COOK OF THE WEEK: Octogenarian sticks with recipes tried and true rather than new

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

PONTOTOC – Lexie Warren spent all last week preparing food to share at a revival at her church in the Troy community, which is halfway between Pontotoc and Okolona.
On Sunday, she cooked three bags of peas, stewed potatoes with butter, peach cobbler and cornbread. On Tuesday, she fixed potato salad, pimiento cheese and a Pineapple Cake.
But the 83-year-old hasn’t always been a good cook.
“I was 17 when I married and I couldn’t cook too well,” she said. “My mother didn’t want us in the kitchen. She didn’t want us bothering her. So I just more or less learned myself.”
Warren taught herself to cook meats, vegetables, breads and desserts so she could keep her husband, Rufus, and daughter, Patricia, happy at the dinner table.
Warren and her husband were married more than 50 years before his death in May 1989.
“I still cook like I’ve always cooked, just not as much,” said Warren, who has two grandchildren and four great-granddaughters. “A lot of women, after they lose their husbands, say, ‘I’m not going to cook just for me. I’ll eat peanut butter crackers.’ And I say, ‘Not me.’ I cook what I want to eat.”
She’s partial to vegetables, Irish potatoes – especially french fries – and ham.
“I love fried ham and biscuit for breakfast,” she said. “I take a little coffee and put it in the ham grease and make a brown gravy. I like pork, but other than that I’m not a big, big, big meat eater.”
And the one thing she will not eat?
“Fish. I have never tasted of a fish,” Warren confessed. “People’s tried to hold me down and get me to try a bite, but I won’t.”
Still going strong
Warren’s known far and wide for her Pineapple Cake, which she often takes to church dinners at Troy First Baptist and potluck suppers.
“I brought that recipe back to Troy from a restaurant in Guin, Ala.,” she said. “That was 30 years ago or better. That recipe has now been everywhere.”
Warren walks with a slight limp, thanks to bone cancer in her thigh seven years ago. But she hasn’t let the illness or the recovery slow her down.
“I still mow the yard when I take a notion to and I can drive anywhere I please,” she said. “I broke another bone two or three years ago in my leg and I had to stay off it for three weeks. So I’d just get in my wheelchair and pull up to the stove and fix me something to eat.”
But she probably wasn’t using a new recipe.
“I’m not one for trying new recipes,” she said. “People like what I make without trying anything new.”
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.