“We had a pretty large family,” said Mason. “There were five boys and three girls and I was the youngest. I had to learn to cook and clean and can food. I told Mama she almost made a girl out of me.”
Mason’s wife, Allene, who died in 2012 after the couple had been married 53 years, benefited greatly from his skills.
“When we were married, I helped in the kitchen a lot,” said Mason, who is retired from JCPenney. “I used to kid her and say I was going to put a sign in the yard that said, ‘A spoiled rotten woman lives here.’”
Mason recalled that about 20 years ago, he found a recipe in the original Bell’s Best cookbook for a pound cake, and he decided he’d give it a try. It turned out perfectly.
“My wife came home from work that day and said, ‘Where’d that cake come from?’ And I told her I’d made it, but she didn’t believe me,” he said. “So I started telling her what all I’d put in it and she said, ‘I do believe you made that cake after all.’”
Mason still makes that cake to share with friends, and he’s also known for his pralines and peanut brittle.
“We were in Natchez – our kids gave us the trip – and we toured some antebellum homes,” he said. “I had a praline there and I decided to try them myself. I make them all the time now. When people tell me my pralines are good, I say, ‘Oh, they’re not that good. You’re just wanting me to make some more of them.’”
Mason is meticulous about his cooking. He likes to use a food scale and a timer. He makes the dough up for his chicken and dumplings the night before and refrigerates it. And he always makes his peanut brittle on the stove.
“Some people make theirs in the microwave, but I’ve got a system that works for me, so why mess with it? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said.
Mason said his wife, who taught in the Tupelo Public School District for 28 years, was the type of person who helped anybody she could, whether she knew them or not. When she’d read in the newspaper that a soldier had been killed, she’d clip the article, have it laminated and then have to hunt the family down to give it to them.
“If people realized how much joy they could get from helping people, there’d be so much more done,” Mason said. “There really would.”
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 email@example.com.