Old-fashioned, country cooking is what brings the Estes family to the table.
Teresa Estes is not someone who would normally sit down to give an interview. Mostly known for her friendly smile, many know her from her work at Northeast Mississippi Community College where she serves as the custodian at Childers Hall.
Estes said she really began cooking after she married Rocky, in January of 1981. The couple has two children and one grandchild, and a special great-niece.
Some of the first things she cooked were fresh vegetables. The cook’s favorite vegetable is fresh peas.
“I loved peas. That was one of my most favorite things to cook,” she said.
When Rocky and Teresa started their family, she discovered she enjoyed making casseroles.
“Especially when the kids were little, it was different. I wasn’t raised eating casseroles. We had things like peas, and fried squash, fried potatoes, cornbread, and stuff like that,” she recalled.
The mother of two explained that her children come home to eat her cooking.
“Christy calls it country cooking, I do cook casseroles some, but they like vegetables. I fix peas, green beans, fried potatoes, potato patties, pea patties,” she said.
The country cook says her family lived off the land, so to speak, “My grandpaw liked to hunt and fish. We had fried fish most of the time. That was all I knew was fried fish. And we had deer. And my daddy raised hogs when I was small, so we had pork.”
Estes credits time spent with her grandmother as the reason she cooks the way she does.
“My grandmother was my life. She taught me how to quilt and embroidery, cleaning skills, ironing, how to make biscuits. Everything!” she said.
Cooking was not the only thing learned from her grandmother, the gardening cook also learned about flowers and plants.
“I love flowers. I was probably 12 or 14 when I first started fixing pots of flowers. My grandmother would show me how to transplant flowers and stuff,” said the mother and grandmother.
When spending time with her grandparents she saw her grandmother saving and repurposing things.
“Nothing was wasted. She didn’t waste anything. You kept buckets outside to catch rainwater. You didn’t run water to water your plants. People don’t realize how it was, but back then you kept stuff. I have a lot of my grandmother’s ways of not wasting anything,” she said.
When she has leftover potatoes or peas she makes potato or pea patties.
Even though gardening is what she loves to do most, she finds a way to incorporate gardening into her cooking, “When I have potatoes that start sprouting, I cut the sprouts off and put them in a plastic bag, and then set them out later on.”
The grandmother loves to share with others, especially her flowers, “I love plants and flowers. I love sharing things with people.”
When cooking biscuits she doesn’t have a recipe, she cooks them the way her grandmother did. “I eyeball it the way she taught me. If I measure it, I mess it up.”
The mother shared, “Your life changes as you get older, so enjoy it while you’re young.”
Old Time Peat Patties
2 cups peas drained
1/2 cup cornmeal and flour mixture (about half and half)
1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper
1/4 cup diced onion
Directions: Mix well, shape into patty and fry.
Fresh Purple Hull Peas
1 quart peas
1 quart water
Directions: Cook on medium heat about two hours. Sometimes add about two cups leftover baked ham while cooking. Season to taste with salt and bacon grease.
Directions: Melt 1 stick butter in a 9x13 pan
Mix 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, and 2/3 cup milk. Mix well and pour over melted butter. (DO NOT STIR INTO BUTTER)
2 1/2 cups sweetened fresh fruit of fresh fruit of your choice with juices
Pour over top of batter but do not stir
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
Sprinkle with sugar while hot. Let sit before serving.
Directions: Wash 4-5 squash and slice thin. Melt 3/4 stick of butter in nonstick skillet, dice 1/3 cup yellow or fresh green onion, saute all together in butter until tender.
Remove from heat and sprinkle with American cheese, melt and serve.
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 stick butter
3 eggs beaten
1 cup Karo syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups chopped pecans
Directions: Melt butter in a No. 8 cast iron skillet and add pecans
Mix sugar and eggs well, mix other ingredients and pour into butter and pecans.
Bring to a boil stir for 3-4 minutes, pour into 2 uncooked pie shells and bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
1/8 teaspoon pepper
12 ounce bottle chili sauce
1 cup soft bread crumbs
Directions: In butter, saute onion and pepper until tender. Add chili sauce.
In bowl mix meat, bread crumbs, egg, salt and pepper, 1/2 cup chili sauce mixture.
Form into loaf, put in pan and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Pour remaining sauce over warm loaf and serve.
Makes 6 servings.