Evergreen man follows in late wife’s footsteps with Sunday dinner

EVERGREEN – J.T. Russell and his bride, Audrey Faye, were just kids when they married. He was 19 and she was just 14 and knew little to nothing about cooking.
But he did.
“My mother taught me a lot,” said Russell, 76. “Scrambled eggs for breakfast and chicken and dumplings. She taught me how to do laundry. There was six of us kids and she taught every one of us.”
Under the direction of Russell and his mother, Audrey Faye became quite the accomplished cook and entertained family every Sunday in their home in the Evergreen community in Itawamba County.
And then she got sick.
So Russell took over in the kitchen, this time under her direction.
“When she got disabled, she showed me how to do a lot of different things her way,” he said. “After she passed away, I just kept on cooking.”
Audrey Faye Russell died Jan. 6, 2008, after a battle with lung cancer. The couple had been married 55 years.
“I miss her as much today as I did the day she died,” Russell said. “It still hurts real bad.”
To honor her memory – and to please his two children, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren – Russell now makes the Sunday lunch. He usually makes the dessert on Saturday and then gets up early Sunday to start the meat and vegetables.
“They like all kinds of vegetables,” he said. “Peas, butter beans, fried okra, fried green tomatoes. And I’ll make pork chops or a roast or fried chicken.”

Dessert man
Russell gets a lot of his recipes from his son, who is a cook on a riverboat.
“My son’s always calling me and giving me recipes,” said Russell, who is retired from Tennessee Valley Housing. “And I get a lot of them out of the Journal. I like Paula Deen (on the Food Network). I’m bad to watch her. She uses a lot of butter and I do, too. One recipe she had on there one time was for mashed potatoes. I use that recipe every Sunday because my bunch loves mashed potatoes.”
His family’s favorites, though, are his desserts. They like his carrot cake, pecan pie, chess pie, coconut cake and his sweet potato cobbler.
“I don’t eat as many sweets as I used to since I’m a diabetic,” he said. “I just cook sweets on Sunday and what’s left, I let them carry with them. I enjoy fixing for my children.”

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

Click video to hear audio