BLACK ZION – Ask Edith Matthews when she learned to cook and she’ll look at you blankly.
“I can’t remember learning to cook,” Matthews said. “It seems like I’ve cooked all my life. I can’t remember when I wasn’t in the kitchen.”
Matthews, 72, is one of 10 children – five boys and five girls – born to Zorus and Rudell Pickering (all five boys have the middle name Zorus).
“I was born in east Tupelo,” Matthews said. “The same doctor delivered me that delivered Elvis – Dr. William Robert Hunt. I spent a lot of my younger years, age 5 to 10, in Parkin, Arkansas, but most of my life has been spent in Pontotoc County.”
When the family was in Arkansas, Matthews and one of her sisters, Joyce, would stay at home with the younger children while their mother went to the field.
“We had to cook on an old wood stove, and it wasn’t easy,” she said. “We thought everybody did that and most everybody we knew did do that.”
When she turned 16 years old, Matthews went to work at the Amory Garment Company. She later studied for and earned her GED and then went on to complete two years of night school at Itawamba Junior College, now Itawamba Community College.
“I worked for Action Furniture, then called Lane, and was a supervisor for 30 years. I wore so many hats the last three or four years. I worked for 32 years, retired in October 2008, and they called me back and asked me to go to Mexico to set up a sewing operation. I did that for two years – two weeks in Mexico, then two weeks at home. I also went to China for them six times. I’ve had a very interesting career.”
Today, Matthews spends her time babysitting a great-grandchild and cooking Sunday dinner for her family, which includes two children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Her husband, Bennie, died in 1989.
“We also have a potluck gathering once a month, all of our brothers and sisters and their families, and have ever since April 1994 when Mama died,” she said. “Mama always had the family for Sunday dinner and she even cooked the Sunday before she died on Thursday. I hope I can do that.”
Matthews, who lives in the Primrose community near Black Zion, likes to try new recipes, but usually she puts her own spin on them.
“If they like it, they say, ‘Now Mama, write that down. Don’t forget it.’ I never measure anything. When somebody asks me for a recipe, my daughter says to them, ‘Good luck.’”
Matthews said all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren call her Granny.
“They all call me that and so do all their friends, and even some of their friends’ parents,” she said “If I go to Walmart and I hear somebody say ‘Granny,’ I pretty much know they’re calling me.”
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.