COOK OF THE WEEK: Oktoc woman’s little secret: She’d rather be gardening than cooking

STARKVILLE – Carolyn Bryan loves to make desserts. Unfortunately, she also likes to eat them. So she has found a way to make her cake and eat it too – but not too much.
The second Friday night of every month, members of the Oktoc Community Club meets for dinner and a program. Three or four hostesses prepare the entree and everyone else brings a covered dish.
“That’s why I love the Oktoc Community Club,” said Bryan, 69. “I can make a dessert I want to eat and carry it there and have one piece and then not have to carry it home.”
Oktoc is south of Starkville and Bryan and her husband, Joe, moved there in 2004 after both retired from the Bank of Yazoo City. The community club has been meeting since 1927 and it’s been a good way for the Bryans to fit in socially.
“We have programs each month, programs for seniors, on health, taxes, gardening, just lots of things,” said the mother of two and grandmother of three.
One dessert Bryan is often asked to take to the meetings is her caramel cake, which she learned to make from her mother.
“She’d bake them to sell, and I started making them in Yazoo City to sell and it just ballooned,” she said. “One year I made 70 cakes between Thanksgiving and Christmas. When I stopped making them for the public, people got angry. Now, I make them for pleasure. I make them when I want to and carry them at my leisure.”

Outdoors person
But Bryan’s culinary repertoire extends far beyond sweet treats. She cooks the evening meal every day for herself and her husband. (For breakfast, they usually have cereal or fruit and at lunch they have a snack.)
The like baked catfish with peas or corn, sliced tomatoes and a salad, or maybe fried pork chops, baked sweet potatoes and a salad. Her specialty, though, is her steak, which she cooks in a cast iron skillet.
“My husband likes these so well he’s put away his grill,” she said. “Usually, we cook a New York Strip but we’ve tried fillet mignon before and that worked well. You could probably use just about any steak you wanted to.”
As much as Bryan likes being in her kitchen, she likes being outside more. Even as a child, she would rather have been mowing the lawn or working in the garden with her father than cooking in the kitchen with her mother.
“I’m still an outdoors person,” she said. “I cut my own grass and I work in the yard. If I could get Joe to clean the house, I’d be out there all the time. That’s my real therapy.”

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