Home Cooking with Knox & Marsha White
GREENVILLE. Propped against the countertop in her Verdae home, Marsha White looks every bit the elegant wife of Greenville’s longtime mayor. But don’t be fooled—she can get her hands dirty in the kitchen. “I love a good ol’ hambone,” she tells me. “We’re just country people. We just cook.”
Marsha’s specialties include tomato pie (her husband Knox nods his assent, eyebrows raised), smoked salmon and sweet potato soufflé. A true southerner and child of the PeeDee, she loves cooking collards, turnips, beets and rutabagas. And although she prefers fresh food, she frequently prepares quarts of soup to stash in the freezer for quick, healthy meals. She cooks at home because she wants to know what’s going in her food and where it came from.
I feel right at home here, where a dish of peppermint sticks complements the red amaryllis blooming in the center of Marsha’s kitchen island. Elegant, hand-painted portraits of her children, now moved away, hang above the dining table. Her kitchen boasts a wall full of cookbooks, including Junior League anthologies and plenty of Barefoot Contessa. Her favorite? “I really think you can’t beat a church cookbook, quite frankly.”
Marsha’s top priority is health, and her active lifestyle complements her thoughtful cooking. She can create some impressive dishes, but her interest in cooking is largely practical. As a volunteer for Project Host, Marsha teaches students at the CC Pearce Culinary School how to cook using whatever food comes in from local organization Loaves and Fishes. And Knox tells me how much he appreciates his wife’s ability to improvise at home as well. “Everything she puts together is good,” he says. Project Host’s cooking instructor Tobin Simpson is among Marsha’s greatest cooking influences. Like Marsha, he combines the practical and creative aspects of cooking into a sustainable process that not only rewards and inspires but also keeps families fed.
Today Marsha is making another of her husband’s favorites: beef stroganoff. It is classic food, rich and comforting on this winter day. “You guys want a taste?” I thought she’d never ask. We scoop egg noodles into the center of the Whites’ china, steam rising. It is cold outside, and the kitchen smells of onion, and we are all silent as we eat.