At 93, Coward doesn’t need recipes

At 93, Coward doesn’t need recipes


Bettye Coward grew up on a farm and learned to cook with what she could find and has never relied on recipes.

Coward, 93, grew up in Neshoba County while cooking and working in the fields of their family farm. Her mother started teaching her how to cook when she was 10.

“When I was growing up, we lived on a farm,” Coward said. “If you cooked, you could stay out of the field more so I would help with the milking and be part of the cooking. I still had to go out on the field, but not as much.”

Coward recalled her mother teaching her to cook dishes over a wood stove and fireplace, and how everything she made was from scratch with no recipes to follow. She will occasionally use recipes for certain dishes like her tea cakes, but most of what she cooks is made through improvisation.

“I am an improv cook, and just like my mother, I do not use recipes,” Coward said. “I learned to cook with what I had. My mother is part of a long line of good cooks, that I come from.”

Coward said she loved cooking sweets when her family could get sugar for it. Her favorite sweet dish to make was tea cakes, something she still enjoys making today.

Even at 93 years old, Coward still cooks often and always prepares dishes for family gatherings such as Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthdays. Her family reunions are always enormous, as they involve her husband Olyn Coward, their three children, six grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren with a set of twins on the way.

Coward’s favorite part of cooking is seeing people enjoy her food since she prides herself on her cooking.

“I’m not a fancy cook. I cook basic things,” Coward said.  “I love to fry pies and I have a famous strawberry cake that everyone in the family loves and wants. I like to make chicken and dressing, and ham and egg pie, one of my big dishes. I also plan to keep cooking as long as I can and I want to teach Lucy, my great-great-granddaughter, who is 6 years old.”

Outside of cooking, Coward and her husband enjoy going to Mississippi State women’s basketball games, and they are season ticket holders. They are enjoying retirement in Philadelphia.


2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 large egg

½ cup vegetable oil

One stick of softened butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients together. Roll into small balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatter the dough balls with the palm of your hand. Bake at 350 degrees until edges start to brown.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and melt two sticks of butter in a 9 x 13 baking dish.


1 ½ cups of sugar

1 ½ cups self-rising flour

¾ cup of sweet milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix ingredients and pour over melted butter in the baking dish. Do not stir.

Now mix one cup of sugar and five tablespoons of cocoa and sprinkle over the mixture in the baking dish. Gently pour two cups of boiling water over the mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes until done.



1 stick of Oleo

2 cups of sugar

2 tablespoons of flour

2 tablespoons of cornmeal

4 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons of vanilla

One small can of crushed pineapple, drained

½ cup of flaked coconut

One unbaked pie shell

Cream together the oleo and sugar. Add flour, cornmeal, eggs, and vanilla. 

Add pineapple and coconut. Pour into unbaked pie crust. Bake for around 40 to 45 minutes. 

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