Rouxvana: Eliza Mae’s Seafood Gumbo

Today the temperature dropped quickly here in Manhattan, and I hear that the Coonasses down home in Louisiana are also experiencing a cold snap. Which can only mean one thing for them and me: Gumbo. So today I’m channeling all those fine Coonasses down there to write this blog post on Eliza Mae’s (my long-departed momma’s)…

Cakeover: Josephine Gonzales Andrews’ Church Lady Cajun Cake

This isn’t really a “Cakeover” story per se (where I take a vintage recipe from the 1950s, 1960s, or 1970s and update it). No, this recipe is the original, as submitted to me by my old home-state friend (and peer reviewer* for my upcoming book) Valerie Andrews. Valerie was reminded of this recipe from her…

Poetry at the Filling Station

In my senior year at LSU, I wrote this poem while sitting in my bullet-proof cashier’s booth at the ECOL filling station on College Drive in Baton Rouge. We sold only fuel, engine oil, cigarettes, and lighters. I had the brutal 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift. When my roommate Colleen discovered the poem in…

How’s this for a book jacket blurb?

In April, when I converted my old newsletter (Parenthetically Speaking) into this blog, I announced that the University Press of Mississippi (UPM) will be publishing my memoir next year. At the time, the title of my book was “The Canasta Summers – Memoirs of a Cajun Boy.” This was the only title I’ve ever considered…

The Maid turns 100!

My Eunice Junior and then Senior High School chum Marc Andrepont passed this excellent article on to me this morning, so I figured you’d want to be in the know as well (these things are important!) Interesting tidbits of history about my family’s favorite white bread. M © All Rights Reserved

My First Crush: Ramada Man

I loved his long green coat, his black top hat, white gloves and matching stockings, and those red knickerbockers of his made me swoon. The 12-year-old me was so inspired by his golden waistcoat that I couldn’t wait to get one of my own. (The grownup me now has a collection of about 10 or…

A Toast to Toast!

If you know me, you already know about my love affair with toast. This romance started for me as a child in Louisiana. We had toast, not so much for breakfast – although occasionally it was part of breakfast (or it became French Toast) – but instead for after-school snacking, accompanied by coffee-milk (a glass…

New Orleans: A fête for the nostrils

Whether I’m writing about the Cajun towns of my youth (Eunice and Ville Platte) or the cities I’ve lived in since (Baton Rouge, Lafayette, New Orleans, Brussels, London, Warsaw, New York), I find that the best way to get to the true essence of a place is to describe how it smells. Exhibit A: New…

What’s in Your Closet?

At Christmastime and birthdays, Gilda had a knack for picking the best games for her presents. If someone else had, by sheer luck, asked for a game that turned out to be amazing, she found a way to acquire it. Accordingly, she wound up as the proprietor of Monopoly, Masterpiece, The Thing Machine, Freight Factory,…

Great Depression Bouillie au Lait

In our house in Eunice, Louisiana, in the 1960s and ’70s, bouillie au lait (milk custard) was a comfort food. We pronounced it “B-yo-ly,” and sometimes ate it for breakfast or as an after-school snack. In Momma’s childhood home in Ville Platte during the Great Depression, bouillie au lait was survival food. It was affordable…

It’s cher, y’all, not ‘sha’.

Even though French is the language associated with Louisiana’s Cajuns, many modern-day Cajuns (myself included) did not fully learn the language until they were exposed to it formally in junior high and/or high school. For me, it was in “Madame” Connie Larson’s French classes at Eunice High School where I finally learned how to read…

Daddy’s Paper Bag Fries

Like most Cajun men, Daddy cooked. If I had to guess, I’d say barbecuing was his favorite way to demonstrate that. He never fired up his pit (a re-purposed 55-gallon oil drum) without planning to cook at least two meats, and most often, three or four: chicken, pork chops, steaks, andouille sausage were the most…

Mémère’s Swamp Cooler

Our Earth seems hotter these days than it was in my childhood in the ’60s and early ’70s. With a humming attic fan (which scared the hell out of my pre-teen self because it looked like it would be a perfect hiding place for a big “tie-tie,” the Cajun term for monster) and a little…

Louisiana Butter Pecan Cake

Standing on her feet all day at Eliza’s Beauty Shop in Eunice, Momma never had time for magazine-reading, but she sure did subscribe to a lot of periodicals for the ladies who sat in her hydraulic chair. She got Ladies’ Home Journal, Better Homes and Gardens, Women’s Day, McCall’s, Redbook, Reader’s Digest, and a few…