COOK OF THE WEEK: East Tupelo cook carries on tradition of Sunday dinner

TUPELO – Sylvia Comer still remembers the first “real” meal she ever prepared.
Fortunately, her cooking skills have improved.
“My mother was in the hospital and my grandmother who lived with us was in the hospital and my sister was in the hospital, all at the same time,” the 63-year-old said. “I had to fix something for Daddy and my brother to eat. I guess I was 12 or 13 at the time. I made fried chicken, English peas and creamed potatoes. Daddy ate it, but my brother didn’t. That chicken was raw on the inside.”
Since then, Comer has learned to take her time when frying chicken, and she came upon another revelation: chicken fried in margarine.
She buys round hunks of margarine at Todd’s Big Star, where’s she has worked in the deli for the past 15 or so years, and uses three or four to fry a batch of chicken.
“When I first started frying chicken, margarine patties were cheaper then vegetable oil,” she said. “Now, that’s the only way my family wants it. They love it. But they don’t always get it.”
Comer learned how to cook from her mother and her grandmother.
“My mother and grandmother I reckon fed the whole world,” said the east Tupelo resident who lives five houses down from Elvis Presley’s birthplace. “My mother cooked three meals a day when I was little. My grandmother worked in a factory and regularly brought people home for dinner. Daddy was a contractor and he’d bring people home to dinner. My mother never knew how many she was going to be feeding.”

Sunday dinner
After Comer and her older brother and sister all married and moved away from home, her father decided he wanted the family to be together for a meal once a week.
“So my daddy built a table 13 feet long to hold us and our children, and Mama would cook Sunday dinner every week,” Comer said.
Now, Comer prepares Sunday dinner for her family, which includes her son, Woodrow, and two grandchildren.
“That’s about the only time I sit down to eat,” she said. “During the week, I don’t cook for myself. I make a sandwich or have cereal or I take something home from the deli here at Todd’s.”
They like her fried chicken and her meatloaf, along with assorted side dishes such as green beans, creamed potatoes, macaroni and cheese and purple-hull peas.
“If it was up to just me though, I’d fix breakfast,” she said. “That’s my favorite meal. I love eggs anyway you can fix them, except boiled. It’s a texture thing.”

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/NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio