Lydia Chassaniol said her mother was a good cook, and Lydia often hung around in the kitchen. She said she learned by “osmosis.”
When she was in the 8th grade, all of the girls had to take home economics.
“The first thing we learned to make was white sauce,” Chassaniol said. “Although we didn’t know it at the time, it’s the basis of many French sauces. Mrs. Minnie Lee King was our teacher.”
When Lydia first started cooking, her brother, Bob Graves was her guinea pig. She said he was the only person “brave enough to try what I cooked.”
“I see food as edible art and read cookbooks like some people read novels,” Chassaniol said. “Julia Child said once you’ve mastered basic techniques you don’t really need to use a recipe. I usually just see what’s on special at the grocery and go from there. When I find a method that works, I write it down.”
Chassaniol said cooking relaxes her.
“I often cook up a bunch of things and label them for Emmett to eat when I’m going to be on the road for senate business,” Chassaniol said. “Also, I find homemade dishes are nice to share with friends and neighbors.”
Chassaniol serves as a senator for Mississippi District 14 and she said there are many young single people who work long hours at the capitol and most of them call her “Aunt Lydia!”
“I often take them ‘care packages’ of homemade goodies because it’s the first time many of them have been away from their mother’s cooking,” Chassaniol said. “Also I cook for the members of the senate at least once every session.”
Chassaniol said food is a good way to get fellow senators to listen to her side of an issue.
“While they are eating I tell them how I’d like for them to vote,” Chassaniol said. “Sometimes it works.”
She is so funny! And she was gracious enough to share a few favorite recipes:
6 cups of cornbread
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 can sliced water chestnuts
1 small jar diced pimento
1 cup sweet pickle relish
Good quality mayonnaise (homemade is best)
Crumble cornbread into a large bowl. Add onion, bell pepper and water chestnuts. Toss lightly until mixed. Add pimento and pickle relish. Mix again. Add mayonnaise and season to taste.
It will keep for a week in a tightly closed container. Serves 8-10.
Cream of Shrimp and Artichoke Soup
3 cups Whole Milk
2 cups Chicken Broth at Room Temperature
1 Tbsp. All-purpose Flour
1 Tbsp. Butter
6 oz. Shrimp (roughly chopped)
1 can Artichokes, not marinated (drained and chopped)
Seasonings to taste (garlic salt, parsley, white pepper, onion powder)
3 oz. Cream Cheese softened
1 oz. Swiss Cheese chopped
1 oz. Dry Sherry (not Cooking type)
Place milk in a large boiler. Cook over low heat. Remove any skin, which may remain from the scalding process.
Mix flour with chicken broth Slowly add to the scalded milk.
Stir continuously until slightly thickened and heated throughout. Add shrimp and heat until they are pink and opaque. Add the Artichokes.
Add the Cheeses; stir until they are melted. Then add the Sherry just before serving.
Serves 6-8 as a first course, 4 as a main course.
Pineapple Chicken Spread
10-12 oz. boneless cooked chicken breasts
8 oz. package of cream cheese
8 oz. can crushed pineapple drained
2 T. peach preserves
½ cup toasted pecans chopped finely
Chop boneless chicken breasts either by hand or by pulsing in a food processor.
Soften the cream cheese in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
Blend all the ingredients and season to taste.
I suggest onion powder, garlic powder, ground mustard, dash of hot sauce, Worcestershire and soy sauce.
Ruby Pittman’s Pimento Cheese Spread
Mix equal quantities of shredded Cheddar Cheese and Mozzarella Cheese. Finely cut up Green onions. Ruby suggests about six onions for two pounds of cheese. Add to the mix. Add chopped pecans and enough drained, diced pimento to give it good color. Sprinkle on garlic salt and sugar to taste. Mix in Mayonnaise to make a good spreading consistency.
2 cups tomato juice, v-8 juice or Bloody Mary mix, divided
1 can small shrimp, rinsed and drained
¼ cup celery chopped
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 shake of celery salt
Dash of Tabasco (if not using Bloody Mary mix)
1 envelope gelatin
Soften gelatin in ½ cup tomato juice. Heat other 1½ cups juice in microwave safe bowl for about 1½ minutes. Combine juices and stir to dissolve gelatin. Add seasonings to liquid. Combine celery and shrimp. Divide shrimp/celery mixture among individual gelatin molds that have been lightly sprayed with cooking spray.
Pour tomato mixture over the shrimp/celery mixture and place in refrigerator to set.
Unmold and serve over bed of lettuce and garnish with mayonnaise if desired.
2 cups vanilla wafers (crushed)
1 melted stick of butter
Mix together in 9×13 dish
1 cup powdered sugar
2 cups cool whip
8 oz. Package cream cheese
Mix together and put on top of 1st layer
¾ cup lemon juice
2 egg yolks
2 cans condensed milk
Mix, and put on top of second layer
Top with remaining cool whip.