Every Thursday morning, Johnson makes coconut and chocolate pies to send to the restaurant for patrons to enjoy.
“I only make two now,” said Johnson, 92. “I used to make a lot more, but people don’t eat as many sweets as they used to. I guess I’ve been doing this for about 10 years. The owners, Maurice and Myra Pearce, are good friends.”
Johnson said one reason she thinks people like her pies is because they’re not overly sweet.
“Most people use a lot of sugar in their pies,” she said. “I just use one cup in my chocolate pie and a half-cup in my coconut. I don’t like things real sweet. If it’s too sweet, you don’t taste anything else in the pie.”
Johnson does have her pie recipes written down somewhere, but she doesn’t use recipes when she cooks.
“I’ve been cooking since I was 9 years old,” said Johnson, who was born in 1919. “I had to learn to cook. We lived out on a farm, and we had to just learn to do. I didn’t have any recipes when I first started. I just relied on my memory. I still do. That’s why I have a hard time telling anybody how to make anything.”
For years, Johnson had a garden she tended, but as she’s gotten older, she’s given that up and now relies on friends and farmers’ markets to provide her vegetables.
“I put up seven quarts of tomatoes this year,” said Johnson, who retired from BancorpSouth in 1998 after 49 years there as a teller. “That was all I got. I put up 34 bags of purple-hull peas and seven quarts of green beans.”
And what does Johnson, a widow, do with all this food?
She feeds her rather large family.
Johnson has two sons, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, but she was one of nine children, and she is blessed with dozens of nieces and nephews.
“You might say I’m like a mother to them,” she said. “When they’re home, they always want to meet here and have a meal.”
The family’s favorites include fried chicken, country fried steak, peas, creamed potatoes, fried okra, corn, sweet potato casserole and homemade rolls.
“And fresh apple cake,” she added. “They all like that. It’s plain, but it’s good. And of course, I have to make my chocolate and my coconut pies.”
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.