COOK OF THE WEEK: Joyner teacher brings little bit of country to her city cooking

TUPELO – Allyson McGraw is a bundle of energy.
From the time the 33-year-old gets up in the morning until the time she gets home from teaching first-graders at Joyner Elementary, she’s on the move.
“I hit the ground running,” said the petite mother of two. “I never sit down. I’m always on the go. And then eventually, I just crash. When I get home from school, I’m worthless. I don’t want to do anything.”
Except maybe prepare dinner for her husband, Jim, and daughters, Jacey and Lilli.
“We probably cook five nights a week,” she said. “Jim McGraw loves to have meat, vegetables, bread and dessert, and that’s my fault.”
It’s her fault because McGraw has spoiled her family with her cooking skills.
“I was raised mostly by my grandparents, and my grandmother had a restaurant and a flower shop in Bruce – the Sawmill Restaurant and later Flowers by Jerry,” McGraw said. “There was never a moment when I was away from any kind of food, flowers or entertainment. It’s not that I didn’t love my mother. It’s just that my grandmother was more fun.”
But McGraw’s mother did teach her a thing or two about feeding people.
“I can remember my mother making biscuits every Sunday morning and freezing them to use the rest of the week. And she always said, ‘You know, Allyson, you need to take care of everybody. Always make sure they have something to eat and drink.’ She would never let anybody go hungry.”

Country vs. city
McGraw grew up in the country in Bruce, while her husband grew up in the big city of Tupelo. She was used to having five or six vegetables at a meal – a foreign concept for Jim. But once she got him interested in gardening, he was hooked.
“Jim now has a garden downtown behind some family property,” she said. “He grows corn, beans, squash, cucumbers, okra and peas. I cannot tell you how many vacations we’ve left early to drive home in the middle of the night to get home to put up corn – to get it out of the field when it’s ready. But I have to remember, I created this monster.”
As you can imagine, Jim has kind of taken to this country way of life – and she has taken to his citified ways.
“Some Sundays we eat at my in-laws – Mimi and Robin McGraw – and that’s my favorite night to eat,” she said. “I love shrimp risotto and all the fancy things she cooks. Any chance I get to eat her cooking, I do because I didn’t eat that growing up. And Jim loves to go to my family’s and eat chicken and dumplings and chocolate pie. Food is so emotional. It’s very social.”

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 ginna.parsons@journalinc.com.

Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal