Iona ‘Nonie’ Perkins: ‘The kitchen is my favorite place’

Published 7:58 am Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Iona “Nonie” Perkins Parker of DeQuincy did not know how to cook when she married her late husband, Hansel. She was 19. He was 23. His  mother was a great cook, Parker said. “I just wanted to please him.” The first thing she attempted was pinto beans.

“I not only burned the beans, but I burned the pot,” she said with a chuckle. “Mama had 10 kids and stayed busy tending to us, keeping house, raising a garden and cooking. She didn’t have time to fool around in that kitchen showing us how to cook,” Parker said.

So, she taught herself how to make the things she grew up on, simple, old-fashioned dishes, and she and her husband tended their 3-acre garden, from which much of their food came.

“He was a hard worker, a workaholic, really,” she said.

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They didn’t eat fast food. Parker still doesn’t. One of her daughters lives on a farm, has a garden, cooks from scratch and like her mother, enjoys being in the kitchen.

Her husband was easy to please, and it wasn’t long before she was an accomplished cook. Except for breakfast, she cooked and served three main entrees plus sides for lunch and dinner.  She also served one dessert, allowing each child to name a dessert they wanted that week.

She still hasn’t learned to cook for one, and loves sharing what she makes with neighbors and the people in town.

“The kitchen is my favorite place,” she said. “I love to feed people.”

She has made a couple of concessions to “fast food.” On occasion she uses Minute Rice, something she had never purchased or until after her husband died in 2016.

“I didn’t even know such a thing existed when I was younger,” she said. And these days  she buys her vegetables from the grocery store instead of raising them.

If she could have anyone, living or dead, make a meal for her, she would choose her late mother, Amy Stanley Perkins, and she would want her mother’s chicken and dumplings and banana pudding.

“You know the kind I’m talking about, don’t you?” she said. “The kind you make in one of those old crockery dishes and slide into the oven for a few minutes to brown the meringue?”

If she were responsible for ensuring that future wives know more about cooking than she did when she married, she’d make sure they have the following recipes down pat:  Mexican cornbread (with the works, meat and all) and biscuits.

“There aren’t too many young women that know how to make biscuits from scratch,” she said. When asked to share her recipe, she said she really didn’t have one, but she’d put something together and  put it down on paper. Here it is.

Preheat the oven to 400. Spray a 10-inch cast iron skillet with nonstick oil. Pour a little cooking oil in the skillet also. Mix four cups self-rising flour, two heaping tablespoons of sugar, ⅔ cups lard or Crisco and one and a-half cups buttermilk. Add a little extra flour to the inside of the mixing bowl, and pull dough against it if it is too sticky to work. Roll dough into fist-sized balls and place in a greased skillet. Bake until the tops are golden brown. Brush real butter on top while still hot from the oven.