Nura Turner

Nura Turner, a friend of former Iowa farmer Bill O’Riley, who now spends his winters in Arizona, displays her Banana Nut Bread.

There are more than a few retired Midwest farmers who spend their winters or their entire year in places like Arizona or Florida. And that means there are plenty of good snow country cooks who end up in the sunny part of the country.

Bill O’Riley, a retired businessman and farmer from Iowa, is a fan of a few of those Midwestern transplants in his winter home of Arizona.

His list of great snowbird cooks includes Nura Turner.

“She is a world-class cook,” O’Riley says.

Turner, for her part, shrugs off the compliment. But she does admit to a love for cooking.

Turner grew up the daughter of a doctor in Indiana. She went on to become a pharmacist and later retired and dedicated herself to gardening and cooking, especially baking. Her love for cooking came partially from family and from growing up in the Midwest.

“I grew up in Amish and Mennonite country,” she says. “I had a mother who was an outstanding cook … and my grandmother Turner was a baker. My father always said that she couldn’t cook, but she could really bake.”

Still, there was more to it than good cooks in the family. There was also a good cook on television before that was a normal thing to see.

“I read the book on Julia Child and it inspired me,” Turner says.

She says that Julia Child’s influence can be seen in her baking and cooking. For example, she loves using fresh herbs in her cooking, something Child always stressed. She also has an affinity for French cuisine, and Child became famous for the French cookbook she helped write.

Some of that means recipes which require a bit more preparation, Turner said. And part of that can be seen in the simple idea that pastries are important. Anyone who has been to France would know that there are bakeries everywhere, Turner says.

Of course, the Midwestern cooking is mixed in with that French influence for her. For example, Turner loves to make pies. O’Riley even says that she is guilty of “death by pie,” stuffing guests with her practice pastries. The same can be said for her cookies, he adds.

There are no real secrets to good baking, Turner says, other than to practice and to pay attention to detail. For example, every oven is different. Some may be hotter than others. That can make a difference in how long to bake a dish.

She says being a baker in a retirement community isn’t a bad thing. It means there are always willing guests for any dinner party.

Know a good cook? Email us at or call 800-475-6655.

Gene Lucht is public affairs editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.