One my first stops on the road for SoulCreole: The Cookbook was Houston, Texas, by invitation of my sorority sister, Tracy, and relatives and friends of hers that have become friends of mine. As we all laughed and talked late into the night, one theme was clear: you can take the woman out of Louisiana, but you can’t take Louisiana out of the woman.
We set up shop in the home of Tracy’s wonderful Aunt Gail, who graced us with a delicious, down-home meal of potatoes with sausage, fried chicken and cucumber salad.
Louisiana cooking has been so mythologized by the mainstream that most folks think we eat “glamorous” dishes such as gumbo, crawfish bisque and jambalaya every day of the week. Truth be told, many fond memories of south Louisiana family meals are made of simple things – potatoes with sausage, fried garfish on Lenten Fridays, ground beef with gravy over rice, or wild game.
Tracy and her aunt, Gail’s daughter, Jay, and Tracy’s good friend, Latonia, enthralled me with stories that mirrored my own: kitchens that included Magnalite cookware of every size; children not being allowed “in the pots” to fix their own plates; calf and hog butchering that included the whole community; gathering eggs, pecans, figs and satsumas; extended family raised together under one roof; family members lost in hurricanes long before Katrina; and, family tragedies that still cast long shadows.
Perhaps more compelling than the stories, however, was that comforting and familiar feeling of being with other black women, cooking and fellowshipping around the kitchen table. It’s moments like these – eating, drinking, laughing and sharing – that have gotten so many African American women through tough times. Somehow we know that we can survive and thrive against all odds as long as we have each other.
By the end of the night and into the wee hours of the morning, we had gone through dinner, drinks and even pralines made on a whim. Latonia, fittingly, had procured a delicious local liqueur made at a small distillery in Lacassine, LA. For so many of us from “The Boot”, Houston (or any other place) might be where we live, but Louisiana will always be home.