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The Dart: Chef Byrd gets wish

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Mary Sproulls Byrd divides up a tray of her homemade cinnamon rolls Friday afternoon at her home on Kennedy Drive. “My dream is to open a bakery downtown,” Byrd said.

NATCHEZ — Mary Sproulls Byrd always wanted The Dart to land on her house when she was cooking cinnamon rolls.

Though it wasn’t cinnamon rolls in the oven Thursday, Byrd’s Kennedy Drive house certinaly smelled good. The chef was preparing corn bread for her husband, James — and several other guests.

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Mary Sproulls Byrd, far right, talks to her granddaughter Carleigh Sproulls, center right, and her friends from the neighborhood Tytianna Carter, from left, Briana Chester and Eboni Trevillion as Byrd cooks dinner in her home Thursday evening. The girls all call her Nana or Suga Baker.

Her granddaughter, Carleigh Sproulls, along with friends Briana Chester, Tytianna Carter and Eboni Trevillion, were on-hand to help eat Byrd’s cooking.

“Every time they leave school, they come here,” Byrd said. “I can’t send them away.”

The group has been spending their after-school evenings at her house for quite some time, Byrd said. At some point, Bryd said she might start giving them the recipes.

“They’ve been trying to get me to write a recipe book, and I said I would do it around Christmas,” Byrd said.

Byrd admitted that there’s a little hesitation in handing out her secrets, but she also said the recipes would be nice commodities for people who prefer a personal touch instead of what’s bought in the store. Case in point: her homemade lemon extract.

“It takes about two weeks to make, but it’s better than the ones in the store,” Byrd said. “It tastes more pure. It’s not as watered down.”

Chester, an 11th grader, said she’s been babysitting Carleigh and Trevillion, both fifth graders, ever since the girls were 3. That’s when she got hooked on Byrd’s cooking.

“This is the grandma that everyone wants,” Chester said. “The food is all wrapped up and ready.”

As far as helping with the cooking, Chester said she prefers to let Byrd do her own thing.

“I help her eat it,” Chester said. “That’s part of the process. She can’t eat all of this herself.”

Byrd’s cakes are the favorites of both Chester and Carter. In Trevillion’s case, it’s the sweet potato pie.

“It tastes the same as my grandma’s, but my grandma also makes the best,” Trevillion said.

Carleigh, meanwhile, has her sights set on her grandmother’s cinnamon rolls.

“I’ve been eating them since I was born,” Carleigh said.

Byrd said she doesn’t want to limit the enjoyment of her food to a select few. One day, Byrd said she hopes to open a bakery, and she feels inspired by memories of going to a certain bakery as a child.

“There used to be a little restaurant behind National Furniture Company that made cinnamon rolls, and I remember them being delicious when I was a little girl,” Byrd said.

“It’s been my dream to open up something like that again in the same little spot. I haven’t given up on it yet.”

If it’s not the pleasant aroma that stands out when you walk into Byrd’s house, it’s probably the number of Christmas trees during the holiday season. While most families have one tree, Byrd said she likes to decorate her house as much as possible.

“I usually do four Christmas trees, but I’m only doing two this year,” Byrd said. “I’m still decorating them.”