By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
On Sunday, my husband, Charlie, and our soon-to-be 16-year-old son, Patrick, drove over to Oxford for sorority bid day. I did not do the Greek thing when I was a student at Ole Miss in the early 1980s, so the festivities were totally foreign to me.
But it was important to our freshman daughter, Mary, for us to be there and so we arrived with bells on. While we were standing on Sorority Row, waiting for Mary to run down the hill and to her future “house,” I was reminded of two past Cooks of the Week I had the pleasure of writing about: Cynthia Caldwell and Jean Strange.
Jean Strange was the house mother for Delta Gamma for six years. In an interview with Jean in 2006, she said, “My job was to plan menus, supervise the staff and try to make everybody happy.”
She said she regularly polled the girls to find out what they liked best.
“I would send a survey to their chapter meeting and ask them for their favorite menus or their favorite foods,” she said. “Then I’d try to please the majority. That’s when I really started cooking.”
Cynthia served as the Chi Omega house mother for seven years. In an interview in 2005, she said she learned to cook in large quantities at the Chi O house.
“If I have a special ability, it’s to look at a recipe and know whether it’s something I’m going to like – something that will be good,” she said. “That really helped me when I was at Ole Miss, when you have to take a recipe and ten-times it.”
I don’t know who the house mother is at the Tri Delt house, where Mary is a new pledge, but I’m sure she is equally organized, talented and patient. I look forward to Mary calling or texting me and telling me about the sumptuous meals she has enjoyed with her new family.
Here’s a delicious recipe Cynthia shared with me back in 2005. No wonder the Greek system is so popular at Ole Miss.
Pecan Chicken Casserole
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup finely shredded Cheddar cheese
3⁄4 cup finely chopped pecans
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon paprika
1⁄3 cup vegetable oil
8 ounces sour cream
1 cup chicken broth
4 cups cooked, diced chicken
1⁄2 cup finely shredded Cheddar cheese
1⁄4 cup finely chopped onion
1⁄4 cup mayonnaise
1⁄4 teaspoon dill seed
1⁄8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
In a bowl, combine the first six ingredients. Set aside 1⁄2 cup of crumb mixture for topping. Press remaining crumb mixture onto the bottom of a greased 9×13-inch baking dish (crust will be crumbly). Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
In a bowl, beat eggs. Add the remaining filling ingredients. Pour over baked crust. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.
Makes 12 servings.
Ginna Parsons is the Daily Journal’s food/home/garden editor.