Saltillo man takes up cooking where his mother left off

SALTILLO – For more than a half century, Earline Smith was the chief cook and bottle washer for her family. When she died in November, the mantle was passed on to her only child.
“My mother would make three meals a day, so I’ve kind of inherited three meals a day,” said Jim Smith, 60. “Let’s see, there are 365 days in a year and she’s been gone about half a year. That’s 180 days, times three meals a day. That’s how much I cook.”
Smith prepares the meals for himself and his father, Larry. They both have homes at the Saltillo Fishing Club.
“My parents were one of the first families to live here as a permanent residence and not a vacation home,” said Smith. “They had one of the first post office boxes here.”
Smith said his mom was a wonderful cook who used the 1947 edition of Better Homes amp& Gardens Cookbook for years.
“Mom was a good cook, but if you’d asked her, she would say she couldn’t hold a candle to her mother,” said Smith, who recalled Sunday dinners every week at his grandmother’s home in Dorsey. Typically, the table was spread with six meats, four to six vegetables, three to four desserts plus breads.
The meals Smith prepares are certainly not that elaborate. Breakfast might be cereal, or oatmeal and bananas, or bacon and eggs.
“Bacon and eggs – I call that the Big Breakfast,” he said laughing. “McDonald’s does, too.”
If the two men have the Big Breakfast, they usually eat lighter during the day, dining on sandwiches or leftovers – bachelor food, as Smith calls it.
Original recipes work
One Sunday when Smith was getting ready for church, he decided to get dinner started before he left. He went through the refrigerator and the pantry and came up with ingredients for his Squash and Chicken Combo.
“I threw the ingredients together and put them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 to 40 minutes while I was getting dressed,” he said. “When I got ready to leave, I covered it and turned the oven down to 175 while I was gone an hour and a half. When I got home, it was ready. All the moisture from the squash, onions and mushrooms was all over the chicken and it was so tender.”
Smith, who worked for Cingular Wireless but left his job when both his parents became ill, came up with another recipe that was a winner.
“I took this guacamole dip I make to a game at Ole Miss,” said Smith, a University of Mississippi alum. “We were tailgating and I’d given my game ticket to somebody, so there weren’t but just a few of us sitting at the tent. This UM professor and his girlfriend came up and I offered him some of my dip and he ate the whole bowl.”
Smith, who enjoys watching sports car racing, isn’t much on desserts, but he has managed to master a good bread pudding.
“I got the idea from this friend from New Orleans who said every self-respecting restaurant in New Orleans has its own version of bread pudding,” he said. “I think getting the combination right on the sugar and cinnamon is what makes it taste so good.”
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/NEMS Daily Journal

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