COOK OF THE WEEK: Busy doesn't begin to describe Monroe County woman

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

ABERDEEN – On any given day, you might find Jo Ann Plunkett doing a number of things, but sitting still isn’t one of them.
The 55-year-old mother of two and grandmother of four is always busy, whether helping friends with computer problems, designing wedding invitations, making tooth fairy pillows or tending her vegetable gardens.
And until this past January, she was the office manager and a floral designer at Aberdeen Floral, where she worked for 14 years.
Now that she has more free time on her hands, she’s able to spend more time in her kitchen doing what she loves most: cooking for others.
“I probably cook four times a week for the two of us,” she said, noting that her husband, David, is a meat-and-potatoes man. “A lot of times, I’ll cook and take to people just because I like to share. A lot of times, it’s because its hard to cook for just two people.”
A weeknight meal at her home in the Athens community between Amory and Aberdeen might be meatloaf, creamed potatoes, peas and Mexican cornbread; or steak and gravy over rice with green beans.
But if Plunkett’s family is coming to visit, there’s only one menu option: Spicy Shrimp Fettuccine.
“That’s the one my daughter and her husband, and my son and his wife all like me to make,” she said. “If they’re coming home, that’s what I have to fix. If I were to ask them all four independently what they wanted, they all four would say Spicy Shrimp Fettuccine.”
But if she’s making a dish to take to a potluck dinner, it’s got to be her Mexican Cornbread.
“When I take that places, it’s always gone in a hurry,” she said.
Lifetime of cooking
Plunkett learned how to cook from her mother, Maudie Pearson, who lives in Columbus.
“I’ve cooked my whole life,” Plunkett said. “A a young teenager, I would do complete meals. I would cook all day long, especially if I had someone washing my dishes up. When I was 12 years old, I made cakes and sold them to people in the community. German chocolate was the one most requested at that time.”
Plunkett said she likes to try new recipes, which she finds in magazines, newspapers, online and in cookbooks, at least two to three times a month.
“I’ll see one and say, ‘I think I’ll try this new recipe,’ and David will say, ‘Oh, no,'” she said laughing. “Some are not his favorites, but he is my guinea pig. My daughter-in-law says she lets me try the new recipes and then she just gets the good ones from me.”
One of Plunkett’s most requested recipes is the one for her mother’s chicken soup. But she doesn’t give that recipe out – because she can’t.
“I can tell people what’s in it, but I can’t tell them quantities,” she said. “It has boiled chicken and broth, spaghetti, corn, potatoes, Ro-tel tomatoes and rice. It’s definitely not for you if you’re on a low-carb diet.”
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 e-mail them to ginna.parsons@djournal.com.