By Ginna Parsons
MANTACHIE – Carolyn Wren still remembers pulling a chair up to the stove when she was about 5 years old to watch her mother cook.
“I loved to see the way she did things,” said Wren, 69. “Mother wouldn’t let me cook on the wood stove – she was afraid I’d get burned. So I had to wait until we got a gas stove to learn.”
By the time she was 10 or 12, Wren, who grew up on a cotton farm in Smithville, was preparing dinner for her parents and siblings.
“I was the only girl who showed an interest in cooking,” she said. “Mother would send me in from the fields to get dinner ready. She would cook part of the meal before she went out in the morning and I would finish it.”
When she married at 19, Wren could put a meal on the table – but she had a problem cooking for two.
“The hardest thing for me to do was to downsize,” she said. “I was used to cooking for six to eight people. I still remember the first sawmill gravy I made. I put the amount of flour in it that I was used to for a big family and it was way too thick.”
As she raised her two sons – who now have children and grandchildren of their own – she grew more confident in the kitchen.
“My big cooking day now is Saturday,” she said. “I’ll cook a big meal and serve it about three or four in the afternoon. My sons and their families and my nephew and his girlfriend and anybody else that might come along comes to eat. I usually feed about 12, maybe more.”
Wren, who retired from Foamex in Verona in 2006, doesn’t usually cook big meals during the week for herself and Henry, her husband of 50 years. But she does come through for the folks at Mantachie Church of Christ on Fellowship Sundays.
“I take my chicken casserole, a peach delight and lemon icebox pies,” she said. “I’ve always got to make that. I’ve been told I’ll be fired if I don’t.”
Wren doesn’t mind cooking for others. In fact, as an ovarian cancer survivor, she appreciates every chance she gets and every day she is given.
“I just prayed to God to get me through it,” she said. “And he did.”
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.