COOK OF THE WEEK: Young mother comes by the cooking bug naturally

STARKVILLE – When Katherine Skinner Hardin first married, she relied on a five-ingredient cookbook to provide recipes to keep her husband, Sam, satisfied.
Now, she’s an old pro, whipping up gourmet soups, chocolate soufflés and rustic pizza dishes that have earned her a place in a long line of good cooks.
“The Skinner side of the family are the cooks,” said the 25-year-old. “We love to eat so we learn to cook. It’s all about food. We’re very competitive when it comes to cooking. We’re always trying to outdo one another at family gatherings, you know, see whose food gets eaten and whose doesn’t.”
Although Hardin spent time in the kitchen growing up, she didn’t really start cooking until after she and Sam, an environmental engineer, wed three years ago.
“I used that five-ingredient cookbook for the first few months until I felt more comfortable trying more complicated things,” she said. “I was just so scared of having to feed this man every day. I used to think it was such a science, that if a recipe called for one-and-a-half teaspoons of something and I just used one teaspoon that I had ruined the dish. Now, I’ve learned it’s not that hard and you can kind of do what you want.”

An artist is born
She’s also learned to cook in quantity so instead of spending all her time in the kitchen at her home in Starkville, she can devote long hours to her 8-month-old daughter, Nita.
“I love wintertime, with one-bowl things like soups, chili and red beans and rice,” said Hardin, a homemaker who works part time out of her home as a consultant. “I always make more than we need. We freeze some and we give some away. We have friends who are having babies and they can use the cooking help. Simplicity at this stage in our lives is nice.”
As her repertoire has expanded, so have her eating habits. She used to be a picky eater and would hardly touch fruit.
“Now, I eat a lot of fruit,” she said. “I spent a summer in Costa Rica and that’s all we had to eat. I don’t like the texture of apples or bananas, but I do like their flavors. And I eat grapes and all types of citrus.
“I also love vegetables – everything but onions. My rule of thumb when I get a recipe is to halve the amount of onions called for and double the garlic. That’s more the way I like it. I love for people to tell me how great something is that I’ve made. I’m not real creative like an artist, but cooking is one way I can be creative without having to paint or draw.”

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