By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
One day in February, Paula Jones was playing around on Facebook when she saw a post that said that the deadline to enter Mississippi Magazine’s annual recipe contest was a day away.
“And I thought, ‘Oh, I have a good recipe for that,’ and I went click, click, click and sent it and, literally, forgot about it,” said Jones, who lives in Tupelo with her husband, Wesley, and two young children, Lincoln and Ryder.
In March, Jones got an email from the magazine saying she was a finalist for the recipe she submitted for Jalapeño-Basil Pork Chops. They asked for a clarification on an ingredient and requested she send them a short bio and a head shot.
“Then two weeks later, they emailed back and had a few more questions,” said Jones, who works part time for Celebrity Coaches. “At that point I thought they must be serious if they were asking that many questions. They said they’d call the first week in May if I had won.”
The first week of May came and went.
“I sat by that phone waiting for it to ring like I was waiting for a date to call,” Jones said, laughing.
The call never came.
A few days later, Jones was in the carpool line at school and she called up the magazine’s Facebook page and it said the recipe contest winners had been announced. From there, she went to the magazine’s website and saw two words – pork chops.
“And I realized it was mine,” she said. “When the kids got in the car, I was like screaming, ‘I won! I won!’ It took me two hours to get Wesley on the phone because he was in a meeting. By the time I got him, I was so excited he couldn’t even understand what I was saying.”
‘Lowly pork chops’
The next day, Jones received a package from Everyday Gourmet in Jackson that contained five cookbooks plus an assortment of jellies, syrups and bread mixes. But the big prize, which she has a year to use, is a five-night stay at a bed and breakfast in Destin, Fla.
“I’ve never won anything before, ever, so to win a cooking contest is the best,” she said.
The Joneses came up with the winning recipe in the summer of 2008 when they participated in a friendly Iron Chef grilling competition with a group of Tupelo friends.
“I told Wesley that everybody was going to do ribs or tenderloin but nobody was going to do lowly pork chops, so that’s what we cooked,” she said.
The couple took home the top honor: a big trophy with a jackass on it.
“We still have that trophy around here somewhere,” Jones said. “It’s probably covered in dust by now.”
Jones said she’s eager to enter another contest soon.
“I’m like obsessed now,” she said. “Everywhere I go, every show I watch, I’m thinking, ‘What can I enter next year?’ I haven’t had time to enter another one, but I think I will.”
Jones said a few people have recognized her from her picture in the May-June issue of Mississippi Magazine, which is still on the stands, and the attention has been surprising.
“But people are most surprised that I won for ‘real food,’ she said. “They’re so used to me making desserts. That’s what I love to make.”