This is how I feel when I go back home to Louisiana and sit down to eat for the first time.
It’s Friday and during Lent, that usually means fish is on the menu.
Tonight’s kitchen adventure features a little Cajun ingenuity and catfish.
While boxed spice mixes for gumbo, jambalaya and etouffee are easy to find outside the South, they come up short when it comes to flavor, texture and authenticity.
One dark and stormy night, it was time for dinner and we were without a plan. And hungry.
My husband and resident kitchen whiz dove into our stockpile of Cajun dry goods (yes, we have a shelf devoted to this).
He combined boxes of gumbo base, etouffee mix and red beans seasoning mix along with the Cajun holy trinity of fresh onion, bell pepper and celery. A ham hock and a couple bags of beans later, and we had a savory, authentic pot of red beans and rice. Sometimes you just have to use what you have to your advantage.
Tonight, we will make another attempt at combining store-bought Cajun favorites.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, catfish GumboJambaToufee. Or Gumbatouffee. Or Jambotoufee. Etougumbalaya?
You work on the name, I’ll work on the recipe.
Stay tuned to find out how it turns out and the full recipe!
There I was, standing in the checkout line at WalMart in Bend, OR.
I looked like a Creole doomsday prepper with a grocery cart full of canned goods; mostly black-eyed peas and French cut green beans. I live in the sticks. When you live way out of town, you have to stock up on certain necessities – my household is never without black-eyed peas.
Two checkout lanes over to my left, I saw a woman about my age. In her cart, I spotted a MiracleGro package that said, clear as day, “SPANISH MOSS.”
My heart stopped.
My thoughts began to swirl:
She must be from the South.
Only someone who is desperately homesick for the South would try to grow Spanish moss in this high desert climate. Maybe I should try it in my garden this year.
She looks really happy and smiley. And she’s curled her hair and wearing a lot of eyeliner. Yep. Definitely a Southerner.
She probably just moved here from South Carolina and misses home.
Hmmm. She might not be very bright if she plans on hanging Spanish moss from Ponderosa pines. I won’t hold that against her. We do silly things sometimes when we miss home.
And boy, do we.
I heaved my cart full of canned goods out of line and pushed it over to the woman.
“Excuse me, miss?” I said.
She interpreted my salutation as a request to get out of my way. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said as she began to wheel her cart backwards.
“I am just wondering… Are you trying to grow Spanish moss here?” I asked.
She worked for a daycare and this week’s craft project was constructing fairy houses. Apparently, fairies have roofs made of Spanish moss. They must be Southern, too.
“Oh,” I said.
I retreated back to my checkout lane.
It’s true – we do silly things sometimes when we miss home, like approach strangers in WalMart. But in my defense, in the South, asking a complete stranger about their gardening plans is perfectly acceptable. Southerners go on living like they are in the South, even if they’re not.
My attempt to find a kindred Southerner may have been thwarted, but it won’t stop me from being just as friendly in the future. It also won’t deter me from possibly building some small, Spanish moss-covered houses to attract Southern fairies.