Baiting a Trap with Crawfish Bread
I have done my share of traveling and plan to do much more, but the thought of living anywhere but here is anathema to me. When I was exiled after Katrina, a friend suggested that none of us knew where we would be living in two years I knew exactly where I would be: In my purple cottage in Uptown New Orleans surrounded by like-minded, relatively impractical people who are food and music obsessed and who, for the most part, drink too much, talk too loud, and always seem to have extra to share.
In 1984, my sister, Beth, moved to Chicago so her then-husband could accept a job as an analytical chemist and she could start her own veterinary practice. I was 16 at the time. Young, petulant, and self-absorbed, I didn’t think too much of her going. I missed her, but Chicago seemed pretty cool.
Having grown up in New Orleans, I just kind of assumed everyone, everywhere enjoyed crawfish boils, annual parades, abundant festivals, dressing as an alien from Outter Space - or whatever - whenever the urge struck, and wild men in feathered suits chanting, “Hey Pocky Way, let’s go get ’em.” Compared to my studious older sister, who paid little attention to anything beyond school, I was a street rat. I chased Mardi Gras Indians, sucked up local and punker music (and nasty Dixie longnecks) by sneaking into Tipitina’s, The Rose Tatoo, Jimmy’s, and Jed’s whenever I could and saved my pennies for music festivals and concert T-shirts and little else.
As the years have passed, like me, Beth has become all too aware that Louisiana is very different than anywhere else. Her longing to return to the place of her birth seems to intensify each time she comes for a visit. I do what I can to feed this desire and really tighten the screws. I send her local real estate tabloids, ship her big care packages of Louisiana products, and cook all of her favorite dishes whenever she comes home. I babble endlessly about music festivals, Louisiana seafood, and relatively comfortable winter temperatures (glossing over August and hurricane season).
She arrived Monday night for a 10 day stay. Why she is not staying through Mardi Gras is beyond me, something about "work." Knowing she would be customarily tired, cranky and ravenous I insisted that she drag ass over for a mishmash of assorted gumbos I had knocking around in my freezer. I dazzled Beth and her husband, Chuck, with the leftover dredges from pots of my Gumbo Z'herbes, and Chicken and Sausage gumbo, and a quart of Smoked Duck and Andouille gumbo I grabbed from Prejean's when I was out that way a couple of weeks ago with Susan and David gathering content for the magazine. I tossed out some bowls and a loaf of French bread and watched them lap it up as though they had been exiled to a Siberian prison for a year.
That done, I yanked some homemade Crawfish Bread out of the oven. It's pretty much a dead ringer for the stuff Panaroma Foods (in Marksville) sells at Jazz Fest. In figuring out how to make it, I feel as though I have cracked the nuclear code. Anyway, poor Beth nearly had a heart attack. I mean it, the woman just freaked out. She thinks I am some sort of a damned genius because I can now make That Thing She Craves Most.
The evil part of me just never gets enough of witnessing other people's longings for the way we live. Even better, tapping into this longing is relatively effortless for me: In this case I just opened the freezer.
Beth and Chuck spent the better park of the week visiting open houses. Ha ha, she just can't get home fast enough. Hooray!