COOK OF THE WEEK: Retired lunchroom lady pleases family with big dinners

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

FULTON – Since having back surgery in 2010, Bet Tucker doesn’t cook quite as much as she used to. There was a time when Sunday dinner meant every surface in her kitchen was covered with dishes of food.
“We’d have chicken and dressing, chicken and dumplings, creamed potatoes and green beans,” said Tucker, 74. “I’d just keep bringing stuff out. Salads, deviled eggs, pies, cakes.”
Tucker’s husband of 56 years, Alfred, said his wife is modest about her cooking.
“She’ll put something on the table three times a day,” he said. “She’s kind of like her mother that way. Anytime somebody came around, they didn’t leave without something, even if it was a jar of jelly or pear preserves.”
Tucker learned most of her cooking skills in the lunchroom at what used to be called Fulton Grammar School.
“I had a fantastic teacher – Mrs. McKee. She was wonderful. She was over our lunchroom and after six years, I took her job. I was there 31 years,” Tucker said.
One thing she learned to master at the school was cookies. Often, she’d make 800 at a time.
“I made for the schoolchildren but my two boys never did care all that much about sweets,” she said.
In the 1980s and ‘90s, Tucker made wedding cakes for friends and family in the Tilden community outside Fulton where she lives.
“But I decided not to do that anymore,” she said. “My back was hurting me so.”

She quilts, too
Tucker said she doesn’t prefer to cook one dish over another, but one of her family’s favorites is her chicken and dumplings.
“I always have to fix that,” she said. “I didn’t make any Thanksgiving and did I ever hear about it.”
One other thing she’s learned from her family is that they don’t want her messing with what’s tried and true.
“I hardly ever try new recipes because they don’t like change of any kind,” she said. “One time I put all my food on the table and they went berserk. They said it was supposed to be over there on the stove and counter. And I said, ‘OK, from now on, that’s where you’ll get it.’”
If Tucker isn’t cooking, she’s likely quilting. She doesn’t know how many years she’s been making quilts by hand. At one time she sold them, but now she mostly gives them away. She specializes in baby quilts.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to work on them after my back surgery, but I tried one and I did OK,” she said. “So I just sit in there in my chair and work on them.”

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.