COOK OF THE WEEK: Tupelo school counselor finds everything’s better on the grill

TUPELO – If Beth Smith isn’t counseling students at Church Street Elementary or tooling around Tupelo on her motorcycle, she’s likely at home in front of the grill.
Smith, 51, does most of her cooking outside: pork tenderloins, chicken breasts, seafood, vegetables – even salads.
“I think a cool restaurant would be where everything is grilled, even desserts and fruit,” she said. “I think you could really make a go of it. That’s something Tupelo doesn’t have and you have to have a niche for a new restaurant.”
Smith has gotten more adventurous in her cooking since her younger daughter married a chef.
“I’ve never been a picky eater and he has introduced me to a lot of things,” she said. “When I go see them in Atlanta, we’re always trying new things. People think it would be kind of scary being in the kitchen with a chef, but we have a good time.”
Smith grew up in upstate New York around ethnic foods: Her neighborhood was made up of Italians, Poles and Greeks.
“My uncle worked on the seaboard and my dad would wake us up at midnight and say, ‘Come on, we’re going to Uncle Sonny’s for lobster.’ He’d have them in the bathtub. Sometimes we had clam bakes. In the South, you have barbecues. In the North, we had clam bakes.”

Food Network junkie
When she went to school at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, she learned how to cook Southern fare from the campus minister’s wife.
“She taught me a lot about country cooking,” said Smith, whose husband, Terry, is a news anchor at WTVA. “I still use some of her recipes today, but I’m not a big fried food eater. My weakness is sweets. I’ve never been a heavy cooker – I do a lot of lighter recipes. I think that’s probably why I grill a lot, using leaner meats and even vegetables.”
After Smith’s daughters, Lindsay and Lauren, grew up and moved away, she started watching the Food Network and dabbling in marinades, sauces and more upscale recipes.
“When I first married, I couldn’t cook at all,” she said. “My father told Terry when he said he wanted to marry me that he hoped he liked hash. It was the only thing I could cook. Now, I can cook just about anything. I think anybody can cook if they can follow a recipe. I’m not good at creating stuff, but I can follow a recipe.”

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