Nettleton woman: You’re never too old to learn new cooking techniques

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

Catherine Whitlock has learned a thing or two about cooking in her 85 years. And she’s still willing to learn even more.
“I take advice from anybody,” said Whitlock of Nettleton. “A lot of cooks don’t want to hear improvements, but I’m open for suggestions. I don’t make anything that can’t be improved on.”
Whitlock, a native of the Union community in Lee County, worked at the Bank of Nettleton, now BancorpSouth, for 44 years. One of her fondest memories of her time there involves a coconut cake.
“There was a lady in the county who used to make a coconut cake for the bank president every year and we all got to look at it,” she said. “It was the prettiest thing. After the lady died and before her daughter died, we got the recipe and that’s the one I still make today. And that was at least 30 years ago.”
In fact, Whitlock is known in her community for her four-layer coconut cakes.
“I start making them at Thanksgiving and I make them until Christmas,” she said. ‘I couldn’t begin to count how many I make. I hardly ever make them to sell to people. I like to make them to give to my friends.”
Whitlock and her husband, John Travis, were married for 62 years before he died in 2010. They have two children, five grandchildren, 10 great-grands and one great-great-grandchild.
“When I first married, I didn’t cook,” she said. “I never cooked at home because Mother did it all. My husband and I lived on sandwiches for about the first two years we were married. Then I started reading cookbooks and learning.”
Two things Whitlock has learned along the way she likes to share with others who enjoy cooking. She believes they are improvements over the way she did things when she first started out.
“One is I never make a cake from a cake mix without separating the eggs and beating the egg whites and folding them back into the batter at the last minute,” she said.
“The second thing is when I make a pie, I take the egg shells and turn them upside down on my pie crust. There will still be a little sticky in the egg shell and it will drip onto the dough. I take the shells off and spread that sticky over the bottom and up the sides of the dough. Then I pre-bake the crusts and when the wet look is gone, I know the crust is ready to take out and put the filling in it.”
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

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