COOK OF THE WEEK: New Albany matriarch learns to cook by trial, error

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

Margaret Cocke says she doesn’t cook like she used to. But she can still put a pretty mean meal on the table.
The mother of three, grandmother of seven and great-grandmother of seven, used to cook every weekend for her family.
“But my family got too big and my house got too small,” said Cocke, 66, who works part time for Baptist Memorial Hospital as a medical transcriptionist.
Cocke grew up in Myrtle, the oldest of two girls born to Thressa and S.C. Harris. She began cooking early in life, learning peas and cornbread first and then moving on to cakes.
“By the time I was 10 or 12 years old, my mother would go to the fields and leave me at the house to cook and clean and do laundry,” she said.
Still there were some things Cocke had never cooked when she married. One of them was squirrel.
“My husband, Roy, went squirrel hunting and he brought two home and skinned them and cleaned and gave them me to cook,” she said. “I didn’t know any better. I put them in the skillet, head and all, and fried them. It was a pitiful sight. It looked like two skinned cats laying there. He kind of had a laugh out of that. But from then on, he cut them up like a chicken before he gave them to me to cook.”
Roy still likes to hunt and went elk hunting in New Mexico for the first time last fall. The first day out, he bagged an elk and the family has been dining on elk meat since.
“Mostly, he hunts deer, and I’ll cook it for him and for family, but I don’t like deer meat,” she said. “I just don’t care for the taste.”
The Cockes usually have their big meal in the middle of the day. They’re partial to baked chicken, baked potatoes, peas and salad or maybe elk minute steaks, mashed potatoes, green beans, slaw and rolls.
“We don’t eat a lot of desserts,” she said. “He does like a cobbler though, so I may cook a dessert on the weekends.”
Cocke likes to try new recipes out of various cookbooks or sometimes she’ll get an idea from a Food Network star. Some recipes are more successful than others.
“Years ago, I found a recipe for a meatless casserole and I bought all the ingredients for it and I made it,” she said. “The dog wouldn’t even eat it, let alone us. That’s pretty bad when the dog won’t eat it.
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.