By Ginna Parsons
THAXTON – Jeannie Butts has had to reinvent herself in the kitchen three times now.
She was born and raised in Nebraska, where every meal consisted of potatoes and gravy and meat.
“That’s all we ate,” she said. “Maybe there was a small taste of a vegetable or a salad, but for the most part is was potatoes and gravy and meat. And we ate dinner at lunchtime.”
In 1990, her husband, Ray, retired and they decided to move to Arizona.
“I cooked more Mexican foods in Arizona,” said Butts, 75. “That was something I had to learn. We ate a lot of good food in Arizona. We were busy all the time. We were going to people’s homes or having people over every night. It was much more social there than it is here.”
In 2007, the Buttses moved to Thaxton, where her daughter and son-in-law lived at the time.
“I had to learn to cook differently in Mississippi,” she said. “My grandson said he wasn’t going to eat anything I made unless it was Southern.”
So Butts learned to cook field peas, greens and cornbread dressing instead of stuffing.
“Everything is fried here,” she said. “In Arizona, I tried to cook healthy. We used canola oil. Here, I had to go back to butter.”
Butter happens to be one of the key ingredients Butts’ Danish grandmother told her made food taste good.
“She said you can’t go wrong with cream and butter and eggs,” she said.
Butts, the mother of three, grandmother of seven and great-grandmother of eight, grew up in a Danish community in Nebraska where food was omnipresent.
“When I was a child you never went anywhere without eating,” she said. “Once we went to someone’s home and they weren’t Danish and I remember saying, ‘When are we going to eat?’ I’m ashamed of myself now when people come to my house and I don’t offer them something to eat. I guess I’m getting away from my roots.”
Butts learned a lot about cooking, especially Danish cooking, from her grandmother.
“She never used a recipe,” Butts said. “To get one of her recipes, I put each ingredient into a measuring cup. She’d use whatever she wanted and then I’d measure what was left and subtract it from the original amount and that’s how I got her recipe.”
Butts grew up Lutheran, but now she and Ray worship at Thaxton Baptist Church.
“We love it,” she said. “The people are so loving and kind.”
When Butts isn’t cooking, she might be knitting or quilting or painting or tatting.
“I learned to tat when I was 65,” she said, “because I didn’t want it to be a lost art.”
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.