By Ginna Parsons
BOONEVILLE – Evelyn Davis did things right.
She went to work for Mississippi Department of Transportation right out of high school. In 2008, at age 53, she was able to retire after working there for 35 years.
And now, she’s living her dream life, taking vacations with family, keeping grandchildren during the week and spending summers in the kitchen, canning and freezing vegetables from gardens she and her husband, Bud, tend.
The youngest of 12 children born to Clement and Cora Bullard, Davis learned to cook and preserve food from her mother.
“I was in the kitchen with her all my life,” said Davis, 59, who lives in the Blackland community outside Booneville. “I watched her can, helped her in the garden. When I worked, I did my canning in the evenings. Now, I spend all my time in the summers in the garden. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t do it because it’s a lot of work.”
Davis can’t begin to imagine how many hundreds of jars of canned goods and packs of frozen vegetables she puts up every summer. She cans green beans, new potatoes, pickles, relishes, vegetable soup, peas, tomatoes, jellies, jams and relishes, and she freezes corn, peas, okra, squash and butterbeans, and apples and peaches for pies.
“I guess I do it because my mother did it,” she said. “Growing up, we never had spaghetti or casseroles of any kind. Daddy didn’t like them. We had vegetables from the garden and meat.”
Today, Davis cooks the same types of foods her mother did. She might have baked chicken, butterbeans, corn and potatoes one night, and pork chops, peas, okra and slaw another.
“I cook at least four times a week and if I cook at lunch, we eat light at supper,” she said. “What I do now is try to cook more healthy. I watch the sodium in pre-packaged mixes and use low-sodium soups and light cream cheese and sour cream.”
Davis’ favorite foods are anything Mexican, especially Mexican cornbread, and vegetables and chicken. She doesn’t care for cilantro, sushi or mushrooms.
She tries new recipes at least twice a month and gets them most often from Paula Deen, Rachael Ray, Better Homes & Gardens, Country Woman and Southern Living magazines.
“I enjoy cooking for my kids and for my family and making a dessert or casserole for a shut-in or people who are sick,” she said, “when I can find the time.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.