COOK OF THE WEEK – Green to gourmet: Okolona woman teaches herself to cook

Glenda Burns of Okolona enjoys preparing meals from scratch, like Jambalaya with a side Caesar Salad and garlic bread. (Adam Robison)

Glenda Burns of Okolona enjoys preparing meals from scratch, like Jambalaya with a side Caesar Salad and garlic bread. (Adam Robison)

By Ginna Parsons
Daily Journal

OKOLONA – To see the kind of foods Glenda Burns prepares today, you’d never dream there was a time when she didn’t know how to cook.

She taught herself how after she and her husband, Kenneth, married 45 years ago.

“My first cookbook was the ‘Betty Crocker Cookbook,’” said Burns, 65. “My husband gave it to me when our first child was born instead of flowers. I guess he knew I had the aptitude to learn to cook.”

And learn she did.

In fact, today, she and Kenneth, a chancery judge, are members of a gourmet supper club that meets once a quarter at one of four couples’ homes.

“We each only do it once a year, but when we have it, we go all out,” she said. “We just hosted and we ate in the dining room and I got out the china and silver and crystal and the Annieglass.”

Burns served chicken stuffed with sausage, blue cheese and chopped tomatoes; a layered vegetable casserole; stuffed baked potatoes; watermelon salad; Amaretto cheesecake; plus a couple of appetizers.

“Long recipes don’t scare me,” she said. “I just say, ‘Hmm, that’s going to take a while,’ and then I get started on it. I couldn’t do what I do if my husband didn’t help me. He even helps clean the kitchen.”

During the week, Burns, who works in the loan operations department for the Bank of Okolona, figures she cooks at least five nights a week.

“I’ll come in from work and say, ‘Well, we’re going to have stuffed chicken tonight.’ It’s not fancy, but it’s things we like. Cooking is a stress release for me.”

She might fix grilled pork chops with purple-hull peas, corn and cornbread, or baked chicken coated in Parmesan and panko breadcrumbs, rice cooked with red bell pepper and onions, garlic bread and a salad.

“My favorite meal is grilled steak – rare – on a charcoal grill with a baked potato and salad,” said Burns, who used to have Alexis’ Boutique in Tupelo. “I don’t get it very often because Kenny’s not really a steak person.”

Burns, a Natchez native, has a large collection of cookbooks and some of her favorites include “Southern Sideboards,” “Stirrings from the Heart,” “Come On In,” “Ambrosia” and “Great Performances.”

But she rarely pulls them off the shelf.

“I don’t try new recipes very often because I don’t have time to because of work,” she said. “And sometimes when I do, they don’t turn out. I do have flops.”

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 ginna.parsons@journalinc.com.

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