Sunday Gumbo

Sunday, May 01, 2005

With the wife out of town for a conference, I am making the best of my virtual bachelorhood by doing a few things that I normally don't get to do when she's around. Today, I made my seafood gumbo. (No, that recipe is a secret. I'll post something else here when I want to get my "Carnival of the Recipes" ticket punched. See postscript.)

I make the gumbo for parties, at which it is invariably well-received. I perfected it during grad school, where I had a large reservoir of talking Guinea pigs from Louisiana who were willing to give me honest feedback on my various attempts over those years. Houston also has a strong Louisiana influence: I can buy roux, andouille, and crawfish tail meat by the pound in ordinary grocery stores. In addition to the Louisiana influence, Houston has the further benefit of large communities of immigrants from Mexico, Central America, India, China, Vietnam, ..... I dare say that Houston, owing to the fact that it is far more cosmopolitan than New Orleans, is at the very least, its equal as a restaurant city.

But I digress. My wife grew up in New Orleans, but doesn't like my gumbo! She had some bad shellfish as a child, and just can't stand anything with shellfish in it. I will make the gumbo with chicken and other meats from time to time, but it's just not the same without mudbugs and shrimp! I like to joke that, in addition to marrying the only woman from New Orleans who doesn't like gumbo (poetic license), I have also married the only woman of Irish descent who hates Guiness! I know how to pick 'em, don't I?

(Beer-snobbish asides from my supply run for gumbo provisions: (1) "Budweiser Select?!?" I guess "Contradiction in Terms" would've confused most of the target market. (2) I saw Pittsburgh's favorite beer, Iron City Beer there, but in aluminum bottles! (See them here.) 'Zup with that? It's the City of Steel, for crying out loud. (3) Purchased Dogfish Head Raison D'Etre as my beer of the week. Made with raisins. Quite good, but I prefer, and highly recommend, their 90 Minute IPA.)

So today had me cleaning the house and mowing the yard, then making gumbo. Usually, I buy frozen, pre-peeled, pre-cooked mudbugs. But yesterday, I was at a crawfish boil and took some home with me. Peeling all those mudbugs took about half an hour, but the seasoning made it worthwhile. That was a great batch of gumbo. I'll be eating like a king on those leftovers all week! (Amusing aside: I quite unintentionally pasted some guy with a nickname for the whole evening. The host said, "No one leaves 'til the 'bugs're gone." This guy, on the stout side, sits down at my table and starts peeling crawfish lickety-split, in assembly-line fashion. He was so fast, that this was right on the heels of the previous remark, so I called him "the exterminator." It just spilled out. And it just stuck. Heh!)

So I enjoyed the gumbo, but I still missed having the wife around. I would have traded crawfish peeling for one of her after-yardwork leg massages for a start. The last time I made gumbo (chicken and shrimp), I set aside a small, shellfish-free portion for her. I even missed doing that a little, because I remembered how she wasn't expecting it and appreciated it. Hell, I even missed the pre-mowing nagging a little!

But that's the benefit of being away from your spouse for awhile. You regain a sense of perspective. You remember why you overlook a few things about her and put up with a few others. You get a few less-important pleasures that you do miss, like seafood gumbo, out of your system. You remember, by its absence, what a great pleasure a shared life is. Such absences serve for me the same purpose that a vacation does with respect to work. After the absence comes rejuvenation.

Two days down and four to go before I get to see my best friend, my lover, my wife. I really miss her.

-- CAV

PS: A reader accidentally jogged my memory. This recipe is not a secret. I was thinking of something else. I may post the gumbo recipe as early as this week.


Added a correction and a PS.

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