COOK OF THE WEEK: Retiree enjoys trying new recipes from her cookbook collection

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

Donna Johnson learned how to cook when she was about 8 years old. She can still recall standing in a chair in the kitchen to make cornbread.
“My mother could get us to do anything,” Johnson said. “She would say, ‘Oh, you do it so good, or yours tastes so much better than mine.’ I think she could have gotten us to catch a snake if she’d wanted to.”
Johnson, 58, is the youngest of five children – she has three sisters and a twin brother. They grew up in the Jericho community near Baldwyn in Union County. She and her husband, Larry, still live there.
Johnson worked at a foam factory for 15 years before taking a job with B&B Concrete, where she stayed for a little more than three years.
“The day my grandson was born was my last day to be employed,” she said. “I came home to take care of him.”
Sixteen-month-old Lincoln, born to her daughter and son-in-law, Dana and Brandon Patterson, now consumes much of Johnson’s time.
“I used to cook for my family every Sunday, but since the grandson has been here, it’s been hard to watch him and cook for 30 people , but I like to when I can,” she said.
Still, she manages to prepare dinner every night for herself, Larry, Dana, Brandon and Lincoln, as well as a sister and her twin brother, who is disabled. And once or twice a week, she fixes meals for another sister who works outside the home.
“They all come here to eat,” she said. “Once a week, we have breakfast for dinner, one night we have hamburgers and hotdogs, and one night is vegetables and cornbread. The other nights are when I try new recipes.”
And Johnson lives for new recipes.
“You could say I’m a cookbook hoarder,” she said. “I love to get them at yard sales. I had so many my husband had to buy me a cabinet to put them in. That’s my passion – new recipes. When I try a new one and it’s a keeper, we put it up. If it’s not, we tear it up.”
Johnson said she didn’t really begin trying new recipes until after she and Larry married 37 years ago.
“My dad was from the old school,” she said. “He wanted vegetables, cornbread and meat. He actually hurt my feelings one time. I had spent all this time and everything and fixed a casserole for supper and he looked at me and said, ‘I don’t eat that junk.’”
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

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