COOK OF THE WEEK: Casseroles, simple fare keep busy mother's family satisfied

TUPELO – For years, Marilyn Breedlove didn’t pay a lot of attention to the ingredients that went into the food she prepared. As long as it tasted good, she was fine with it.
And then her only brother, Kelly Wade Spradling of Mantachie, was diagnosed with diabetes after he had heart surgery four or five years ago.
“He’s the main reason I started cooking sugar-free things,” said Breedlove, 54. “I use the Internet a lot to find my recipes.”
Breedlove has never been what one would call a Southern cook. She was born and raised in Wisconsin and didn’t move to Mantachie until she was a teenager.
“I didn’t cook growing up,” she said. “My mother did it all. And growing up in the North, I didn’t learn to like things like vegetables and cornbread. My kids don’t eat that way either.”
Breedlove began experimenting with food after she married, but stuck mainly to casseroles and simple fare. She still prepares meals that way today, but for a different reason: time constraints.
The mother of two grown children who live with her – Justin and Stefani – and grandmother of 4-year-old Cameron, works two jobs: By day, you can find her in the trust department at BancorpSouth in Tupelo. On the weekends, she’s at the Comfort Inn.
The two jobs allow her to keep current with medical bills – she is a breast cancer survivor – but they cut into her time in the kitchen. So she tries to cook enough on the weekends to tide the family over during the work week.
“It just seems to be easier that way,” she said. “It’s hard sometimes but if I don’t, I know we’ll end up eating out a lot more and that gets to be expensive.”
For a typical week, she’ll prepare something like a big hamburger casserole and a side vegetable and a cake or a couple of pies.
“Anybody who gets tired of it is welcome to order pizza,” she joked.
Poet and didn’t know it
About a year ago, Breedlove found she had a hidden talent: Poetry writing.
“My best friend died and I wrote a tribute for her and discovered I like to write,” she said. “Then, I wrote a poem for my mother, brother, nieces and nephew, my daughter and my son. I even wrote one for the tax tea party they had here in Tupelo in April. It’s like therapy. I just can’t write about anything. It has to be something I’m emotionally tied to.”
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