C. native, moved to Tupelo from Texas in 2005 so that she and her husband, Thomas – who will celebrate their sixth wedding anniversary today – could be closer to his mother, Lillie Faye Clifton of Guntown.
“My mother was already gone, and I felt if you had a mother living, you should be near her,” she said. And since that time, Clifton’s father, George Williams, has come to live with her at her home in Tupelo.
“I dedicated my cookbook to my dad, because he’s the one who really taught me how to cook,” said Clifton, who works part time as a cashier at Walmart on West Main Street. “He also taught me how to sew. So everything I learned as a woman I learned from a man. So he gets a Mother’s Day card and a Father’s Day card.”
Clifton, who has three children and five grandchildren, cooks just about every day for her family. Her father has some health issues, so she has learned how to prepare food with an eye toward good nutrition.
“I do very little frying,” she said. “Many African-Americans – all they do is fry, but I try to cook more healthfully.”
She looks at the dinner plate like her ABCs – a meat, a starch and a vegetable. That might mean baked chicken, potatoes with onions and green beans, or pork chops, rice and cabbage.
“Usually we have more than that,” said Clifton, a U.S. Army veteran. “Every day around here is like a Sunday.”
Suits to suit her
When Clifton isn’t cooking, traveling, writing short stories or watching something from her 2,000-plus movie collection, you’ll likely find her at one of her half-dozen sewing machines.
“I make a new suit for every Sunday,” said Clifton, who attends Inspirational Community Baptist Church. “One month, I made seven pink suits, I guess because my husband said I looked pretty in pink. Once I’ve worn them once, I put them away. I don’t like to do repeats.”
Everything about the outfit – her nails, suit, hat, shoes and stockings – have to coordinate on Sundays.
“I never want to look like anybody else,” she said. “Sometimes, I’ll get up in the middle of the night and sketch something out.”
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 email@example.com.
Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal