COOK OF THE WEEK: Tupelo woman whips up weekly dinners for her family

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – For the past 25 years, Betty Billingsley has been preparing dinner for her grown children and their families every Tuesday night.
The family members take turns picking the entree and then Billingsley chooses sides to go along with it.
“The grandchildren always wanted chicken and dressing, chicken and dumplings or chicken pot pie. And green beans. Always green beans,” Billingsley said. “Vegetables are so good for you, though. I always try to have three or four.”
She might make pork chops or fried chicken and serve it with mashed potatoes, fried okra, creamed corn and macaroni and cheese – and of course, the green beans.
“And we always have dessert,” she said. “I carry any dessert that’s leftover to school on Wednesday. I get it out of my house so I don’t eat it.”
Billingsley works in the office at Parkway Elementary in Tupelo. Before that, she was at Thomas Street for 26 years.
Some Tuesday nights, Billingsley will grill steaks or pork chops or shrimp kebabs, especially if it’s someone’s birthday.
“And every now and then, I’ll try something new on them,” she said. “I have fixed some things where they said, ‘I don’t know if I want this again.’”
Billingsley said it is her honor and pleasure to prepare the meals for her daughter and son-in-law, Ann and Roger Byrd; and her son and daughter-in-law, Lee and Jerilynn Billingsley and their daughters, Mary Page and Mialee.
“I’m just thankful I’ve been able to do this all these years,” she said. “We just catch up and visit. It’s really a neat thing.”
On the go
Billingsley grew up in Baldwyn, the middle of three children born to Stanley and Paula Lytal. But even though she said her mother was a fantastic cook, Billingsley didn’t learn her cooking skills at home.
“I didn’t do much with her because I was into sports and things,” she said. “I didn’t really learn to cook until I got married and even then, I wasn’t very good. I’d say, ‘All right, what are we gonna eat tonight, grilled cheese?’ I would call my mother if there was something I was unsure of and she’d always help me. Even today, I’m just a Southern, old-fashioned cook. I fix what my children like.”
If Billingsley isn’t planning or preparing Tuesday’s meal or at school or at Harrisburg Baptist Church, where she’s very active, she’s likely curled up with a good book or working in her yard.
“Yard work is just so therapeutic for me,” she said. “I love to be outside. I love to wash my car. I enjoy spending time with my sister and my brother. I just like to stay busy. I’m on the go a lot.”
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 ginna.parsons@ journalinc.com.