I’m one of those fortunate women who actually likes her mother-in-law. And I’m lucky the feeling is mutual.
I’m also lucky that she is an excellent cook.
My own mother died in 2000, and I had learned the basics of Southern cooking from her. But while Roye can cook a pan of dressing or a pot of peas with the best of them, she’s more inclined to make dishes that are a little more sophisticated, but not pretentious.
When my father-in-law, Dave Langford, was in the Air National Guard, she went to visit him in France and promptly fell in love with French cooking.
So she taught herself classic techniques from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” “I didn’t try to cook everything in there and there are some things I would never want to try that are in that cookbook,” said Roye, who is the office manager at Regional Rehab.
Dave’s work as a newspaper reporter and later as a writer and editor for United Press International and The Associated Press would take the family to Tupelo, Birmingham, Huntsville, Miami, two cities in Connecticut, and finally to Manhattan. She moved to Tupelo in 1998.
“We moved around a lot with Dave’s job,” said Roye, 77. “I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.”
When the family lived in Miami, she got interested in Cuban cooking.
“There was a wonderful restaurant where I got my first bowl of black bean soup,” she said. “So I bought a cookbook. I also learned to make paella (a saffron rice dish with shellfish, fish, meat and vegetables). I used to be fearless. There was a time when I’d try to cook anything.”
These days, Roye doesn’t cook as much as she used to, but she does like to have guests over once or twice a month to eat at her table. And she almost never cooks the same thing twice.
“I like to have something different when I have people over,” she said. “I like to try something new.”
Roye recalled that when she and Dave were living in Connecticut and working in Manhattan, they would attend the Mississippi Picnic every summer in Central Park.
“One year, I came in second in the fried chicken contest,” she said. “The prize was a cookbook called ‘Cooking in the Mississippi Sound.’ There was a recipe in it for Duck a l’Orange. It started with, ‘Take one jar of Tang’ and that was as far as I got. That just blew me away. I never picked that cookbook up again.”
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 email@example.com.
Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal