A tomato based fish stew of the Gods is how I would describe it.
With the season of the King Cake upon us, I thought it’s only right that I post about one of my favorite dishes native to Louisiana.
And of course I have a story.. a little Lagniappe you could say..
Louisiana or Lafayette and New Orleans to be more precise, deeply rooted itself in my veins many years ago. That sounds weird but is really the only way that I can describe it. To be honest, there isn’t a way for me to describe it..
My experiences there would range from the happiest of moments to the most devastating..
There was a little white siding house we rented with instructions to stay off the path behind the trees. Well of course the first thing we did was walk down the path, one that seemed to be endless and as it got dark had us turning around and heading home. This one path and its mystery would prohibit me from sleeping for three nights due to my thoughts of what may be at the end.
“ buncha Caimon” is what my neighbor said… Caimon meaning gators..
That just wasn’t enough to deter me from getting up one morning and making my way down this enigmatic dirt walkway that to my surprise became a dusty gravel road that would span two miles.
Two miles miles into a deserted marshy swampland with an old blue house and a battered yellow sofa sitting in the driveway.
Two miles that lead me to Ms. Mattie..
“Gar ici pischouette” is how she greeted me, along with a few other words that I couldn’t decipher. She asked if I was from the “city” or if I “spoke her speaks”
I told her “Naw, I’m from the south and I speak food”
Humor has always been my coping mechanism with a tendency to be more prevalent when I’m intimidated. Needless to say she didn’t laugh at my joke and continued to stare until I turned my behind around and made my way back up the path. Months would go by before I found myself walking down that road again.
I just couldn’t shake the feeling.. You know that feeling that you’re missing something.
“Mais jamais d’la vie!” (Well never in my life)
Would be the first thing she said to me when I stood back in her yard those many months later. Right before she invites me to sit. To sit on what I noticed was the wet end of the sofa, it was also a challenge. One that I happily excepted by sitting down on the damp fabric and allowing it to seep through my clothes..
My grandma told me once: “Never miss an opportunity to learn from us old folks. Cause we’ve seen what y’all young ones are too blind to notice”
Ms. Mattie laughed at me, told me not to be foolish, then offered me a seat on the chair beside her. We sat in total silence for what seemed like hours…
Ms.Mattie is long gone now and much of her personal memories given to me were washed away by Katrina. She lived to be 98 with no children, just the memories that she shared with others. But I remember every story, enough creole to get me by and of course her Courtbuillon..
And now so do you.
This post was much longer than normal. In truth, I have endless stories of my time with Marie-Anne Renault aka Ms. Mattie.. I’ll try to share more of my time with her.. Her teachings were more than lessons in the importance of Okra and Cajun French dialect.
The two-mile road is now closed off by over grown bushes and this strange wire fence (a sign that no one no longer travels down that path). At night I wonder what I would find if I were to tackle those bushes and make the trek that became my daily routine all the years ago…
I cut a corner by using store bought seafood stock that I purchased from Whole Foods. The recipe calls for making you own fish stock. Bon Appétit has an easy fish stock recipe that I’ve used before.
Adapted from the hand written notes of Ms. Marie-Ann Renault