I recently returned from Italy where we celebrated my daughter’s wedding in a 14th century farmhouse in the Tuscan countryside. A long table garlanded with flowers overlooking the green rolling hills of Tuscany was set with the most varied selections of Italian food, course after unending course with delicacies of fish, grilled meats, zuppa, appetizers, wines, desserts…I fondly recall the richness of the eating experience in both Italy and France that I have experienced. Most meals are a celebration filled with family and friends, laughter and song. Truly, “Everything They Eat Nourishes Them” because they are eating from a sense of joy and camaraderie that keeps their bodies relaxed so that the food is easily absorbed and digested. In the spirit of this experience I would like to share the following recipe and story from my cookbook. It is not Italian and yet embraces the spirit of family gatherings. It is also my deepest wish that we all begin to experience eating in this manner and not rush one of the most nourishing activities of our lives.
Mardi Gras Gumbo, Southern Louisiana Style
(Great for Mardi Gras and in honor of my Mother &Cajun Aunt Dot. Contribution of this recipe by Linda McDill, pianist and music producer/booking agent )
ROUX: 1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups of onions, chopped
8 ribs celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
GUMBO: 8 cups chicken broth or shrimp stock
2 packages (10 oz. each) frozen okra, thawed, sliced (optional)
1/4 cup Worchestershire sauce
2 large dried bay leaves
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
2 tsp. thyme, dried
2 tsp. basil, dried
2 tsp. oregano, dried
1 tsp. sage
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. black pepper
chopped flat-leaf parsley and green onions for garnish
2 lbs. shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 qt. oysters, undrained (optional)
1 lb. crab meat and crab claws
1 lb. firm white fish fillets, cut in 1 inch pieces
hot cooked rice crusty French bread
gumbo file powder* red Tabasco sauce
This is not a meal you can throw together in a few minutes. It takes a little time and preparation, and is most fun with a kitchen full of people to help.
First you make the roux: Combine butter and flour in a heavy skillet; cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring constantly, until roux is dark. Be very careful to keep the roux from scorching. Once it’s dark enough, stir in onion, celery, and garlic; cook 10 minutes, stirring often. Transfer roux mixture to a big soup pot. Add chicken broth, okra, crab claws, bay leaves, parsley, thyme, basil, oregano, sage, and pepper. Simmer 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add shrimp, oysters, crab meat, and fish to the pot; simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaves. Serve gumbo over hot cooked rice. Put the file and the Tabasco on the dining table.
“Most of my holidays and all the summers of my childhood were spent at my family’s beach house on the Texas Gulf coast. The Bolivar Peninsula juts west from the Louisiana border, stretching towards nearby Galveston Island. The people, the music and the food, have strong Cajun influences. Before Hurricane Ike, Bolivar was rural and rustic with cattle pastures and seagulls, green rice fields and sandy oil fields. Pickup trucks towing small fishing boats and car ferries to the island were familiar sights. A few honky tonks and beach shops dotted the two-lane road that dissects the peninsula. Although Bolivar is hardly recognizable now, the nights still guarantee stars, waves, a salty warm breeze and the lights of Galveston twinkling across the bay.
Big dinners were the norm on the coast, and our beach house seemed to be a magnet for a big group and a big dinner. A special meal that was standard at the summer parties my parents hosted was to become the symbol of my family’s celebrations and our great appreciation of fresh seafood. Gumbo! Here’s the story:
My dad had a 50-foot long seine, a large fishing net with wooden poles on each end. Just after dawn, friends, family and beach neighbors would start gathering at our house to go seining. If they didn’t have enough guys, they would drive with the seine in the back of a pickup truck down the rows of nearby cabins, waking men to come help. Kids, wives, grandmas and other neighbors would walk down to the beach to see what the catch would bring. It was always an event that drew a crowd to hang out on the beach and watch.
It took six to a dozen men to pull one end of the seine out into the oncoming waves. When they would get out just over their heads, the men would arc around and pull the net back to the beach. Each return to the shore would bring the net full of trout, red fish, crabs, shrimp and more. There were usually a couple of big jellyfish and an occasional baby hammerhead shark. It was always thrilling and frightening to see how much life there was right in the water where we swam daily. To our great delight, my sister and I once found a tiny seahorse in the net. Old bottles, seaweed, beautiful shells – the bounty was amazing.
The men would pull the seine out and back a few times over the course of a morning. It would bring enough seafood for a huge gumbo and plenty for everyone who helped to take home a share of the fresh catches of the day. The men would stop seining in the heat of the day, and the gumbo-making would begin. The crowning glory of a big day in the surf was a seafood feast that was ready by early evening. A crowd gathered again…”
Excerpted from Everything I Eat Nourishes Me, A Cookbook for Body & Soul ©2010 by Aline Fourier.
About The Author: Aline Fourier is a writer, symbolist painter, and multimedia artist who holds a Masters in Special Education and has trained in Psychosynthesis Counseling with Dr. Tom Yeomans and in Mandala Symbolism with Dr. Robert Johnson. Her background has been quite eclectic, including extensive study in Eastern and Western psychological disciplines and shamanism. Fourier conducts grief and trauma workshops and workshops focused on awakening the child who is the spontaneous explorer within us all. Fourier and her husband own Ortiz Mountain Gallery, where she displays her artwork. She presently devotes all her time to her writing, painting, healing work and caretaking the earth where she lives. To order Everything I Eat Nourishes Me,A Cookbook for Body & Soul, click here. To learn more about Aline Fourier, visit www.alinefourierstudio.com.