By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Pyar Brazile is a self-proclaimed recipe-aholic.
“I can’t help myself,” said Brazile, 39. “I’m obsessed with food. If I go to a restaurant and like what I’m eating, I ask the chef for the recipe because I just have to make that dish at home. And I have two big photo albums that I keep recipes in that I cut out. Plus I have another drawer full. They’re stuffed everywhere.”
Brazile, who grew up in Chicago, calls herself “a half-Mexican, half-Southern Yankee with Jewish in-laws and a Catholic sister-in-law.”
“So I cook all kinds of food,” she said, laughing. “I can remember my grandmother and my mother in the kitchen making tamales. My grandmother died when I was 5. I wish she had lived long enough for me to learn some of those traditional things.”
Brazile did manage to learn some things about Mexican cooking as well as Southern cooking from her mother. Her mother-in-law has taught her how to make matzo ball soup, chicken noodle soup and mendel bread, a Jewish version of biscotti.
“I really like stuff that tastes good, but I can’t always make it pretty,” said Brazile, who works at Renasant Insurance. “But I do grow fresh herbs to use in my dishes, like sage, basil – lots of basil – parsley, mint, cilantro oregano and chives. It makes such a difference when you put fresh herbs in food.”
Brazile, who lives in Tupelo with her husband, Scott, and two teenage son, Brandon and Tyler, said she cooks the evening meal every day as well as breakfast on the weekends.
“We are trying to eat out only once every couple of weeks,” she said. “That just saves so much money.”
Dinner usually starts with something from the grill, like chicken breasts paired with steamed green beans and brown rice, or salmon served with a lemon and dill sauce, rice pilaf and a green salad.
“I try to cook healthfully as much as I can,” she said. “If a recipe calls for sour cream, I use light. If it says corn tortillas, I use whole wheat. I use reduced-fat cream cheese unless I’m making a cheesecake. I cut where I can when I can.”
Brazile has a long list of cookbooks and cooking magazines that she reads religiously, but her favorite right now is Saveur.
“I look at pictures in that magazine like a man would look at the pictures in Sports Illustrated,” she said.
And often as she can, Brazile and her best “foodie” friend attend cooking shows, featuring stars like Paula Dean, Tyler Florence and Guy Fieri, to get hands-on experience and learn techniques. But her secret desire is yet to be realized.
“My dream is to go to Italy and have some little old fat lady teach me how to cook,” she said. “That’s what I’m waiting for.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.