By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
SALTILLO – For 25 years, Suzette Potts stayed home with her five children, teaching them reading, writing and arithmetic.
She also taught them how to cook, even the boys.
“Not only did we home-school, but my great aunt Lucille Bynum, who was a retired home ec teacher, lived with us for seven of those years,” said Potts, 56. “She taught us all something. When she was with us we had our meals exactly on time and on schedule.”
Potts, who now teaches English at the Tupelo branch of Itawamba Community College, said she also learned a lot of her culinary skills from her grandmother and her mother.
“My grandmother was a great cook,” Potts said. “She was the head of the lunchroom at Saltillo for years. And Mama was a good cook. I guess she learned from the others.”
Today, with Potts’ busy teaching schedule, she leaves a lot of the weekday cooking to her husband, Roger, and a daughter.
But on Sundays, Potts pulls out all the stops.
“We have a family meal then and we usually invite somebody else to eat with us – a family member or friend or somebody from the church,” said Potts, who has two grandchildren and another one on the way. “We even got a bigger table. We can seat 12 easily. I just believe families are important. That’s a structure we need to hold on to.”
Potts might prepare Chicken Packets, steamed broccoli, some type of potatoes and a dessert, or Company Chicken, green beans, creamed corn, bread and dessert.
“We always have dessert,” she said. “That’s my favorite thing to make. I don’t even have a favorite. I just like to make new things. It’s a good, creative outlet for me.”
Teach your children
Potts didn’t grow up cooking with the other women in her family, and when she and Roger married 36 years go, her recipe repertoire left a lot to be desired.
“We ate a lot of skillet lasagna from a box,” she said. “Later, I got interested in cooking and started making our meals from scratch. Everything was healthful and nothing was processed.”
One reason Potts decided to teach her children to cook while they were still at home is because she learned so much later in life, rather than earlier.
“I didn’t have an innate ability to cook. I learned by watching relatives and people at church,” she said. “Teaching the children to cook – we just thought that was a life skill. You can learn when you get older like I did, but you can start earlier, too. Life is all about relationships and food just brings us together in those relationships.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.