NEW ALBANY – Martha Gault has always been a collector. For a while, it was Coca-Cola paraphernalia. Another time, old clocks and old phones were her must-have items. She has a china cabinet full of Waterford crystal eggs and antique water carafes.
These days, she’s into decorative Bundt pans and glazed pottery.
“I just love the Bundt pans because they’re interesting,” said Gault, 72, who lives just outside New Albany with her husband, Bill. “And I’m enjoying cooking in glazed pottery that local people make. Broken Vessel makes a beautiful casserole I use.”
Gault began cooking at age 11 when her mother went to work.
“I was an only child,” said Gault, who is retired from the Department of Defense in Memphis. “People think you’re a spoiled brat, but I had to do everything because I was the only one.”
Her grandmother, who made fancy desserts on a wood-burning stove using recipes from an old Watkins cookbook, was her mentor.
“There are certain people you admire and you try to measure up to them, whether you ever do or not,” said Gault, who grew up in the Enterprise community. “That was my grandmother. She was a great inspiration to me. I’ve had a lot to live up to.”
One of the things Gault learned from her grandmother was the importance of presentation.
“I strive for pretty presentation,” she said. “Dishes are my weakness. I’d buy a set of dishes for every day of the week if I could. Presentation is the whole thing. It doesn’t matter what you cook if it doesn’t look good.”
Gault has a tip for members of the younger generation who are prone to show up to potluck lunches at work and church with store-bought goods.
“If you’re going to a function and run to the deli and pick up potato salad, take it out of the plastic store container and put it in a nice glass dish or a pretty serving bowl,” she said. “I promise you, the food will taste 100 percent better.”
Messy, but prepared
Gault doesn’t cook as much as she used to when her two children were growing up. When she and her husband first moved back to the New Albany area in 1999, she was preparing a big lunch just about every week from someone visiting from Memphis.
Because there isn’t a grocery store right around the corner, Gault learned to keep a well-stocked pantry and a cabinet full of cookbooks she’s collected.
“It helps me to plan ahead when I’ve got people visiting,” she s aid. “I want to map out all the meals and have everything on hand.”
And when Gault gets in the kitchen, you’d better watch out or you might find yourself on KP duty.
“When I have all this cooking going on in the kitchen, my husband is my cleaner-upper,” she said. “He doesn’t understand how I can dirty so many measuring cups and measuring spoons. Lately, I’ve had some measuring cups and spoons come up missing. He swears he’s not getting rid of them, but I’m not so sure. That’s the big mystery around here. It keeps us entertained anyway.”
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.
Berry-Mandarin Tossed Salad
1⁄4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
11⁄4 teaspoons lemon juice
1⁄2 teaspoon paprika
1⁄2 teaspoon dry mustard
1⁄2 teaspoon grated onion
1⁄4 teaspoon celery seed
Dash of salt
1⁄3 cup vegetable oil
8 cups torn mixed salad greens
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 (11-ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained
1 medium sweet onion, sliced and separated into rings
1⁄3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
In a 2-cup microwave-safe bowl, combine first 9 ingredients. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 11⁄2 minutes; stir until sugar is dissolved. Whisk in oil. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
In a serving bowl, combine greens, strawberries, oranges, onion, almonds and bacon. When ready to serve, drizzle with dressing and gently toss.
Serves 12 to 14.
Corky’s Memphis-Style Coleslaw
1 medium head green cabbage, cored and shredded
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1 green bell pepper, finely diced
2 tablespoons grated onion
2 cups mayonnaise
3⁄4 cup granulated sugar
1⁄4 cup Dijon mustard
1⁄4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons celery seed
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄8 teaspoon white pepper
Place cabbage, carrots, green pepper and onion in a large bowl. Set aside.
In another bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Pour over vegetables and toss well to combine. Cover and refrigerate 3 to 4 hours before serving.
2 teaspoons olive oil
3⁄4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
1⁄2 medium onion, sliced
1⁄2 green bell pepper, sliced
1 rib celery, sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups canned chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cooked white rice
Heat olive oil in a medium nonstick skillet on high. Add chicken and brown on all sides for 3 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate and lower heat to medium high. Add onion, green pepper, celery and garlic and sauté 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, oregano, Worcestershire and cayenne pepper, and return chicken to pan. Simmer 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon chicken and sauce over prepared rice.
1 stick margarine
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 (15-ounce) cans white shoepeg corn, drained
2 cups cooked rice
1 (2-ounce) jar pimiento, drained
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 to 3 drops Tabasco
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
In a skillet, melt margarine, add onion and bell pepper and sauté until soft. Combine soup, corn, rice, pimiento, salt, Worcestershire and Tabasco and add to onion and pepper mixture. Pour into a greased casserole and top with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese bubbles.
Yellow Brick Road Cake
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
11⁄2 cups brown sugar
4 large eggs
3⁄4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons baking powder
13⁄4 cups cake flour, sifted
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pound ripe bananas, mashed
11⁄2 cups chocolate chunks
11⁄2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
6 cups powdered sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
Shaved chocolate, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. Cream butter and brown sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, until well-incorporated, scraping the bowl occasionally.
Sift salt, baking powder and cake flour together. With the mixer running, add 1⁄3 of flour mixture and 1⁄3 of milk alternately to butter-sugar mixture until all is incorporated. Add vanilla, bananas and chocolate chunks.
Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 20 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool and remove from pans.
For the frosting, cream butter until fluffy, then add powdered sugar, salt and vanilla. Add cream as needed to thin to desired consistency. Spread frosting between layers, on top and sides of cake. Garnish with shaved chocolate.
Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal