COOK OF THE WEEK: Special ed assistant not afraid to experiment in the kitchen

MOOREVILLE – Cindy Davis likes to experiment with different foods and she has her husband, Brent, to thank for that.
“Whenever I make something, I ask my husband, ‘Is this something we’ll cook again?’ and he’ll say, ‘Let’s make it again, but next time, let’s add garlic’ or whatever. He’s always doing that and he’s good at it,” said Davis, 36.
In fact, Davis had been making lasagna using the same recipe for a while before her husband suggested she add ground pork to it.
“It turned out great, just great,” said the special education assistant at Saltillo Elementary.
The Davises, who will celebrate 13 years of marriage in May, have three children: 11-year-old Samantha, 9-year-old Beth and 6-year old Ryan. When Beth was a little more than 2, she was diagnosed with autism. Davis quit her then-job to be able to take Beth to therapy every day.
“After Beth was diagnosed, I had a lot of time to practice cooking,” Davis said. “I like to cook. It’s calming as long as the kids aren’t in the kitchen with me. I don’t even mind the cleaning up, but I’d rather someone else do it.”
A casein-free and gluten-free diet is often suggested for autistic children and the Davises tried that with Beth, but met with no success.
“For six days, she didn’t eat anything,” Davis recalled. “The doctor said to start feeding her regular food again or she was going to starve herself to death.”
Today, Davis limits dairy and wheat products, but nothing is off limits for Beth, whose favorite food right now is a gooey grilled cheese sandwich.

Meat a must
After her parents divorced when she was 6, Davis went to live with her father, so she mainly just tinkered in the kitchen. She didn’t really start cooking until she got married.
“My husband got tired of eating Hamburger Helper, so I got all these cookbooks and started trying different recipes,” she said.
But she was unaware that meat was a requisite item at the supper table.
“One night I made vegetables and cornbread and he looked at me and said, ‘Where’s the meat?’ I didn’t know about that when we first married. Now, my husband insists on it. We have meat at every meal.”
One of Davis’ favorite cookbooks today is Todd Wilbur’s “Top Secret Restaurant Recipes,” and she’s found several good recipes in it. What she’s on the hunt for now is an authentic recipe for O’Charley’s Three-Cheese Shrimp Dip.
“I’ve threatened that one summer, I’m going to go to work at O’Charley’s to get that recipe and then quit,” Davis joked. “It’s that good.”

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.

Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal