COOK OF THE WEEK: Retired postmaster finds spices make heathful foods enjoyable

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

PONTOTOC – Five years ago, Joe Tucker went to the doctor for a routine checkup and, much to his dismay, was diagnosed with diabetes.
“It was pretty upsetting,” said Tucker, who weighed 410 pounds at the time. “I had to change my eating habits. I lost a good bit of weight and then I gained some of it back.”
Finally, his stepdaughter talked him into getting bariatric Lap-Band surgery. He had the procedure done in May 2009 and has lost 102 pounds to date. He’s down to 276 pounds and still losing.
“I’m no longer diabetic,” Tucker said proudly. “And my asthma has gotten much better. I hope one day to be totally cured of asthma. Obesity causes a lot of health problems.”
A retired postmaster, Tucker said today he eats smaller portions and watches what he eats. Chicken, fish and lean pork – baked or broiled – are staples of his diet, but it’s the spices he uses that makes them so tasty.
“I can make anything taste good by using spices,” he said. “I have my own spice blend, called Tucker’s Spice. I don’t give out the recipe for that. My wife won’t let me. But I’ll tell you this much – it’s a Creole-type spice, but not as salty. It’s not too spicy, but it still has a bite. My wife is trying to get me to make it to sell, but I say that would sound like too much like work.”

Family tradition
Tucker and his wife, Beverly, share four children and seven grandchildren. A self-proclaimed Army brat, he lived in France, Germany, Texas, Georgia, Virginia, Kentucky and New Jersey before his family came back home to settle in Pontotoc.
And that’s where he learned how to cook.
“The men in our family are all good cooks and my mother is an awesome cook,” he said, “All my siblings can cook. My son, he and I used to compete a lot when he was in college. We’d just be back and forth. He can probably cook better than I can now. It just runs in the family.”
Tucker likes to cook several times a week to give Beverly, who works part time for the U.S. Postal Service, a break.
“If I cook, she cleans up usually,” he said. “When she cooks, she cleans up. I don’t clean up when she cooks. We haven’t gotten that far yet.”
Tucker has several specialties he likes to prepare for people and one of those is his baked beans.
“One lady at my church says they’re the best things she’s ever eaten,” he said laughing. “That’s the reason I’m talking to you right now. She turned my name in as a Cook of the Week.”

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.