By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
When Linda Henry was 9 years old, she developed rheumatic fever. Because she couldn’t be out working in the fields with the rest of the family, her mother would leave her at the house to prepare lunch for the others.
“I’d have it ready for them when they came in,” she said. “I think I probably was mostly preparing vegetables.”
But this wasn’t her time to be in the kitchen.
“My brother and I got a whipping when we were little for trying to cook,” she said. “That was before electricity and we’d built a fire in the stove. I guess I was 3 or so and he was two years older. I don’t think we ever actually got anything cooked before we got caught.”
Henry said her family, who lived in Falkner, finally did get electricity when she was about 10.
“When you lived in the country, you didn’t have electricity,” she said. “We had an outhouse and a well. We didn’t have a bathroom before I was married. We studied by lamplight and heated water on the stove to cook with.”
Between Henry’s mother and grandmother and her home economics teacher, Henry learned to be a fine cook. She even earned the Betty Crocker Award her senior year in high school.
“When I got married I could put a meal on the table and I’ve been doing it ever since,” she said.
Henry, 70, began working for Robert Elliott as his legal secretary in 1963 and after he was elected circuit court judge in 2007, she was appointed court administrator for the 3rd Circuit Court District.
“Forty-nine years is a long time to work with somebody,” she said. “I guess you could say we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses pretty well.”
But even after a full day’s work, Henry still enjoys coming home and preparing a meal for her husband, James, whom she married 52 years ago. They have five children, 12 grandchildren and four great-grands.
“I cook lunch every Sunday before church for whoever wants to come,” she said. “If no one shows up, we eat a lot of leftovers. We have about 34 when they’re all here. I always have them for special occasions, like holidays and birthdays.”
Henry said she usually tries at least one new recipe a month and generally she gets them from the Daily Journal.
“I don’t use a cookbook a whole lot,” she said. “In fact, when I was getting my recipe together for my chicken and dressing, I had to guess at it because it’s not written down anywhere.”
Henry and her husband attend Macedonia Baptist Church, a small country church about halfway between Ripley and Blue Mountain, where she serves as the church clerk, secretary and assistant pianist.
“We have a potluck dinner every second Sunday and they always want my green beans, my fried corn and my sourdough bread,” she said. “But that Ding Dong Cake I make goes over about as well as anything.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.