COOK OF THE WEEK: New Albany’s Manning known for her Cheese Ring

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

NEW ALBANY – Teresa Manning is passionate about cooking.
Whether she’s grilling, cooking fresh vegetables from the garden or preparing a big dinner for her family, she is in her element.
“People say I’m such a good cook, but I’m really not,” said Manning, 52. “I just add a little homemade to everything.”
For instance, when she makes a cheese ring “like everybody else in the world does,” she adds some homemade strawberry jam on the side to sweeten the appetizer.
“The cheese ring is what people ask for at showers or what they wanted in the coaches’ lounge when the kids were playing ball,” she said. “It’s what I was known for.”
Her children likely would tell a different story. They like to associate her with breakfast biscuits, which are her spin on sausage balls.
“When my children were young, I made these glorified sausage and cheese biscuits and sent them to school with them for breakfast,” she said. “They’d come home and ask if I could make a couple of extras for their friends. I became the mama who cooked for everybody.”

Cooking like Mama
These days, everybody includes her husband, Dale, her three children and their families. But don’t look for a big Sunday dinner at her house. Try a weeknight instead, when she has a better chance of getting everyone together.
The meal will always include a meat, like grilled pork loin, along with several sides such as candied sweet potatoes, green beans, corn, fried okra and slaw, and banana pudding for dessert. They also like chicken and dumplings, greens, rutabagas, peas, cornbread and a chocolate ding-dong cake.
“We eat a lot of vegetables and we eat a lot from the freezer,” said Manning, a medical assistant at New Albany Medical Group. “We always had a garden growing up, and Dale and I had one when the kids were small. We stopped when they got older and busier, but then started back a couple of years ago. This is the first year we haven’t had one in several years. There was too much rain early on.”
Manning credits her mother, grandmother and a host of baby sitters with teaching her how to cook. And she’s a firm believer that many dishes we cook like our mothers did, simply because that’s the way they were prepared in our homes.
“I had a friend once who always cut one end of a ham off before she put it in the pan to cook and when I asked her why, she said it was because her mama had always done it that way,” Manning said. “Finally, she asked her mama why, and her mama said it was because the ham wouldn’t fit in her pan. Can you believe that?”

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.