TUPELO • For most of Bob Black’s married life, his wife, Jane, has done the cooking. But that changed about six or eight years ago.
“Jane is a great cook ad I just kind of observed her and then I got drafted in the kitchen,” said Black, 78. “She got me started helping her and now I’ve taken on more and more. She may be slyer than I think.”
Now, Black cooks six or seven nights a week.
“Jane doesn’t mind at all,” he said. “She doesn’t even complain if I burn something.”
A retired periodontist, Black said just about everything he cooks is simple.
“During the winter, I make pot roasts with potatoes and carrots, chili, spaghetti,” he said. “I cook a lot of things outside, especially this time of year, but I make it easy on myself. If I’m making steaks or pork chops, I’ll throw the corn on the grill, too.”
Black grew up in Oxford and moved to Tupelo in 1974. He and Jane have one daughter, Emily Oxford, and three grandchildren.
“I didn’t really learn to cook from my mom,” Black said. “She worked and I used to watch the housekeeper cook our squirrels and ducks and everything else we hunted. She made the best fried pies in the world. I can still taste them if I close my eyes. My favorite was stewed apricot. She made a homemade dough and she’d cut out the circles using a saucer.”
He grew up eating Southern-style meals and vegetables, and even though his mother didn’t do a lot of the cooking, he still remembers her baked beans – which aren’t actually baked – and her sweet potatoes.
“People don’t make candied sweet potatoes like hers much anymore,” he said. “She sliced them lengthwise and cooked them in a skillet and dusted them with sugar.”
Black still cooks a lot like that today. A favorite meal is new potatoes, butterbeans, fresh tomatoes and cornbread.
“Occasionally, I use a cookbook,” he said. “Jane has so many. She’s been accumulating them ever since I’ve known her. She started taking Gourmet magazine when I was in dental school. A lot of my cooking is through osmosis, being around her in the kitchen.”
Black tries to play golf two to three times a week with a group of “old retired guys” and even on golf days, he comes home and cooks.
“I’ll come in from the course and say ‘What do you want for supper?’ and then I’ll go to the grocery store,” he said. “I go to the store almost every day. I’m kind of particular about the things I buy.”
BOB’S SMOKED CHICKENS
3 (3-pound) whole chickens
1 apple, cut in pieces
1 onion, cut in pieces
1 rib celery, cut in pieces
3 bay leaves (optional)
(These instructions are for a Big Green Egg smoker. Adapt for your own personal smoker.) Prep smoker with charcoal, starter and apple wood chunks. Use a plate setter for indirect heat and place a pan of water on the plate setter.
While the fire is starting, apply seasoned salt liberally on the outside and inside of the chickens. Place a piece of apple, onion and celery inside each chicken along with a bay leaf, if using. Tie the legs together with string. With the pan of water in place on the plate setter beneath the grill, place chickens on grill and close lid.
Smoke chickens at 300 degrees for 3 hours or until the temperature in the chicken’s breast is 175 to 180 degrees. Remove from smoker and rub butter on hot chickens. Wrap in foil until ready to eat.
CORN ON THE COB
Fresh ears of corn
Grated Parmesan cheese
Cook corn on the grill or in the microwave. When the corn is done and while it’s still hot, slather each ear with mayonnaise. Sprinkle with chili powder and Parmesan and finish with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
1 stick butter
1 cup raw rice
1 can French onion soup
1 can beef consomme
In a casserole, melt butter. Add rice and soups and stir. Cook 1 hour at 350 degrees.
MY MAMA’S “BAKED” BEANS
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
3 (16-ounce) cans Bush’s baked beans
1/2 cup ketchup
2 to 3 tablespoons brown sugar
In a large skillet, saute onion, bell pepper and celery in a small amount of oil. Add the beans, with their liquid, along with ketchup and brown sugar. Simmer on low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Hot cooked spaghetti
2 cans minced clams
1 stick butter
Fresh minced garlic
Grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh chopped parsley
After spaghetti is cooked and drained, return the pasta to the pot. Add the clams and a little of their juice, butter, garlic and Parmesan and toss to combine. Transfer to a serving dish and top with additional Parmesan and chopped parsley.