By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
While the women in Jan McGreger’s life didn’t actually teach her how to cook, she learned something far more valuable from them.
“I learned from my mother and my paternal grandmother that cooking mattered,” said McGreger, 68. “They got a feeling of creativity that was lacking in other parts of their lives.”
And what she did know about cooking, she learned in school.
“I had three years of home ec and I can tell you that was the most useful course I took in high school,” said McGreger who, as an Air Force brat, grew up all over the country.
She was born in Poteau, Okla., during World War II. She went on to live in Shreveport, La., and Belleville, Ill., before her family moved to Biloxi when she was in high school. It was there that she met George, her husband of 50 years.
“We went to the same church in Biloxi,” she said. “He was a Tupelo guy, so that’s what brought me to Northeast Mississippi.”
Not long after they married, the couple moved to Tupelo and lived in a house on Robins Street with his parents for a couple of years before settling in Booneville in 1964. That’s where they raised their three children.
After the children were older, McGreger decided to further her college education. She took some classes at Northeast Mississippi Community College before transferring to Ole Miss where she earned two degrees.
She worked for the Prentiss County Schools and New Albany Schools before retiring in 2004.
“I love retirement,” said the soft-spoken McGreger. “I highly recommend it.”
McGreger said that she and George spent the first year of their marriage in San Antonio, living in a small apartment that rented for $60 a month.
“The stove didn’t work too well,” she said. “I made a pan of baked beans once and burned them to death. I took them out to the shed behind where we lived and left them there. They may still be there today.”
She recalled that as newlyweds, they were so poor they would buy huge amounts of pinto beans and live off of them for weeks.
“It’s a wonder we still like pintos today, but we do,” she said.
McGreger said even though the kids are grown and out of the house with families of their own, she still tends to make the same amount of food as she did when she had five to feed every day.
“We eat leftovers a lot,” she said. “George will look at something we’ve had several times and say, ‘Are we almost done with this?’”
If there are two things McGreger enjoys as much as cooking, it would be reading and traveling. That’s why she bought herself a new cookbook for Christmas: National Geographic’s “Food Journey of a Lifetime.”
“This cookbook combines everything I love,” she said. “You know that book, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’? Well, mine would be called, ‘Eat, Travel, Read.’”
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.