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Rural cook enjoys making food to share for community

Rural cook enjoys making food to share for community

Janet Ragan with pies

Janet Ragan, of Rolla, Mo., enjoys cooking food for people in her community, whether it is older people who can’t get out much or people dealing with a family illness. 

ROLLA, Mo. — On a winter Sunday afternoon, Janet Ragan was out doing what she loves to do, delivering her homemade food to people in her community.

She takes food to people who could use a good meal, whether it is for older people who can’t get out much or people dealing with a family illness or other challenges.

“Food really unites us,” Ragan says. “It’s a great way to say, ‘I love you and I’m thinking about you.’”

It has been a feel-good endeavor for Ragan, a retired nurse. She delivers food in Rolla and in the surrounding rural communities.

“It’s just really rewarding to cook double or triple what I would cook for my husband and family,” she says. “… I love seeing the joy that brings people.”

Janet delivers

Ragan developed her love of cooking while in nursing school at Lincoln University in Jefferson City. She enjoyed learning new cooking styles and ideas, and her interest grew from there.

“That kind of just blossomed,” she says.

She cooks a variety of things, but her dishes influenced by her rural background are particularly popular with people she cooks for.

“It’s down-home country flavors that carry on the traditions of things people cooked for their family,” Ragan says.

She says things like pot roast bring back memories of Sunday dinners with family and holiday gatherings.

Ragan is also known for her shrimp dishes and Chinese dishes. She likes to try new things.

“It’s multifaceted,” she says of her cooking style. “I enjoy an abundance of experimenting.”

Ragan says her approach is to “never stop learning,” and cooking is a creative outlet for her.

“I enjoy the creativity,” she says. “I’m an artist. Food, just by trading a few simple ingredients, can be a completely different result.”

She also enjoys how the kindness of preparing food for people can be passed along.

“The best thing is when people say, ‘That inspired me to do the same thing for someone else,” Ragan says.

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Ben Herrold is Missouri field editor, writing for Missouri Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.

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