By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
SALTILLO – Even though Shirley Rice has been using some of her recipes for 50 years, she still pulls them out every time she goes into the kitchen to cook.
“Most everything I do, I follow directions,” said Rice, 71. “I’ve found that solves a lot of problems later. I don’t want to leave anything out. I’ve made that mistake before.”
Rice said she began the practice of relying on recipes when she had a home economics class in high school. Pancakes were the first thing she learned how to make.
“Mine came out so nice and bubbly and everybody said, ‘How’d you do that?’ and I said, ‘I just followed the recipe.’ In home ec class, I surprised myself by what I could do, and I certainly surprised the teacher. I became pretty popular in class. Everybody wanted to be my partner after they saw how pretty my pie crust was.”
And while Rice learned how to make a few things in school, she was nowhere near the cook she is today when she and her husband, Al, married 50 years ago.
“I had to call my mom a lot and she didn’t have a lot of recipes written down. They were all in her head,” said Rice, who retired in 2007 from the Lee County Multipurpose Program for the Elderly. “Now, my daughter and my granddaughter do the same thing to me. My granddaughter in Las Vegas called me so often I finally made her a cookbook with all my recipes. Then everybody wanted a copy of it.”
Rice and her husband, who live in Saltillo, spend nearly every weekend in the summer cooking meals with friends who share a dock with them at Bay Springs. Everyone who has a houseboat on the dock is invited to the weekend feasts, but it’s usually about six couples who regularly participate.
“We all enjoy the Food Network and we use each other for experiments,” she said. “We check with each other every week and plan a menu. Someone will pick the meat and everybody else makes sides. We never go hungry up there.”
The Rices are always sure to return home from the lake on Saturday because Sunday is church day.
“I fix a big meal every Sunday and it’s a joke in our family that if you don’t go to church, you don’t get to eat at Grandma’s house,” she said. “They’ll even tell on each other if one skips church.”
Rice usually has at least 10 on Sundays – she and Al have two children, four grandchildren and one great-grand – and it’s easy to see why. At least once a month, she prepares brunch instead of lunch: sausage and biscuits, chocolate gravy, country cured ham, hashbrown or grits casserole, scrambled eggs, lots of fresh fruit and Belgian waffles with syrup for dessert.
“We used to eat everything just right – turkey bacon, light mayonnaise, low-fat cheese,” she said. “That’s when we thought we had to live forever. But we missed the real stuff. So we just decided we’d just eat less and enjoy it.”
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.