COOK OF THE WEEK: Tupelo mother a horticulturist by day and homemaker by night

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – At JoAnne Kent’s house, don’t expect to be served the same meal twice. At least, not very often.
Kent, a co-owner of Philip’s Garden Center along with her husband, Kevin, delights in coming up with new recipes to please her family, which includes a 15-year-old daughter, Anna, and a 20-year-old son, Jacob.
“If I see a recipe that looks promising, I’ll try it on my family,” said Kent, 48. “Then we’ll critique it and decide what it needs. Once I perfect it, it goes in my notebook. I am a perfectionist when it comes to recipes. If I ever give you a recipe, it’s going to be exact.”
The ‘notebook’ is a three-ring binder that’s about five inches thick with typed recipes tucked into clear plastic sleeves. Another two inches or so in the notebook is filled with recipes that have yet to be tried.
Kent is a big believer in scratch cooking. She makes her own bread, pasta and even homemade tortillas. She credits much of her cooking ability to her Hungarian grandmother.
“My Grandmaw Radojcsics was the most incredible cook,” Kent said. “She taught me how to simmer long, where you develop great flavor. She was all about herbs. She always had an apron on and she smelled like sheets dried on a line and flour. She taught me the sheer joy, the happiness in cooking. She never sat with us at the table. She would stand back and watch everyone else enjoy themselves.”
Kent and her parents, Anne and Joe Radojcsics of Verona and her brother, Kurt, moved to Lee County when she was 4 so her father could take a job with Penn Tire.
“I learned a lot from my mother, too,” Kent said. “Mom is a great cook, but I’ll never be able to look at one of her recipes and decipher it. There’s a note here and an insertion there and you don’t know which one is the most recent.”
Kent’s favorite food in the whole world is Hungarian Goulash, one of her grandmother’s specialties, and she indulges in it whenever possible.
“Mom does not like Hungarian cooking, but she’ll make it for me. It’s heavy, I’ll admit it,” Kent said. “But ask me what I want for anything – special occasion or not – and that’s what I’ll say.”

Working ahead
During the busy seasons of the horticulture world, you’ll find Kent working at Philip’s Garden Center. But even after putting in a full day in the greenhouse, she’ll still come home and put a spectacular meal on the table.
“I sit down once a week and make out a menu and then I make one trip to the grocery store,” she said. “When I’m working, I do prep work for supper the night before. I chop or I make a sauce before I shut the kitchen down each night.”
And she doesn’t take the easy way out, either.
“I’m not a Crock-Pot person,” she said. I pull it out now and then, but I don’t like the way it makes things taste. That’s not what my grandmaw meant by slow simmer.”

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@journalinc.com.