Here’s another gumbo recipe that Louisiana folks can argue about. More importantly, most non-Louisiana folks should be able to pull off.
I’ve written extensively about gumbo on this blog and elsewhere, so much so that I get tired just thinking about linking to the other pieces — and the arguments that usually ensue. There’s always some joker from Texas, or New Orleans, or North Louisiana — or even better, who has never set foot in Louisiana, but his grandma was from there — who’s gonna stroll in and tell you all about how wrong you are. “IF IT AIN’T GOT OKRA IT’S NOT GUMBO.” Nope. You’re wrong. Get out of my face. Or some fellow Cajun food snob will pop in with, “Mais, you gotta make you own roux, cher, or it don’t count no.” Mais, I’m here to tell you, you couldn’t tell the difference in a blind taste test. (The point is, people like to argue about food. Also, Cajun gumbo is different fro Creole gumbo is different from New Orleans gumbo.)
Anyway, my longtime friend Toby Dore, aka The Cajun Traveler and proprietor of the Cajun Hostel, has just posted his Chicken & Sausage Gumbo recipe. I’ll let you in on a little secret: When I moved from my basic gumbo recipe toward my advance recipe, it was after watching Toby cook a massive gumbo for one of his annual Christmas parties. I swiped a few steps from him. Clearly, he knows what he’s doing. And he makes a particularly bold old-school choice with one ingredient.
The good thing about this recipe is that it should be easy enough for most non-Louisianans to master and create an authentic Cajun gumbo in their own home. Just don’t skimp on the sausage!
The last time I barbecued a brisket in New York, I spent $100 or more for what was once considered an inexpensive hunk of meat. Last week, I spent $30 on a brisket at Walmart. It turned out to be one of the best I’ve barbecued to date.
This was to be my first barbecue in Colorado, the first time I had people over, and it was all for the LSU-Alabama game. The game went about as I expected. Thankfully, the meat — brisket, ribs, and chicken — did too, despite a lot of worrying about barbecuing at altitude with variable weather conditions.
I guess I’m on a Halloween theme this week. Someone should alert Collin Nissan because this post is all about Glow at the Gardens, an even highlighting pumpkin carving and more at the Denver Botanic Gardens. After all, we know what season it really is.
Note: My smart-ass comment about tiny houses in yesterday’s post prompted a great comment from my stepsister, which in turn led me to write this. Not quite what she was asking for, but I like it.
HAUNTED TINY HOUSE
EXTERIOR – NIGHT: A dark, cloudy moonless night. The wind whips through the trees surrounding a clearing. In the clearing sits what looks like a child’s playhouse.
INTERIOR – NIGHT: We’re inside of a tiny house, 8 x 10 if that. We enter through the door and into a kitchen/living area, with a tiny fridge and a tiny stove and a tiny table. The camera tracks left and up a tiny ladder to a tiny loft where a white hipster couple — CLEMENTINE and DJANGO — sleep. Clementine has dark black hair cut into a bob. Django has red shaggy hair and a giant beard. Both have multiple piercings and tattoos.
A LOUD BANG IS HEARD — awakening the CLEMENTINE, who sits up too fast and bangs her head into the ceiling.
Cara and I have been watching “The Haunting of Hill House.” It’s not for the faint of the heart. In fact, if anyone says he isn’t afraid of the movie, that person is already dead inside and should be reported to either the Ghostbusters or Van Helsing.
The point is, it’s a creepy show and within one episode you’ll be checking under your bed, wishing you didn’t have a basement, and contemplating a move into a newly built tiny house where you can be 100% sure that no one has ever died and where ghosts couldn’t fit (and, besides, ghosts wouldn’t be caught dead in a tiny house because tiny houses are just a hideous expression of hipster privilege and virtue signaling and if you wanted to actually save money and downsize you could have just bought a trailer).
Friday morning. About three weeks after moving to Colorado. I’d accumulated a bill and a pay stub and the other forms of identification I needed to get a Colorado driver’s license. So I woke up bright and early with the intent of getting to the DMV in Boulder the minute it opened at 7 a.m.
But alas, life happens. I got a little bit of a late start. I let the dogs hang out in the yard a little longer than I’d planned — I’m a sucker for what the dogs want. I didn’t get to the DMV until 7:30.
In South Louisiana, the Cajun French word for godfather is parrain. Good luck pronouncing that correctly. It’s one of the few Cajun French words I know that isn’t a curse word. Parrain.
Last night my parrain died. Charles Wheaton. My daddy’s younger brother.
I saw him last year at my brother Daniel’s wedding. But the last time I had any kind of extended conversation with him was a few years ago, in Opelousas. I’d swung by the group home where he was still working at the time, before the state of Louisiana decided that taking care of adults with developmental disabilities wasn’t worth its time or money. Uncle Charles had some choice words about that.
But what we actually talked about that day, and what sticks with me, was my first novel. The one about the priest. He told me he got a kick out of the book, that he loved it. And let me tell you, that’s going to go down as one of the proudest achievements in my writing career. Because Uncle Charles was the storyteller of the family. I might be able to write a story or two, but Uncle Charles could start talking and the whole house would fall silent. Only for a minute or two, though, because it wasn’t long before people were practically falling off of furniture from laughing so hard.
I seem to remember his stories starting with, “Hey, yall remember that old boy.” His stories were often about some old boy. Back in the day. That did something that was hilariously unspeakable. I remember at least one that involved a horny farm boy, an unwilling animal, and a load of one party’s excrement dropped into the other’s pants. Uncle Charles didn’t worry much about mixed company. And he often seemed to delight in making pearl-clutchers clutch their pearls just a little bit harder.
As the first two plates of chopped and sliced pork were placed on the table in front of us, accompanied by sides of Ore-Ida-looking French fries and an entire basket of hush puppies, my first thought was, “I hope I can handle a whole week of Carolina barbecue.”
My son Nick and I were at Lexington Barbecue in Lexington, North Carolina, the first stop on one of our somewhat annual barbecue tours. Our first trip, the Barrage of Brisket Tour back in 2013, took us to the Austin area, where we made five stops. The next tour was 2015’s Madness in Memphis , where we hit six barbecue places (and one fried chicken joint). In 2016, it was Kicking It in Kansas, for seven stops.
That last name is pretty damn awful, and I admit I’m retroactively naming some of these because I dubbed this year’s trip The Meat Sweats Tour.