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Cajun Classics: “Talk About Good” Book

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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

Black History Month: Lectures & Author’s Forum Feb. 18th-20th

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TJC Black History Month events feature MLK film and African American authors’ forum

Tyler Junior College will hold two informational events in honor of Black History Month.

Both events will be held in Room 1109 of Jenkins Hall, on the TJC main campus. Admission is free, and the public is invited to attend.

TJC Dialogues set Feb. 18

A TJC Dialogues event, set from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18, will feature a showing of the award-winning documentary, “The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306,” a first-hand account of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination on April 4, 1968, and the events leading up to that moment.

After the 40-minute film, TJC professor Dr. Bridget Moore will moderate a discussion. Refreshments will be served. The event is sponsored by Red Rock Historical Association and TJC.

TJC Dialogues is an occasional discussion series planned by a committee of TJC faculty and staff. It promotes tolerance, respect and understanding through civil discussion about socially pertinent topics.

TJC Distinguished Lecture Series set Feb. 20

As part of its Distinguished Lecture Series, TJC will host “African American Voices: A Writers’ Forum” will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20. A reception will follow the event.

The event will feature three authors:

The Rev. Rodney L. Atkins

The Rev. Rodney L. Atkins is founder and pastor of Victory Temple Church of God in Christ in Tyler and serves as library director of Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins. He was the first African American to be hired as a librarian for the City of Tyler and worked in that capacity for 25 years.

Throughout his life in East Texas, he has mentored youth, authored books, established observances of black culture, established Christian education institutes and celebrated U.S. military, among other projects.

A native of East St. Louis, Illinois, Atkins is a graduate of Northern Illinois University, Atlanta University and the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.

Dr. Sharon Hill Cranford

A Texas-to-Kansas transplant, Dr. Sharon Hill Cranford comes with a diverse background. After a career in mental health, diversity training and education, interspersed with singing and writing music, Cranford co-authored “Kinship Concealed: Amish-Mennonite-African-American Family Connections.”

The book came on the heels of the unexpected discovery of her Amish ancestry. She later followed up with a children’s book on the childhood of her great-great-grandfather, Charley Mast, who, as a baby, was taken from his mother and sold into slavery.

Cranford is a widowed mother of two sons and grandmother of four grandsons.

She is a graduate of Texas Woman’s University in Denton and resides in Wichita, Kansas.

Deedee Cummings

As a therapist, attorney, author and CEO of Make A Way Media, Deedee Cummings has a passion for making the world a better place.

All 11 of her diverse picture, poetry and workbooks for kids reflect he professional knowledge and love of life.

Colorful and vibrant, her children’s books are not only fun for kids and adults to read, they also work to teach coping skills, reinforce the universal message of love, encourage mindfulness and facilitate inclusion for all.

Cummings has spent more than two decades working within the family therapy and support field, and much of her writing shares her experiences of working with kids in therapeutic foster care.

Using therapeutic techniques in her stories to teach coping skills, she also strives to lessen the stigma that some people feel in seeking mental health assistance.

Cummings resides in Louisville, Kentucky.

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Books

A Little Mystery for February

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By Gini Rainey

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

An instant #1 New York Times Best Seller in 2019, this second novel by the same authors of The Wife Between Us, is a creepy, scary, psychological thriller.  Placed in Manhattan, the story centers around a young girl with a troubled past who gets sucked into an ethics study devised by a psychiatrist wanting to expose her cheating husband.

After being manipulated, lied to, and being presented with a skewed morality, the main character, Jessica, finds herself deep in a situation where the lines between the study and life become blurred and paranoia begins to sink its teeth in.

A page-turner? Oh, my, yes!  This is one book that starts off a bit slow, but gains speed the further in you get.  Easy to figure out the ending?  Not on your life.  The twists and turns the plot keeps taking will have you on the edge of your seat and not quite sure who to root for.

On my recommendation, grab a glass of wine, sit in your comfy chair, and get ready for a great literary ride through the psychosis of the deranged mind of this wife.  You will not regret it!  (you might want to bring the whole bottle of wine along for the ride!)

5 of 5 – Copyright 2019 – St. Martins Press

 

An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten

This charming little book, translated from Swedish to English by Marlaine Delargy, is a collection of five delightfully macabre short stories centering around the main character, Maud, and her dastardly deeds.  Maud is an unassuming, frail-appearing, little 88 year old lady who takes it upon herself to take out individuals who, for one reason or another, have fatally entered Maud’s life.

While taking on the persona of an innocent, helpless old woman with the help of canes, walkers, and hearing aids, Maud is anything but helpless as she cleverly plots the murder of an individual in each of the five different short stories.

This is an easy read and provides a bit of humor to those of us who know the elderly, are related to the elderly, or are the elderly!  I just wish it had been longer, I was really beginning to enjoy the conniving antics of this charming, yet dastardly, lady.

5 of 5 – Copyright 2018 – SoHo Press

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Books

Back, Again!

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By Gini Rainey

I must apologize to anyone out there who might still be interested in reading my blog! I know I’ve been away a very long time and before that I was sporadic at best, but it wasn’t my fault.  My muse just up and left me – and left to my own devices, well, you see what happens? Nothing!  Our family has been on a very bumpy ride for the past two years, beginning with my father-in-law’s failing health and death at the ripe ol’ age of 101+, followed by a rapid deterioration of my mother-in-law’s mental acuity and death this past November at two weeks short of 98.  It seems like most of my spare time was spent with many trips to their home and the support of my husband and children. 

With the ensuing dismantling of their household and sale of their home shortly before Christmas, I think we all walked away from their house totally stunned with loss.  While there were times I felt like my mother-in-law didn’t care much for me in early and middle marriage, the last year we had her, she never failed to light up and call me be my name when I came into the room or tell me that she loved me when I left. 

And even though there really wasn’t anything of hers that I really wanted (after all I’m loaded up with memories), I walked away with one of her very few cookbooks (this lady kept most of her recipes in her head) “Recipes and Remembrances,” a cookbook that was put together by First Baptist Oak Cliff, Dallas in commemoration of their Centennial Celebration.  One evening, as I was leafing through, it secretly hoping I would find something she had written in it (after all, isn’t that what makes a cookbook even more special?), I found a recipe for Microwave Peanut Brittle.  Next to the recipe she had written “Good” and had indicated “made in a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup.” 

Then when my muse showed up this morning and kicked me in the pants and told me firmly to “get over it and get on with it,” I decided that this would be an excellent cookbook with which to get back on track and this recipe might be a great thing for all of you football fans to whip up for Super Bowl Sunday! 

This recipe couldn’t be easier and who doesn’t love the crunchy goodness of peanut brittle?  It’s hard to resist ‘just one more piece’ and it’s oh so yummy!  So, to make this confection in under 15 minutes, put ½ cup white corn syrup, 1 cup sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt and 1 cup raw peanuts into a bowl (or as Martha said, “a 4cup Pyrex measuring cup”). Do not stir.  Cook on high for 4 minutes in your microwave – then stir.  Cook on high for 4 more minutes and stir again.  Add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla and stir. Cook on high for 1 minute and stir in 1 teaspoon baking soda.  Stir quickly as the soda foams; then pour onto a buttered cookie sheet.  Spread thin and let cool.  When cool, break into pieces.  Store in an airtight container and watch it magically disappear! 

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