COOK OF THE WEEK: Dessert takes top billing at this grandmother's house

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

MANTACHIE – Katherine Nichols has learned how to prepare healthful meals, but not for the reasons one might think.
“If I eat healthy, I can have more dessert,” said Nichols, 62. “In fact, a meal could just be dessert for me. I’d never even have to touch a bite of real food.”
The mother of two and grandmother of six is only half teasing.
“I love chocolate, coconut and nuts,” she said. “I love coconut so well and nobody in my family likes it. I keep a bag in the freezer and when I want something sweet, I get me a pinch of coconut.”
But she is totally serious about a healthful lifestyle.
She uses only olive oil, she’s learned to salt food at the stove instead of at the table and she tries to exercise daily. She drizzles dressing on salads instead of glopping it on.
“I eat oatmeal at breakfast that’s loaded with nuts, cherries and applesauce,” she said. “Then I probably don’t eat 10 bites during the day. I may have a cup of coffee and a small snack late in the afternoon.”
When Nichols’ daughters were growing up, she prepared three meals a day for them.
“Then they started having activities and it was more important to be with them than to get that meal on the table,” she said.
Now that it’s just Nichols and her husband of almost 45 years, Tim, she might only prepare supper a couple of times a week. But every Thursday, the two of them go out for a date night.
“You just really need that time together,” she said. “You can’t let work and friends tear you apart.”
But if her grandchildren are visiting, she’s likely to do some old-fashioned cooking.
“With my grandchildren, I want them to know the kind of foods I grew up with,” she said. “I come from a long line of good cooks. I feel like I’m cheating the grandchildren when I don’t cook from scratch, because that’s the way I was taught.
“My Grandmother Stanley is the one I got my very good basics from – corn in an old black skillet, country fried steak. You just don’t forget those kinds of things. Everything was swimming in grease, but they lived to be in their 80s, so it didn’t hurt them, I don’t guess.”
Personal assistant
One reason Nichols might not have much time for cooking is because she works as a personal assistant to five older ladies.
“I clean their houses, grocery shop, organize their homes, take them to doctor visits, cut their hair or go with them out to lunch,” she said. “They don’t like to bother their families with some of these things, so I do it for them.”
But she still finds the time to clean her own home in the Centerville community outside Mantachie.
“Clean, clean – I’m funny about that,” she said. “I could stay in a hotel room and clean it before I leave. But I don’t clean like I used to at home. I used to clean the kitchen grout with a Q-Tip.”
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.