COOK OF THE WEEK: Food service director tries to practice what she preaches

BOONEVILLE – At age 55, Brenda Massey is on her third career.
As soon as the Gaston community resident and her husband, Tommy, married 38 years ago, they got into the cross-country trucking business.
Ten years later, when they started a family, they quit trucking and built a convenience store north of Booneville called Massey’s Super Stop. They ran that for 22 years, with her working most of the time in the kitchen.
In the meantime, Massey had been driving a school bus on the side for the Booneville School District so the family would have health insurance. When she heard the district was looking for a food service administrator, she threw her hat into the ring.
And got the job.
“I’m trying to go healthier in the cafeteria,” Massey said. “In fact, since I got this job, I’ve been trying to re-do the way I eat. It’s hard because I learned how to cook from my mother, who was a country cook.”
Massey’s mother, Maedell Cosby of the Tuscumbia community just east of Booneville, was a homemaker, but she was a real outdoors person, Massey said.
“My dad came home every day for lunch, so we had to have something ready,” she said. “Mother would start lunch and then go outside in the yard and I’d have to finish making lunch. I was probably 10, 11, 12 years old at the time.”

Better choices
Today, the mother of two (and grandmother of two “granddogs”) combines a little bit of Southern with some healthful tweaking as she prepares supper three or four nights a week.
If she makes spaghetti and garlic bread, she puts a green salad with it. Baked Parmesan chicken comes with baked potatoes.
But if it’s the height of summer and she’s cooking a pot of black-eyed peas, a skillet of cornbread and slicing fresh tomatoes, then she’s going to have to fry some squash.
“I know fried squash isn’t the best choice, but we only have it once or twice in the summer,” she said.
The good habits she’s been trying to practice in the school cafeterias since taking the job in January are the same habits she’s taking to the house.
“We eat whole-wheat breads, 100-calorie snacks, unsweet tea, whole grain pastas and light butter,” she said. “At home we cook only with olive oil and we fry very, very little.”
Massey likes to turn to cookbooks when looking for a new recipe, not the Internet.
“I like to sit down with a cookbook and decide what I’m going to cook,” she said. “And I have several friends who are good cooks, so we’re constantly swapping recipes.”

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.

Ginny Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal