Imagine a kitchen in an authentic Cajun farmhouse called Home Place, built just about the time of the Civil War. A big, long wooden table was the center of the kitchen and the center of family activity.
The kitchen was warm and inviting, a place where the family always felt wanted, a bustling center of cooking, visiting, laughing, and good natured arguing among grandmother, mother, and aunts over who was the best candidate to make the gumbo, étouffée, or bread pudding.
According to my father, "The meals and conversation lasted until it was time to clean up and get ready for bed. As youngsters we knew we were part of something that mattered tremendously. We were part of a clan that was so strongly bonded with love, and fun, and delight in meals…we never doubted that we were extremely important in the scheme of life."
Though four generations of my ancestors cooked and ate in that kitchen, it wasn’t until 1992 that I finally saw it for myself, and it was with awe that I stood in that very room. Seeing a slight sparkle under a dilapidated cabinet, I reached down and uncovered a small old olive oil jar. I knew that it had last been handled by one of my ancestors, and that the search for my culinary heritage had brought me to the center of where it had all began.
This dirt-encrusted jar was embossed with olive branches and the words “bon oil.” Looking at the tiny bit of amber colored liquid still clinging to the bottom of the jar, I felt a direct connection to the ancestor who had last used it. She had most certainly shared my love of cooking, and was the last person to lift the jar off the shelf. My hands were shaking as I held this precious find that truly tied me to these people and their culinary skills; to one of the last meals they made in the farmhouse kitchen. This little forgotten jar was waiting in the deserted farm house for more than forty years to bridge the gap between my Cajun ancestors and me.
I knew then that I was part of that once lively kitchen; that I belonged there even though I was a bit late in arriving. Even more intense was the knowledge that I was part of those food lovers who had laboriously and happily prepared three meals a day in that very room, for generation after generation of Labauves.
Standing in the now-deserted kitchen, I felt intensely drawn to my Cajun roots, to the food I had been taking for granted all my life, and to the joy with which my fellow-Cajuns prepared that food. I was so moved that I wanted to bring these people and their recipes to life in order to preserve their memory, their love of food, and their traditional, outstanding cooking. I knew the way to capture it all was in a book containing their recipes and stories. IN A CAJUN KITCHEN is that book.
In A Cajun Kitchen is available (or can be ordered) wherever books are sold, or ordered from any of the online sites that carry books.