THE LAWSON’S PEAK BOOKS

It’s What’s For Dinner

Gumbo. It’s what’s for dinner. And supper. And sometimes even breakfast.

Suze and I were looking forward to a peaceful Thanksgiving at home. Since I have no taste for turkey, never have, we settled on gumbo and potato salad, with rolls and desert.

I made my first gumbo back about 14 years ago. I had never made a roux before. A friend of mine actually talked me through it on the phone:

“What color is it?”

“Chocolate milk.”

“Keep stirring. Do any woodworking lately…?”

(time passes…)

“What color is it?”

“Uhm…like well-used cow leather.”

“Keep stirring. Did I tell you that…?”

(time passes)

“What color is it now?”

“Black coffee.”

“Drop the stuff in and stir like you’ve never stirred before!”

Or something like that. Anyway, I made a big ol’ pot of chicken and sausage gumbo, with okra. We love okra in any gumbo. Suze made a gargantuan bowl of potato salad and baked up some rolls. It was all quite extraordinary, and best of all, when we were done, we retired to the living room and settled into a quiet resonance.

So we’ve been eating on it ever since. It was a big gumbo. I think we might have two servings left, and I’m pretty depressed about it. So much so, in fact, that I’m strongly considering cooking another one Friday!

“Gumbo” I’m told is a word African slaves brought to this continent and that it literally means “okra.” I always thought it meant “Everything but the kitchen sink and sometimes that, too,” but I like the true definition better.

Ah, the components of a gumbo are just pure delight in themselves. There’s few things so marvelous as the smell of a bottle of gumbo file’ when it’s opened. Nor cayenne pepper, garlic powder, even fresh salt. The onions, red bell peppers (we detest the green ones), celery…oh, my! I may make another one the following weekend, too!

We’ve entertained now and then the notion of opening a true Cajun-style restaurant in the mountains when we get there. I figure a name like Ca C’est Bon! Suzie tells me there’s this one fried catfish restaurant in Gatlinburg that usually has a line stretching around the block, it’s that good. I wonder how the hillbillies (said with deep affection!) would cotton to some daily plate lunches of gumbo or jambalaya, po-boys and smothered shrimp and okra?

But then, running a restaurant is a time-consuming affair, and knowing my tendency to up and go fishing in the midst of lawn-cutting duty or a train wreck, it’s probably not a good idea.

Now we’re on the road to Christmas, and when I passed by Wally World Friday morning at 7 a.m. the cars were lined up along Northwest Boulevard. I love a good sale much at the next Injun, but you sure won’t find me in there on that day. In fact, I stopped in to pick some things up Tuesday and it was still pretty much a madhouse. It’s times like this that I also realize my distaste for cities is well-founded.

But I am thankful, at Thanksgiving, for lots of things. Mostly for Suzie, the shining star by which I steer. There are great blessings in my life, though I whine and moan and complain far too much and pine for silly, ridiculous things like moving, gin-clear water and forested peaks. There’s Bogie, as fine a four-legged companion as any man could hope for. There’s plenty of friends, lots of amiable acquaintances. If I seem ungrateful, it’s only because I have become something of a spoiled brat, ruined by the aforementioned rivers and mountains.

From a purely indigenous perspective, I am thankful for many of the things Europeans brought to this continent, all the small pox, bubonic plague, sharp swords, flintlock pistols and very rude behavior notwithstanding.

They are, in no particular order: Chicken, sausage, sassafras, okra (though its means of transport remains tragic), celery, garlic…you know…gumbo!

When I think of that first alleged Thanksgiving, you know, the one where the pilgrims had been eating their boots because they were starving to death…it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside at the cooperation and friendship that might have begun and persisted between the colonists and the Indians. Would that it were true. It’d be a different world I imagine. But we human beings have a hard time getting along on any subject, be it taking land or giving it; Democrat or Republican; white, black, red, yellow; Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Pagan, Naturalist or, like me, Angler; we always seem to find something to fight about, don’t we?

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