Cook loves to can and bake

Published 7:57 am Wednesday, July 15, 2009

SEDLEY—Jessie Cook says she has been cooking for as long as she can remember and laughs as she recalls her first cooking experience.

“I was about five or six and decided I wanted some scrambled eggs. I had watched mama and I was sure I could do it, but I wasn’t quite tall enough to reach the stove.

“So I pulled up a stool, climbed up on it and started cooking.

“When Mama caught me, she nearly had a heart attack,” Cook revealed.

The 72-year-old grandmother has not lost the determination she had as a youngster. She has always loved to cook, she says, and is not afraid to experiment.

“Cooking the standard “meat and potatoes” that most farm families grew up on, and canning and freezing vegetables for the winter to come, were second nature to me,” she said. “So I tried new things. I’d see a recipe in a magazine that looked interesting and I just had to try it.

“I decided more than 30 years ago that I could make a cake as pretty as anyone I’d seen and that’s how I got started making cakes for my friends and neighbors.

From this first trial, Cook’s reputation as a baker escalated.

“The first cake I made for a special occasion was for the daughter of my boss. She asked me to make her wedding cake.

“Well I was a little apprehensive, but it turned out really well.”

Cook grinned. “As a matter of fact, I was right proud of that cake. I asked my friend, Sonya Gardner, who had a station wagon, to drive me to the church in Franklin to deliver it.

On the way, we even stopped to show it off to another friend.

“This friend was in the hospital, so we pulled up beneath her window and blew the horn. She looked out the window and just waved.”

Since then, Cook has made cakes for many special occasions, weddings, birthdays, special parties, including one for her mother, Julia Johnson’s 100th birthday.

Cook and her husband, Harold, have lived on her family’s farm all their married life and raised their son, Troy, there, she said.

“We built our home here close to Mama and she lived with us for 48 years. She died in 1999, but we still have Thanksgiving and Christmas here for the whole family.

Cook says she does all the cooking for about 30 people, except for baking the cake.

“Ironic, isn’t it?” she said with a smile. “Well, I have a niece who also likes to bake, so I leave that up to her.”

Name: Jessie Cook

Age: 72

Occupation: Retired from Union Camp Corp. after 45 years

Favorite food: Chicken, cooked any way

Least favorite food: Seafood

What is the first thing you remember cooking? Scrambled eggs, standing on a stool in front of the kitchen stove when I was about five or six.

What has been your worst cooking experience? Many years ago, before I was married, I made a cake by a recipe that I cut out of the paper. I didn’t realize they had left out an ingredient (baking powder) until I had cooked the cake, which I immediately threw out. The next week, the paper ran the recipe again, correcting the mistake, but that didn’t help me any.

One ingredient you can’t cook without: I have three, which are equally important, I think — salt, black pepper and sugar. They give foods a much better flavor.

What is the most important thing you have learned about cooking? Pay close attention to what you’re cooking. Don’t walk down the hall for just a second — you always stay longer than you intended, which can ruin your dish.

Who is the best cook you have ever known and why? My sister, Hazel Hughes. When I was about 12, our mother had some medical problems and I lived with my sister for a while. She is a wonderful, old-fashioned cook and taught me much of what I know about cooking. We’d be in the kitchen together and she would stay close to me when I was learning and tell me what to do.

If you could eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? Chicken

Jessie cook’s homemade cucumber relish ingredients

10 pounds cucumbers, sliced into disks

3 cups pickling lime, mixed with enough water to cover cucumbers

5 pounds sugar

3 pints vinegar

1 tsp. allspice

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground ginger


Place sliced cucumbers in lime water and let stand for 24 hours. Then, change water every hour for four hours straight.

Drain cucumbers and grind.

Place ground cucumbers in canning pot. Combine sugar, vinegar and spices and bring to boil.

Pour sugar mixture over cucumbers and let stand overnight.

Boil for one hour, then pour hot relish into jars and seal.