Some of our most meaningful memories in life are tied to the sights, smells and sounds of our favorite foods cooking in the kitchen, forks and spoons clanking and the laughter around the table while we share a meal with the people we love. These are memories that stay with us forever, molding who we are and reminding us of where we came from. Even if they’re not always on the forefront of our minds, they have a way of sneaking up on us when we need them the most. This recipe post is all about those kind of memories and is dedicated to a man who was truly one in a million.
It’s been about three weeks since my father-in-law passed away. The void left behind by his loss isn’t getting any smaller, but we find some comfort in sharing our favorite memories of him, a lot of which are centered around the kitchen table. His name was Patrick (“Pat” if you really knew him) but years ago when he became a grandpa, he proudly chose the name “Grump”.
He grew up on a farm, just outside the small town of Mamou, Louisiana, learning Cajun French as his first language. The cultural influence was easy to spot in his cooking; making use of whatever ingredients he had on hand, no frills, rough chops and in the end, a deliciously comforting meal that was truly satisfying and simple.
He had a handful of his own signature recipes. His chocolate sandwiches were always a big hit! But my favorite was always his étouffée. His version wasn’t that far off from most, but of course, he added his own personal touch! He ditched the celery from the “trinity”, added a little tomato sauce for color and flavor and sometimes, instead of adding flour, he would use a heaping spoonful of Bisquick! It was usually loaded with crawfish tails, or sometimes just shrimp, but when he decided to fill the pot with both, it was extra special.
It couldn’t have been easy for him to stand in the kitchen, chopping vegetables and stirring away over a hot stove. His health was never really on his side and he struggled in a lot of ways throughout his life. So when he found the strength to get in there and cook, it was because he wanted to make something special for the people he cared about the most.
There are a ton of variations to this classic cajun/creole dish, but this is his. I’ll forever make his version and eat it with a big smile on my face.
Thank you for the memories, life lessons and love. This one’s for you.