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Cajun Classics: “Talk About Good” Book

By Gini Rainey

When life seems to get a bit overwhelming, it’s great to know that, number one – you are missed, and number two – someone who misses you has your back.  So today’s blog entry was written by someone who prefers to be identified only as “Guest Writer.”  So, kudos and deeply felt appreciation to you, my dear Guest!

I’m not from Louisiana, myself – I lived in Shreveport for a few years when I was younger, but when you say that to someone who lives south of Alexandria, you’re met with a look that’s halfway between pity and their Resting B!tch Face.  So I can’t claim any Louisiana heritage.

But while living in that northern outpost of Louisiana culture, I discovered that my ‘foodie’ friends all used the same few cookbooks.  One of these was “Talk About Good,” one of THE classic guides to Louisiana cuisine.  First assembled and published in 1967 by the members of The Junior League of Lafayette, Louisiana as a fundraiser for the organization’s social work, “Talk About Good” has sold almost 900,000 copies in more than 30 editions.  Mine is the 24th edition that I bought in 2004 as a replacement to my old one, which was lost in a move.*

According to the Lafayette Junior League’s website, all the original recipes are still in the book, with no additions or changes over time.  I’ve heard the rumor several times that there’s a recipe in the book that calls for a full cup of salt, but I haven’t found it yet.

I’m sure that most of us or our mothers have contributed recipes to a fundraising cookbook.  The ladies of the Junior League contributed their families’ treasured recipes for seafood, wild game, gumbo, and desserts.  More than 1200 recipes cover the spectrum of Cajun family and party cooking.  Exotic-sounding recipes, such as Poule a lá Bonne Femme, share the page with more pedestrian fare like Chicken and Spaghetti.

As one would imagine, classic Cajun game and fish recipes are well represented here – there are 11 different recipes for gumbo (I suppose that the original editors didn’t want to get in the middle of that one), as well as several methods for cooking doves, ducks, and venison.  Tired of your shrimp recipe?  There are more than 35 here.  Surely you’ll find something that tempts you!

The editors don’t leave the reader completely on their own when it comes to the proper technique for Cajun cooking.  There are excellent instructions and recipes for a variety of Cajun and French stocks, sauces, and bases, including complete instructions for making roux, the smoky, bittersweet base for so many soups and casseroles.  You have the feeling that your aunt is standing next to you, dictating the instructions as the recipe starts: “A heavy pot is a must to make a pretty roux. The heavier the pot, the easier your job will be.”

I always found it interesting that the first section in the book isn’t “Breads” or “Salads” but rather “Mardi Gras.”  I suppose when your cookbook gets to have a section on Mardi Gras, you put it right up front!  What’s in the Mardi Gras section?  “Rum Coffee” of course, along with lots of hors-d’oeuvres, party dips, “Champaign Punch for 100,” and everyone’s favorite, The Liverwurst Ball.  I must say that I haven’t tried much out of this section!

Although many of the recipes reflect what was popular in the 1960s, when the cookbook was assembled, the depth of game and seafood sections alone make this cookbook a valuable reference in anyone’s collection.

I’ll leave you with one of my family’s favorites, “Seafood and Wild Rice” casserole, which was contributed by Mrs. Frank Rippy.

Seafood and Wild Rice

1/2 cup white rice
1/w cup wild rice
1/2 lb peeled shrimp
1/2 lb crabmeat (may be fresh, canned, or frozen)
1 small jar of chopped pimento
1 small can mushrooms (I substitute fresh)
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
½ Bell Pepper, chopped into pea-sized pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp slivered almonds
1 cup chopped celery
butter

Mix the rices together and prepare according to package directions for the wild rice.   Saute onions, celery, and pepper in butter.  Add to cooked rice along with shrimp, crab, pimento, and mushrooms.  Put into a greased casserole pan, spoon soup over top.  Cover and bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees.  Uncover for the last 10 minutes and sprinkle almonds on top.  Serves 5-6.

Try it and discover Cajun cooking for yourself!

*My mom, who would know, always said that three moves equals one fire.

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Books

BOOK REVIEW: Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

By Gini Rainey

Imagine, if you will, a shack in the middle of the backwater marshes of the Atlantic Ocean in North Carolina.  The setting is as raw as the story that Owens tells about the abandonment and coming-of-age of young Kya.

Left behind by her entire family at the age of six, Kya learns more about life and survival in a short time than most people learn in a lifetime.

Ms. Owens’, no stranger to the publishing community having several books in print, paints a world full of wonder and discovery as Kya explores the beauty of nature around her as she struggles to stay alive.

Living on the edge of a community that neither helps her nor understands her, she grows into a beautiful, highly intelligent young woman with the help of a young boy who was a friend of her brothers.

Expertly building characters you will come to either love or despise, Ms. Owens laces Where the Crawdads Sing with a hint of physical abuse, romance, and murder.

Owens has created a book that has everything necessary to keep the reader turning the pages to the surprise ending.

5 of 5 – Copyright 2018 – G. P. Putnam’s Sons

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Book Review: “The Orphan’s Tale” by Pam Jenoff

“The Orphan’s Tale” by Pam Jenoff

by Gini Rainey

Note to Self: when times are different and strangely sad, as the Shelter In Place time for COVID-19 has been, it’s not very smart to read a book that is filled with sadness and desperation.  That’s how I felt while reading this book.  While it was a very interesting and well-written book, I found I could only manage a chapter or two at a time.  It wasn’t until I was well into it that I realized that it was not necessarily the isolation from SIP that was depressing me, but rather, it was quite possibly a combination of COVID and this book.

Set against the backdrop of a small traveling circus in western Europe during World War II, The Orphan’s Tale is rich with all the pain and angst you might imagine from that time.  While going back and forth between the perspectives of Astrid, the Jewish star trapeze artist who had been married to a Nazi officer, and her apprentice Noa, a Dutch girl who was turned out of her home when she became pregnant with the baby of a German soldier, Jenoff weaves a gritty tale so intriguing and earthy that you will be able to hear the cries of the baby and smell the sawdust of the Big Top.

Jenoff manages to, not only touch on the character’s intensity of feelings but also to touch parts of my mind and soul that I found myself completely absorbed by their feelings, too.  This is definitely a book well worth the read.

5 of 5 – Copyright 2017 – MIRA Books

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When Spirits Run Wild

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By Gini Rainey

We are now into the ninth day of our Stay-At-Home Order and it doesn’t get any easier, folks. One thing I’ve determined though is that our house isn’t haunted, which is different from my business’s office, located in a 1945-vintage, one-time fire station for the city of Tyler. The previous owner, my former boss, bought the building in 1985 and renovated it, turning it into a car dealership. Unfortunately, the ghost didn’t get the memo. 

That boss, Jim, is an avid collector of all things baseball and fireman/fire station related and the office was pretty much a mini-museum with a ton of collectible of battery-operated trucks and cars. It wasn’t unusual for a lot of them to become activated on their own and that’s not even talking about the things that would go bump in the night. I can hear you skeptics out there right now shaking your heads and saying “no way!” But there came that day when we couldn’t take it anymore and went through all of the offices and removed all the batteries from all of the toys.  Guess what? Those ghosts didn’t need no stinking batteries! The sirens kept on going off! 

All of that changed – or so we thought – when my business partner and I bought the dealership from Jim and Jim and all of the toys moved out. Things were nice and quiet for a while until we noticed that the ceiling fan/light in Jim’s old office would turn on and off at will. We would notice it on – fan blowing full bore – turn it off – leave the room and come back later and it would be back on again.  Interesting folks, those dead firemen, so we just learned to live with them. But I was just thinking, ever since my business partner got a dog and started bringing him to work with him, the strange stuff has stopped happening. 

Which brings me to a very interesting and unique book “Beyond Delicious: The Ghost Whisperer’s Cookbook” written by Mary Ann Winkowski and David Powers and published by Clerisy Press in 2011. Ms. Winkowski, a paranormal investigator, has received some notoriety through her connection with CBS’s Ghost Whisperer and has met and conversed with hundreds of earthbound spirits. Her book is the result of several conversations with spirits in reference to, believe it or not, recipes given to her from those spirits. Whether or not you believe in the paranormal, this book is great reading and is half recipes and half the background behind the recipes. I promise, they will make your paranormal senses tingle! 

One such recipe for Cauliflower Soup was corrected from the afterlife by the spirit who had hand-stitched it on a set of kitchen towels while living. A lady had purchased them at a farmhouse estate sale and had contacted the author about some paranormal activity. While talking with the spirit, Ms. Winkowski learned she had not crossed over because she wanted to correct an error in the recipe for the Cauliflower Soup.  One of the ingredients was 2-3 eggs, but the spirit wanted the new owner to know it was supposed to read 2-3 egg yolks 

For a spirit-filled meal, here’s that recipe: Cook 1 medium cauliflower in salted boiling water until tender and reserve 6-8 flowerets. Then mash the rest, combine with 6 cups hot chicken stock and thicken with 1 tablespoon of flour and 1 tablespoon butter that’s been stirred into a paste and diluted until smooth. Let simmer and beat 2-3 egg yolks with 1/2 cup cream and add to the cauliflower mixture a little at a time, stirring constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with the reserved flowerets and croutons and chives. 

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