COOK OF THE WEEK: Law firm retiree doesn’t let heart surgery slow her down

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

MOOREVILLE – Meredith Dillard hasn’t always been a good cook. In fact, when she and her husband, Lamar, married 46 years ago, she could hardly make anything.
“My mother never did want anybody in the kitchen when she cooked and I’m the same way now,” said Dillard, 65. “I got a Better Homes & Gardens cookbook at our wedding shower and I began to try things, simple things, and taught myself a lot. The first year I was married, I almost burned a hole in Lamar’s stomach I ruined so much stuff.”
She doesn’t ruin much anymore. She cooks dinner every night, and several nights a week her 15-year-old granddaughter, Maggie, eats with the Dillards. The food is still simple, but good: grilled chicken tenders with sweet potatoes and green beans or hamburger steaks with mashed potatoes and English peas.
One night this past week, they had hamburgers and baked beans; another evening, she served spaghetti, salad and French bread.
Dillard dramatically changed the way she prepares food after she had triple-bypass surgery in 2008 and Lamar had six heart bypasses in 2009.
“That’s when I really stopped frying,” she said. “We have everything grilled, broiled or baked. Once a month, I’ll pan-fry chicken tenders in olive oil. We just use common sense, really. I walk two miles a day. We watch our sweets. I’d love to keep a pound cake or cookies around, but I don’t because that’s too tempting.”

Prime rib, please
Dillard is the oldest of five girls born to Ed and Mary Lou Summers. Four of the five girls live right next to one another in the Gilvo community between Skyline and Mooreville. A fifth sister lives in Birmingham.
“We live on the homeplace where we were raised,” said the mother of twins, Brad and Beth, and grandmother of Bradley and Mark Kirk. “My sisters and I all get along so well. I promised myself that no matter what, we would keep this family together.
“About once a month, the four couples get together and eat and play dominoes. We might have a sandwich or chips and dip. A lot of times we don’t even have a meal because we just want to spend time together. If we do have a meal, it’s potluck.”
Dillard, who retired after 30-plus years with Mitchell, McNutt & Sams where she was the real estate coordinator, admits that now and again – on special occasions – she allows herself to indulge in her favorite meal.
“My doctor said it’s OK every once in a while,” she said. “You can’t deprive yourself all the time. My favorite meal is grilled steak, baked potato and a salad. My favorite thing to do is go to Harvey’s and eat their prime rib.”

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.