TUPELO — When Angel Harbin was growing up in Ackerman, his mother was in poor health, so by age 12 she did all the pickling, canning and cooking.
“It all comes from my maternal grandmother, Earlene Black,” Harbin said. “We are a lot of granddaughters, and she had a huge influence on our lives. We were sloppy learners, but it was fun for her, and now we can all cook. She was also a surgical technician at the hospital Ackerman, and now there are eight in the family there who are nurses and four who have become nurse practitioners.”
Harbin is a family nurse practitioner at the Auburn Clinic in East Tupelo. Her husband, Terry, is the principal of Milam Elementary; they have two children, Sidney and Peyton.
After high school, Harbin went to Itawamba Community College, where she graduated as a nurse. She practiced nursing for 12 years and then went to school at the University of North Alabama for her bachelor’s degree in nursing. She earned her master’s degree from the University of Mississippi for Women.
Since she and Terry moved to East Tupelo, their house is a revolving door on Sundays.
“My mother-in-law, my neighbors, my friends, my business partners, my kids if they’re in town – I’m known for my cooking,” Harbin, 56, said. “We will have between three and eight people.”
Sunday dinner will not necessarily be a healthy meal.
“My green beans – I call them Sunday green beans because you can only eat them once a week,” said Harbin, who had bariatric surgery in 2013 and maintained a 60-pound weight loss. . “My claim to fame at Ackerman is that I was the biggest comeback queen they ever had.”
Harbin completes his Sunday meal with fried chicken, pork chops or roast beef with all the trimmings; peas, coleslaw, fried okra, corn, cornbread, and dessert. Everything is prepared in kitchen utensils that are at least 100 years old.
“My pans are as old as my great-grandmother,” she said. “When people die, family members fight over jewelry, furniture, or a car. I’m in the kitchen grabbing the pots and pans.”
Harbin keeps her freezers and pantry stocked, so she can prepare a meal anytime without having to go to the store.
“I’m prepared every day, every month of the year,” she said. “I’m bad at stocking up. That’s what you did when you lived in the countryside.”
Harbin has hundreds of cookbooks, but she rarely tries new recipes, preferring to cook what she knows.
“I feed people with my food,” she said. “When someone is sick, or something is wrong, I cook. When someone dies, I can easily feed 50 people. Corn, cabbage, peas, a big vegetable soup, fried chicken , two or three slices of cornbread and my husband will make two or three cakes to take away. It’s easier to sit down and visit family when you have a full stomach.
DO YOU KNOW A GOOD COOK? Send your entries to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, PO Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can call (662) 678-1581 or email them to [email protected]
1 tablespoon bacon grease
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Cut the corn kernels and put the corn and its milk in a pan. Add water, depending on how much juice you get from your corn. Add sugar, salt, pepper and bacon grease. Cook over medium heat until mixture begins to bubble, about 15 minutes.
Whisk whole milk and cornstarch together until there are no lumps. Slowly add to boiling corn to thicken. Once thick, turn off the heat. Do not cover the pan with a lid or the corn will turn liquid.
SUNDAY GREEN BEANS
1 can (101 ounces) green beans
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, divided
Place green beans, vinegar, salt, oil and 1 cup sugar in a large slow cooker. Cook over high heat for 2 hours, then over low heat overnight.
Transfer the mixture to a large skillet and cook on the stove over high heat until almost all the liquid is cooked. Add the remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar and continue cooking.
SWEET AND SOUR RIBS
1 cup chopped bell pepper
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
Place the ribs in a saucepan, season with garlic salt and cover with water (at least 4 cups). Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour.
Remove the ribs and remove the meat. Return the meat to the rib juice and add the ketchup, brown sugar, vegetables and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the casserole and bake at 375 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours. Uncover the casserole and cook for another 30 minutes. Serve over rice with French bread.
HAWAIIAN SUNSET CAKE
1 box Orange Supreme cake mix
1 small box vanilla instant pudding mix
1 small box of orange gelatin
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 (15 ounce) can crushed pineapple, well drained
1 package (6 ounces) frozen coconut, thawed
1 jar (8 ounces) whipped topping
Tangerine slices (optional)
In a large bowl, combine cake mix, milk, pudding mix, gelatin, eggs and oil and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes.
Divide batter among 3 greased and floured 9-inch round pans. Bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
In a large bowl, combine pineapple, coconut, sugar and sour cream. Reserve 1 cup for the frosting. Place cake layer on serving platter; top with half of the remaining pineapple mixture. Repeat layers once; top with remaining cake layer.
Stir whipped topping into reserved pineapple mixture and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Spread over top and sides of cake. If desired, garnish with tangerine slices. Refrigerate until serving. Best done two days before serving.
1 large cornbread pan, slightly overcooked or from the day before
3/4 cup finely chopped bell pepper
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
3/4 cup finely chopped celery
1 can cream of chicken
2 cups peeled tomatoes, chopped, with juice
Crumble cornbread into a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into a large baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until center is set.