By Ginna Parsons
One look inside Janet Sample Bland’s refrigerator in Pontotoc says a lot about the way she cooks: almond milk, homemade preserves, organic eggs and yogurt, fresh spinach, lettuce, celery, red cabbage, limes and a variety of good cheeses.
“We don’t eat a lot of processed foods or desserts and we try to eat seasonally,” said Bland, who lives in the Longview community outside Pontotoc with her second husband, Gordon. “I’m not paying $4 a pound for asparagus from Peru.”
The Blands eat chicken from Zion Farms, catfish if it’s raised in America, very little beef – “there’s something about those big, brown eyes” – and they don’t fry anything.
She makes her own breakfast sausage by grinding lean pork loin and seasoning it with sage and other spices.
“One thing we try to avoid is animal fat,” Bland said. “We do eat animals, but we use only lean meat.”
Bland, who teaches intellectually gifted students at D.T. Cox Elementary in Pontotoc, was born in Ohio and grew up in St. Louis. Teaching is actually her second career.
“My degree was in merchandising and fashion promotion, but in my early adult life it was wanderlust that kept me moving,” she said. She took her two sons on extended camping trips in the summer to such places as to Acadia, Assateague Island and Utah.
In between, she worked at various banks and she sold commercial real estate. She was a stay-at-home mom for 10 years, until her first husband passed away. That’s when she needed insurance and found herself at D.T. Cox.
“How wonderful it is to work in a positive educational environment,” Bland said of the school where’s she’s been for 18 years.
Almost every day when she gets home from work, she goes straight in the kitchen to prepare the evening meal. She and Gordon might have pasta with red sauce and a salad, or tortillas stuffed with leftovers or grilled salmon, millet and fresh asparagus – if it’s in season.
“My mother was a wonderful cook, but I don’t remember helping her much, although I did watch her cook,” Bland said. “She was a great conversationalist and dinner was very important to her. We had a lot of conversations and deep discussions. I learned a lot sitting around that table.”
Come Thanksgiving, Bland will celebrate with her family around her own dining table. She’ll serve a roasted turkey from Zion Farms, two different dressings, warm green bean salad, baked sweet potatoes, roasted stuffed onions, homemade cranberry sauce, a relish/olive tray and sweet potato and pecan pies for dessert.
“Thanksgiving is absolutely 100 percent my favorite holiday,” she said. “I’ll put that turkey on at 6 o’clock in the morning and then play all day in the kitchen.”
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.