COOK OF THE WEEK: Mantachie great-grandmother won't let you leave her home empty-handed

MANTACHIE – Visit Sue Mears’ home in Mantachie and just try to get out the door without a bag of fresh vegetables and maybe a jar of pickles. It’s impossible.
“My mama was the type that when you left her house, you had a big sack of food to take with you,” said Mears, 70. “I reckon I’m the same way. I like to give my stuff away.”
When Mears was growing up in the New Salem community south of Fulton, her parents had a huge garden.
“If we didn’t raise it, we didn’t get it,” she recalled. “We had a rolling peddler that came around and we’d buy coffee, tea, flour and sugar. Everything else we raised. We’d trade butter and eggs for some of it.”
Mears and her husband, Joe, usually try to have a garden, although it’s been difficult this year with the hot, dry weather.
“We pump water out of the lake, but everything dries as fast as you can water it,” she said. Still, she’s managed to grow healthy tomatoes, squash and cucumbers.
“My husband is diabetic, so I try to make at least one vegetable meal a day,” she said.
During the summer, Mears keeps her three great-grandchildren at her home in Mantachie.
“The first thing I ask them when they come in the door is, ‘Are y’all hungry? You want something to eat?’”
Rewarding work
For years, Mears worked outside the home in factories. She also was a teacher’s aid at the McDougal Center and worked at Itawamba Industries and at Region III Mental Health Center.
“That was rewarding work,” she said. “That’s why I stayed with it so long. I enjoyed Region III most of all.”
Now that she’s retired, albeit a full-time baby sitter, she can spend all day cooking if she wants to.
“I enjoy cooking – I really do,” she said. “I like to please my family. Of course, I know what each of them likes.”
Sunday dinners are her specialty. One week she might make a baked chicken and pork chops, a potato casserole, baked okra, macaroni and cheese, green peas and a salad; another menu might include a pork roast, squash, broccoli with cheese, slaw and stuffed eggs.
“I do try new recipes now and again, but not very often,” she said. “My family already likes what I make. And I’ll eat anything. I don’t have a favorite food, honey. I was raised on vegetables. There’s nothing I don’t like.”
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.

Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal