COOK OF THE WEEK: Tishomingo bank teller hails from family of good cooks

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

TISHOMINGO – Wanda Southward grew up around good cooks, so it’s no wonder she became a good one herself.
Her paternal grandmother, the late Gladys Smith, and her maternal grandmother, Martha Brown, both took time with her in the kitchen as did her mother, Sherry Smith.
“I learned to enjoy cooking from my grandmothers and my mother,” she said. “That’s why I have so many recipes that are theirs.”
Southward, 47, said her earliest memory of cooking is when she was about 3.
“My mother always gave me and my sister extra pie crust to play with,” she said. “We’d sit and mash it and pat it until it was almost gone. And my grandmothers were really good teachers. They’d tell you things – you didn’t just get to stir.”
Southward said when they’d gather to prepare a meal, they’d take care of the dessert first, and then work on the main course.
“We didn’t eat the dessert first, but it was what we thought about first,” she said. “I think now about how special that time was that I spent with my grandmothers.”
Today, Southward, a teller at BancorpSouth in Tishomingo who sometimes fills in in Iuka, cooks two meals a day for her husband, Bryan, whom she married three years ago. They live in the Mingo community outside Tishomingo where they share five dogs and five cats, and 10 kittens for which she’s trying to find good homes.
“Bryan likes to tell people that I get up and make him a big breakfast before he goes to work each day,” she said. “And then I come home at night and cook supper.”
She might prepare beef Stroganoff with green beans, fruit salad and rolls, or fried pork chops, rice and gravy and green peas.
“I roast a lot of vegetables,” she said. “I roast carrots with onions, and I roast broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, and kale and, of course, potatoes. When I met Bryan he would not eat anything green and now he loves it.”
For more than two years, Southward ran the Cafe at Gatlins in Tishomingo. At first, the plan was just to serve sandwiches.
“But I said, ‘Let’s go bigger,’” she said. “So we offered sandwiches, and specials of the day and things like white beans and ham and stuffed bell peppers.”
Southward said she is not skilled at inventing recipes, but she does like to try new things.
“I’m not one to make something up, but I do change things,” she said. “I use a recipe as a guide and then tweak it a little bit.”
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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