COOK OF THE WEEK:Educator discovers love of cooking after retirement

OKOLONA – Susan Tackett said when her longtime friends find out she’s being featured as a Cook of the Week, they are going to laugh their heads off.
“It will be hilarious to them,” said Tackett, 60. “They know I really just ‘learned’ to cook about 15 years ago. Before that, it was cornbread and peas and maybe a roast or pork chops thrown in occasionally. I never could fry chicken like my friend Brenda and she would laugh at me about it. I either cooked it too fast or too slow.”
The reason Tackett didn’t do much cooking in her earlier days was because she was like a lot of young mothers who worked – pooped out.
“At the end of the day, I was tired and cooking was not a priority,” she said. “Now that I’m retired from teaching at Itawamba Community College, I have much more time and energy to cook.”
Plus, it’s not like Tackett spent hours in the kitchen cooking when she was growing up.
“When I was about 10 years old, I went in the kitchen where my mother and grandmother were cooking, as they did every day,” she said. “I told them I wanted to learn how to cook. They looked at me and said, ‘Go read a book. This kitchen isn’t big enough for all of us.’ That was that. I loved to read and I never worried about it again.”
Sharing recipes fun
Even though Tackett doesn’t cook every day, she still prepares meals at least three times a week in the two-story cabin she and her husband, Jimmy, built a few years ago on the Okolona Country Club’s golf course. Sometimes it’s just the two of them at the table, and sometimes they enjoy meals with their sons and grandchildren.
“We like to have people over,” she said. “That’s when we do most of our cooking. This is an ideal place to entertain, with the porches all around the house. We like to have fish frys – bream and crappie, slaw, french fries, fried corn on the cob, hushpuppies.”
Tackett recalled a less than stellar hushpuppy-cooking experience that occurred six or seven years ago. It was her granddaughter’s birthday party and they decided to have a cookout.
“I used fish fry mix to make the hushpuppies and it has no leavening in it,” she said, clearly embarrassed at the memory. “They were as flat as flitters. They tasted good but they were ugly as everything.”
But Tackett has persevered as the years have passed. She reads cookbooks like they were novels and collects recipes from magazines, newspapers, friends and family. When she attends a potluck event or a party, she’s always eager to try new recipes.
“Every time there is a special event, I try to take something different that no one has ever tried before,” said Tackett, an active Master Gardener. “When I take something to an event with people I don’t know well, I’ll take copies of the recipe. Invariably, several will ask and I will be able to give it to them. It’s fun to share good things.”
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/Daily Journal