By Ginna Parsons
TUPELO – Linda Hankins is happy to talk about food and how she learned to cook, but mention the name Elvis and she becomes even more animated.
“I’m a charter member of the Tupelo Elvis Fan Club and went to his first performance at the fairgrounds in 1956,” said Hankins, 76. “Me and my cousin picked cotton to earn money for a ticket – 50 cents each. He didn’t even know we were there, but we were there.”
Hankins and her cousin actually earned enough money to purchase tickets and majorette boots, which they wore for the first time to Presley’s celebrated homecoming concert.
“We caught a ride into town at 6 that morning and had tickets for the afternoon performance,” she said. “We peeped through the fence to see him perform that night. We didn’t get home until after 10 o’clock. We had walked all over those fairgrounds and our feet were killing us with blisters. Then we had to go pick cotton again the next day.”
Hankins is one of six children born to Roy and Maude Martin of the Endville community in Pontotoc County. He was a farmer, walking behind a plow for 50 years, and she was a homemaker.
“I did not cook at home because Mother never let us in the kitchen,” Hankins said. “She didn’t have time to teach us anything. She had too many mouths to feed. After I married, I would start to cook something and I’d call Mother. That’s how I learned to cook – over the telephone.”
Hankins and her husband, Doug, met at Futorian Furniture in Tupelo more than 56 years ago. She then went on to work at Blue Bell and finally Hancock Fabrics.
“I retired when the boys were teenagers,” she said. “That’s when they really needed me.” The Hankins have two sons, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
When her children were growing up, Hankins put breakfast and supper on the table every day. Now, she cooks three to four times a week.
“All my friends think cooking is all I do because they love to come here to eat,” she said. “I cook for neighbors, new people in the neighborhood, friends, sick people. When my kids come in and see something cooking on the stove, they say, ‘Is this for us or is this going somewhere?’”
Most nights, the meal is simple, like a chicken casserole or chicken and dumplings or potato soup and cornbread. On special occasions, she treats her family to a menu of roast beef, creamed potatoes, peas, corn, fried okra, cornbread and a cobbler.
“I try new recipes sometimes,” Hankins said. “My granddaughters give me a cookbook every year of some sort for Christmas. When I do sit down, that’s usually what I sit down with – a cookbook in my hand.”
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.