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Wylie's homemade ziti beef and macaroni with spaghetti sauce is a favorite among inmates at the Kennesaw jail.
JASON GETZ/ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
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By Janel Davis
ATLANTA--Going to jail is usually not a good experience. And the food--generally depicted in movies and television as lumps of mush shoveled out three times a day--has a reputation for being even worse.
Except in Kennesaw, Ga.
There, cook Nannie Wylie, or "Ms. Ann" as she's affectionately called, has cooked homemade meals for inmates for more than 20 years. And she has no intention of slowing down.
Rumor has it that wrongdoers in other parts of the county have requested lockup in Kennesaw just to get a taste of Ms. Ann's cooking.
"I try to fix for them food that I like and that I like to cook, and that they like, too," said Ms. Ann, who turned 80 in January.
For Ms. Ann, who went to high school with Elvis Presley, traveled the country opening restaurants and befriended Jerry Lee Lewis, life has been "interesting." The Olive Branch, Miss., native got her culinary start at age 17 cooking for a Memphis-area Walgreens drugstore.
She filled in one night for a sick cook, managed to successfully feed hundreds of visiting servicemen from a nearby naval base with just her eventual husband and a busboy for help, and the rest is history.
Ms. Ann soon left her home just outside Memphis and was selected, along with the soon-to-be husband, to open Walgreens restaurants throughout the country, including a restaurant in Atlanta.
Later, when the store-restaurant model changed and her husband became ill, Ms. Ann settled down and found the more stable position at the Kennesaw jail.
"I have a hard time saying 'no' to her cooking because it will fatten you up," said city police Chief Bill Westenberger. "It's definitely the old-style way of cooking. She's got jokes about how much butter she uses."
That old-style way has seen her through decades of cooking for crowds, from her restaurant days when she would cook as many as 50 strawberry pies in a single day to early years with the city when she cooked all three meals not only for inmates, but also for city police and the jail staff.