By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
To say that Willie Gregory’s chicken and dumplings are legendary would be an understatement.
Case in point: One morning several years ago when Gregory was working at Trustmark Bank in Fulton, she couldn’t sleep, so she got up in the dark to make a big pot of chicken and dumplings and a pound cake.
“When it got light out, I could see ice on the road outside,” said Gregory, 75. “So I called the bank and told them that somebody was going to have to come and get me, because I knew I couldn’t get down our hill and if I could get down it, I couldn’t get back up it.
“The next thing I know, here comes the president of the bank, Mr. Smith. He couldn’t get up the hill in the car so he walked. He said, ‘I want that pot of chicken and dumplings. You can stay at home.’ And he took that pot and left me here. I don’t know how he got up that hill or back down it, but he did. And people stopped in the bank all day and ate my chicken and dumplings.”
Gregory, who is the middle of seven children, grew up in the Greenwood area of the Mississippi Delta, and moved to Fulton in 1972.
“I’m the shortest one,” she said, laughing. “I always say I got scrunched from both ends. They say when you come from a large family, you raise each other. And that’s what we did.”
When Gregory was young, her mother was sick a lot and her grandmother would often come to the house to help out. That’s where Gregory got her first lessons in cooking.
“I always enjoyed just piddling and doing things in the kitchen,” she said. “I messed up a lot, but I could put a meal on the table when I married. I remember one time I made macaroni and cheese for my husband – Farris loves mac and cheese – and I didn’t know to put it in a Pyrex bowl and it exploded in the oven,” she said.
One thing Gregory enjoys making is bread. She usually makes nine or more loaves at a time.
“Once you make a loaf and give it to someone, the next time you see them, they’ll say, ‘When are you going to make bread again?’ There’s no telling how many loaves of bread I’ll make between now and Christmas.”
The Gregorys have three children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. The whole family tries to get together at least once a month for a big meal.
“I was at church the other night and I started looking around at mothers and daughters and their grandchildren and I got to thinking how much I enjoy my own children,” she said. “I’d rather be around them – spend time with them – than anyone else. I feel the same way about my brothers and sisters. They’re my best friends.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.