ABERDEEN • In 2015, Neva Whitehead retired from Fischer Associates, where she was a secretary/bookkeeper for almost a quarter of a century. Before that, she worked in a doctor’s office for 20 years.

With extra time on her hands now, you’d think Whitehead, who will be 78 in July, would be turning out a lot more of her Southern specialties in the kitchen.

But you’d be wrong.

“I only cook two to three times a week now,” Whitehead said. “I found since I retired that I enjoy being outside more. I’d rather do that than cook.”

Whitehead’s tidy yard in Aberdeen is full of blooms now, including petunias, Knock Out roses, zinnias and Stella d’Oro daylilies, and a nearby garden she shares with a neighbor is just beginning to produce vegetables.

“Tomatoes are about the only thing I can,” she said. “I put everything else in the freezer. Vegetables from the garden are so much better than what you get at the store.”

When Whitehead does cook, she might prepare hamburger steaks with mashed potatoes and peas or baked chicken with butterbeans and cornbread.

If her son, Brad, and her grandchildren, Brody and Elena, are coming to eat, she will likely fill the table with a beef roast with potatoes and carrots, green beans, potato rolls and caramel cake or pecan pie.

Whitehead’s husband, James, had a heart attack in 2005 and that’s changed the way she cooks. She hardly ever fries anything anymore – except okra.

“We grow okra in the garden and if you have fresh okra, you just have to fry it,” she said.

Whitehead was born in Columbus and has lived most of her life in Aberdeen. She’s one of eight children – six girls and two boys.

“I’m the last of my family,” she said. “I miss all the gatherings with them. Everybody would bring their special dish. Big families are happy families.”

When Whitehead does have a hankering to cook, she can always prepare something and take it to the Church of Christ in Aberdeen on the first weekend of every month. Her caramel cake is a favorite there.

“Cast-iron skillets are a staple in my kitchen,” she said. “I have one for cornbread and a smaller one to brown the sugar for my caramel cake. That’s the only way to make caramel icing.”

SOUR CREAM POUND CAKE WITH CARAMEL ICING

CAKE

2 sticks butter

1/2 cup shortening

3 cups sugar

5 eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup milk

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon lemon flavoring

CARAMEL ICING

3 1/2 cups sugar, divided

1 cup evaporated milk

1 stick margarine

1 teaspoon vanilla

For the pound cake, cream butter, shortening and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well. Combine flour and baking powder and add alternately with milk and sour cream. Add flavorings. Pour batter into a greased Bundt or tube pan and bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour and 30 minutes.

For the icing, combine 3 cups sugar, evaporated milk and margarine in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, brown remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a cast-iron skillet. Pour browned sugar into boiling mixture and cook to the soft-ball stage. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Beat until it reaches spreading consistency. Spread icing over cooled cake.

MAKE-AHEAD MASHED POTATOES FOR A CROWD

5 pounds potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed

2 cups sour cream

1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese

Salt and pepper

Combine mashed potatoes, sour cream and cream cheese until well mixed. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use (may store in refrigerator for a week). When ready to use, place potato mixture in a greased 9x13-inch casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

TEA CAKES

2 cups sugar

1 cup shortening

3 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon milk

4 cups self-rising flour

Cream sugar and shortening; add eggs, one at a time. Add baking powder, vanilla, milk and flour and mix well. Roll into small balls and place on a greased cookie sheet; flatten with your fingers. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until light brown around the edges. Cookies are better if they are not brown on top. Makes about 4 1/2 dozen.

RO-TEL CHICKEN

1 small onion, chopped

1 large bell pepper, chopped

1 small can mushrooms, drained

2 tablespoons butter

1 can Ro-tel tomatoes, mashed

1 whole chicken, cooked, boned and chopped

1 1/2 cups cooked spaghetti or egg noodles, cooked in chicken broth

1 small can English peas, drained (optional)

2 cups grated cheese, divided

Saute onion, bell pepper and mushrooms in butter. Add chopped chicken to mixture along with mashed tomatoes, cooked noodles, peas (if using) and 1 1/2 cups cheese. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Pour mixture into a greased baking dish and top with the remaining grated cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until done, about 30 minutes.

PECAN PIE

3 eggs

1 cup corn syrup

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons margarine, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup pecans, chopped in large pieces

1 regular unbaked pie shell

Beat eggs lightly; mix in syrup, sugar, melted margarine, vanilla and salt. Add pecans and stir. Pour mixture into an unbaked pie shell. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes; lower temperature to 350 degrees and cook and additional 30 minutes.

SMOKY MOUNTAIN

APPLE PIE

5 apples, peeled and sliced

5 to 6 slices white bread, crusts removed and cut into fingers

1 egg, beaten

1 stick butter, melted

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour mixed with apple pie spices

Place sliced apples in a pie plate. Cover with bread fingers. Combine beaten egg, butter, sugar and the flour and spice mixture. Pour over the bread and apples. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until brown.

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 call Ginna at (662) 678-1581 or email them to ginna.parsons@journalinc.com.

ginna.parsons@journalinc.com

Recommended for you

comments powered by Disqus