By Ginna Parsons
TUPELO – In the summer of 2011, Paula McTune Jones took home the top honor in Mississippi Magazine’s annual recipe contest. After that, her phone wouldn’t stop ringing.
“People would call and ask for my recipes and cooking advice,” Jones said. “I was between part-time jobs at the time, so I thought I’d start a blog to help answer questions. All I knew was how to cook and how to write. I didn’t know anything about photography or computer programs or marketing.”
Jones started the food blog callmepmc.com in March 2012 with nothing more than her recipes, her creativity and a point-and-shoot camera to entertain a couple of hundred followers.
That summer, she began reading up on blogs and reading others’ blogs and she found she needed to up her social media game.
“I started a Facebook page that July and then I got on Twitter and Pinterest and I went from 200 to 300 followers to 150,000 in all my social media,” said Jones, the mother of two.
Next, she got hooked up with a couple of agencies that manage sponsored blog posts – where Jones prepares and blogs about a dish using a specific sponsor’s product – and one of those happened to be the company that owns Sister Schubert’s rolls.
“They were looking for Southern girls to go and cook with Sister and they chose five of us,” she said. “We kind of had to sell ourselves to get picked.”
The other four were Christy Jordan of Huntsville, Alabama (southernplate.com), and Sommer Collier (aspicyperspective.com), Chris Nease (celebrationsathomeblog.com) and Tracey Harrelson (thekitchenismyplayground.com), all from the Carolinas.
And for two days in November, they dined and cooked with Patricia “Sister” Schubert Barnes at her home in Andalusia, Alabama.
The five bloggers all arrived at the Hickory Ridge Lodge about the same time on Nov. 19 and then they headed to Sister’s home to eat.
“She prepared dinner for us that night,” Jones said. “We had Chicken Divan Crepes and Avocado and Grapefruit Salad with Poppyseed Dressing and she had made a dessert from each of our blogs. That was a surprise to us.”
Jones said Sister lives in an old home that’s been in her husband’s family for years that they’ve updated and remodeled.
“It has those huge columns out front and it’s just beautiful,” Jones said. “She is all about putting out the best for anybody anytime.”
The next morning, the bloggers were picked up and delivered to the home again about 10 a.m.
“She had everything prepped and measured out,” Jones said. “First, we all made her rolls with her, so that was fun. Then each of us made a dish with her. Mine was bread pudding for our dessert, using her cinnamon rolls. We cooked all day and ate about five o’clock.”
The meal consisted of turkey, dressing, butternut squash and pesto casserole, a sweet potato crunch, a congealed cranberry salad and bread pudding.
“Then we went back to the lodge because we all had requirements to send out social media stuff from the day, so we did that until we went to bed that night.”
Jones said it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like that,” she said. “Everything in the past has strictly been for the blog or social media. But I’d do it every week if I got asked.”