By Ginna Parsons
PLANTERSVILLE – Glenda Christian’s husband’s job has taken the family all over the place – West Africa, West Virginia, Little Rock and Conway, Ark., Colorado, Memphis, Vicksburg, Miami and Alaska – not necessarily in that order.
But it was the two stints in Alaska – first Anchorage, then Kodiak some years later – that won the hearts of Christian and her husband, Sam.
So in 2007, after Sam had retired from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Christian from years of teaching, the couple bought a home in a remote part of Alaska called Spruce Island, and they live there for four months every summer.
“We have no electricity,” said Christian, 70. “We cook with propane and we have generators for the washer and dryer, vacuum cleaner, refrigerator, coffee pot and power tools. There’s only four to five hours of darkness each night, so lights aren’t a problem.”
The only way to get to Spruce Island, which is near Kodiak Island, is by boat or by plane.
“Part of the challenge of living there is planning, making sure you have enough food and fuel,” she said. “Getting to the island is difficult – sometimes you can’t get into town because the water is too rough. In those cases, you just have to make do.”
Christian said the first time she made a real connection between food and culture was when she moved to Alaska.
“I was introduced to food and culture and customs I’d never seen before, coming from the South,” said Christian, who was raised in Mooreville and now lives in Plantersville. “We have no television, but good neighbors, so we have a lot of socials. Kodiak is a huge fishing port so we smoke and can our own salmon. It’s too expensive to ship home, but sometimes we bring it home if we fly.”
Christian, whose first degree was in home economics, learned about cooking when she was a small girl in Mooreville.
“The Bookmobile would come by and I remember getting a small Betty Crocker cookbook,” she said. “I found a recipe for peanut butter cookies and I made that recipe over and over and over. I wrote it down because I had to return the book. My mother didn’t have any measuring spoons or cups, so it was kind of hit or miss, but they were quite good.”
Christian, a mother of three and grandmother of three, still enjoys cookbooks today.
“I read them like novels,” she said, “but I like cookbooks that tell the history of a food. I like complex recipes in terms of layers of flavor. Some dishes that look very simple actually take me a long time to prepare.”
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.