By Ginna Parsons
NETTLETON – Pat Hamilton was born and raised in Michigan and then lived in Wisconsin for another 23 years before finally making her way to the South in the late 1980s.
“I had to learn all the Southern dishes when I moved down here,” said Hamilton, 67. “I had to learn to make Southern-style potato salad and cornbread. When I worked at the Shell station, a little old Southern lady taught me how to make biscuits.”
With vegetables comes a similar story.
“I had to learn to make Southern vegetables – you know, you cook them to death and add fat to them,” she said. “We don’t do that up North.”
Hamilton, a retired Head Start bus driver, lives in the New Chapel community in Itawamba County with her husband, Nolan. They have a Nettleton address, but get their electricity from Tupelo and their water from Monroe County.
“It’s kind of confusing,” she said, laughing.
Hamilton said she learned to cook as a child out of necessity: Her mother worked outside the home.
“I wasn’t very good at it,” she said. “I got more serious about it when I married and had children. I had to feed the kids.”
Today, Hamilton likes to cook for people who are sick, friends at church and for fundraisers and bake sales. She also does volunteer work at the Faith Food Pantry in Nettleton and is a member of the Nettleton Ladies Civitans and the Dixie Red Hats of Itawamba County.
She and Nolan also participate in a monthly dinner club with three other couples.
“After the tornado in Smithville, we put together a cookbook as a fundraiser for tornado victims – families – we adopted,” she said. “We were supposed to cook out of that for our dinner club, but that only lasted about four months and now we cook whatever we want to.”
In the past, Hamilton has done barbecue ribs, hamburgers and hotdogs, kielbasa with sauerkraut and chicken spaghetti for the group.
“Plus, I used to cook a big meal for my family once or twice a month, but I can’t do that anymore since my knees got bad,” she said. “I used to really enjoy cooking, but now I do it because I have to. It just hurts to stand up for too long.”
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.