Harden House director enjoys cooking for residents

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com  Alex Watson likes to make big pots of New Orleans specialties, like this Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo, and share them with the girls at Harden House in Fulton.

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Alex Watson likes to make big pots of New Orleans specialties, like this Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo, and share them with the girls at Harden House in Fulton.

By Ginna Parsons

Daily Journal

FULTON – Alex Watson can just about document her life by the photographs of food taken along the way.

“People laugh at me because I’m always taking pictures of food, but it’s a family thing,” said Watson, 39. “Go through our old family photos and there are tons of pictures of food – gingerbread houses, bread, birthday cakes, big slabs of beef. It was part of the social network of who we were.”

Watson, director of residential care for Harden House, a therapeutic group home for girls in Fulton, grew up in Pascagoula. She was the youngest of five children and her father died of cancer when she was 11. Consequently, she spent a lot of time in the kitchen with her mother.

“Mother is a phenomenal cook,” she said. “I will never be as good a cook as her. She can go in anybody’s refrigerator and make a wonderful meal. Me, I have to follow recipes. But my cooking has gotten better as I’ve gotten older because I do it more.”

Sunday is Watson’s day to cook at Harden House for the girls who live there.

“All the girls are assigned a chore and one of them is assigned to the kitchen,” Watson said. “On Sundays, we might fix baked ham with mashed potatoes, green beans and crescent rolls or Jambalaya with French bread and salad. We like food around here. Cooking for the girls is always a good test of a new recipe. I mean, you can’t please everybody, but if I can please the majority, it’s usually worth keeping that recipe.”

A few years ago, Watson and her husband, Richie, gave up red meat as part of a diet they were on and they never went back to it.

But other than red meat, she will eat just about anything, and often has help in the kitchen preparing it from her 3-year-old daughter, Mallory.

“I cooked a duck at Christmas and I like to prepare seafood,” she said. “I don’t know how to cook greens, but I’m not opposed to somebody teaching me. I do wish somebody would show me how to carve a turkey, though, because I keep butchering them.”

She likes to get recipes from Bon Appetit magazine, Pinterest and Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” cookbook.

“I don’t spend a whole lot of time watching cooking shows,” she said. “But I love Emeril. Anyone with ties to New Orleans you gotta love. I got married in New Orleans. I was 23 before I ever missed a Mardi Gras and I cried like a baby.”

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 email them to ginna.parsons@journalinc.com.