By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Every Wednesday morning, Shirley Harwood’s daughter, Tracey, gives her mom a call from her home in Marietta, Ga.
“Are you the Cook of the Week today,” Tracey asks.
Harwood always hesitates and then sadly answers, “No.”
“It’s a long-standing joke with us,” said Harwood, who just turned 70. “Today when she calls, I’ll be able to say, ‘Yes!’”
Harwood doesn’t consider herself a fancy cook or even a cook at all.
“I was an only child and unfortunately had no interest in cooking until I got married,” she said. “I’ve managed to perfect a few recipes that please my husband, Jerry. But he’s the dessert maker.”
The Harwoods met when they were in the fifth grade. Even at that tender age, they knew they were meant to be together.
“We had our times apart, but we never broke up – never went more than a few months without contact,” she said. “I’d hear he was dating somebody and I’d think, ‘I’d better get back up there and see what that’s all about.’”
Harwood said she doesn’t recall being able to make a single dish when they married some 48 years ago. But Jerry remembers the first time she ever made pancakes.
“She didn’t even look at the directions on the box,” he said. “She dumped the whole thing in. She had enough pancakes to feed the whole neighborhood.”
Harwood has learned to make several dishes that please her family and friends alike. One of those is chicken and dressing, made in a family heirloom – the Traveling Dressing Pan.
“It’s a 9×13, white and red, dented and chipped enamel pan that belonged to my grandmother from Ellistown,” Harwood said. “She passed her pan on to my mother in Greenville, who passed it on to me. And I will pass it on to Tracey, but for now, we share it.”
Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, Harwood totes the pan to Georgia where she and Tracey make the dressing. Then she hauls it home again.
“It just doesn’t taste right if it’s not cooked in that pan,” she said. “We know. We’ve tried it.”
Harwood, who owned Shirley’s Dance Studio in Nettleton for 25 years before retiring in 2000, said she doesn’t care for fancy cooking.
“My daughter will try anything,” she said. “She likes to make her food look really good. If I see a recipe with a long list of ingredients, I go on to the next page.”
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.