COOK OF THE WEEK: Montpelier man throws a little bit of everything in the pot

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

Mike Cliett’s not much on recipes, but he is big on cooking.
The 65-year-old, who lives in Montpelier in Clay County with his wife, Irene, said he did a little cooking while growing up on a dairy farm, but he mostly learned when he was working at 4-County EPA.
“I always liked Cajun cooking and soul food cooking. If you take a look at me, you can tell I suffer from an overindulgent fork,” said Cliett, who retired last year after almost 23 years with the power association. “I just mess with it, really. I just start throwing stuff in.”
Cliett started experimenting with different things, especially herbs and spices, and today his palate is honed enough to judge Memphis in May barbecue contests in Columbus.
“I like to judge, but I don’t enter them myself,” he said, although when he cooks at home, his meat is prepared to competition standards.
Cliett’s fellow Masons at the Masonic Lodge #220 in Montpelier look forward to the meals he prepares for them when they have special ceremonies, called degrees.
“I usually do red beans and rice or gumbo for one of those,” he said. “Other boys cook, too, now. I ain’t the only one.”
Cliett gets some of his ideas from watching the stars and celebrity chefs on the Food Network.
“I like to watch Mario Batali – not because of his cooking – I just like his attitude,” he said. “I watch a little bit of all of them. I’m not just tore up with Bobby Flay. That Anne what’s-her-name – looks like she stuck her finger in a light socket – now she’s got some good recipes.” (Cliett was referring to Anne Burrell.)
Cliett also likes to cook for the folks at his church. One of their favorites is his pot roast.
“I cook my pot roast in beer,” he said. “And it’s got to be bottled beer. Canned beer gives it a metallic taste. Wine and beer has an enzyme in it that makes meat tender. That’s why you see me using it.
“Well, we was going to have this thing at church and I decided to make my pot roast. We’re good Baptists, you know. My wife said, ‘How you going to cook that pot roast?’ And I said, ‘Like I always do, with carrots and onions and potatoes and two bottles of beer.’ And I did. Those folks liked to have licked the boiler clean. And this girl comes over and says, ‘I want to know two things. Where did you get that pot and how did you cook that pot roast?’ And I told her she didn’t want to know. Well, she kept on until finally I said, ‘I cooked it in two bottles of Budweiser.’ And she said, ‘Well, it sure was good.’”
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.