COOK OF THE WEEK: Enjoy it while you can – she’ll make a recipe only once

Julie Johnston of Tupelo cooks almost every night for her family and her neighbors, but she doesn't care to eat her own cooking. (Lauren Wood)

Julie Johnston of Tupelo cooks almost every night for her family and her neighbors, but she doesn’t care to eat her own cooking. (Lauren Wood)

By Ginna Parsons
Daily Journal

TUPELO – Julie Johnston has two thick three-ring binders full of recipes she’s cooked over the past dozen years. Each recipe has a handwritten notation on it, like “just great” or “double this” or “used fire-roasted tomatoes.”

But one has to wonder why Johnston bothers to make notes on the recipes, since she’s never going to make them again.

“I don’t ever make the same thing twice, except for one recipe – stuffed meatloaf – for my neighbor Miss Sue Harrelson,” said Johnston, 38. “People will come over to eat and my husband will say to them, ‘Don’t even think about liking it because she’ll never make it again.'”

The recipes she uses come from magazines and websites, friends and family members, the newspaper and cookbooks.

“I’ll get a new cookbook and find recipes I like and copy them and put them in my own cookbook,” said Johnston, who works at BancorpSouth in Tupelo. “Then I’ll give the new cookbook away to somebody else.”

Johnston said she keeps the recipes for two reasons.

“I want to make my own cookbook to give to family and friends,” she said. “I also keep the recipes so I can see what all I have cooked.”

Johnston said when she and her husband, Charlie, married 17 years ago, he did all the cooking for the first five years.

“Chicken, chicken, chicken – that’s all he cooked,” she said. “Then I started fixing simple things, like Hamburger Helper and canned corn.”

Johnston said she’s always been a party person, and one day a friend talked her into hosting a Pampered Chef party.

“I had a massive turnout and I got all this cool stuff and so I started playing with it,” she said. “All of a sudden, I started really cooking and I’d be like, ‘I want to do this and I want to make that.'”

Johnston said she’s known to jump from one thing to another – cake decorating, cupcakes, photography, art classes.

“I don’t stay at anything too long, except for cooking,” she said. “My husband says, ‘Gosh, I hope you don’t grow out of this phase.'”

Her neighbors probably have the same sentiment. Johnston cooks for her family, which includes a 13-year-old son, Jesse, and for Miss Sue and other elderly neighbors several times a week.

“I cook almost every night,” she said. “If I don’t, then Miss Sue goes hungry and everybody else in the neighborhood goes hungry and I feel bad. I share with whoever wants it. If one neighbor isn’t home, then it goes to the next person.”

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

Click video to hear audio