Southern Heart

“More than any other part of America, the South stands apart. Natives will tell you this. They are…conscious of a loyalty to a place where habits are strong and memories are long.”    Tim Jacobson, Heritage of the South

Let me start out by saying that my tastes are very catholic (not to be confused with the religion that I abandoned eons ago. Big difference). I love all kinds of exotic food, and it’s hard for me to turn down a Prohibition Era cocktail or a good glass of Champagne.

But, like my Mom, I’m a Southern girl at heart. I positively swoon over things like The Allman Brothers Band, Spanish moss dripping from big oaks, hot buttermilk biscuits, and a simmering pot of navy beans with a ham hock. And then, there’s always a damned fine glass of bourbon to look forward to.

imageMy Mom never cooked okra, and I hadn’t either until I saw this recipe by BJ Dennis in my latest Garden & Gun Magazine. It wasn’t hard, or even time-consuming. A little bit of prep work (I noticed the okra were “prickly” so I scrubbed each and every one against the grain. Probably get laughed at by a “real” southern cook for that!) The whole thing comes together in about 12 minutes.  Easy and delicious, Mom would have loved this…I hope you do, too.

Dedicated to Evelyn O’Klock     April 24, 1931 – September 4, 1998éed-shrimp-and-okra

Bon apetit, y’all!

XO Donna






Gumbo Meditation

I have never been able to sit on a cushion and stare at the wall. I’ve tried, trust me…over and over again. I thought it “would be good for me.” Finally a teacher told me that there are many ways to meditate, many ways to practice mindfulness. Perhaps I would do better with a moving meditation?

I haven’t sat still since!

I used to bake fresh bread as a form of relaxation and meditation…kneading the dough until it was as supple, smooth and soft as a newborn baby’s ass. The whole kitchen smelled of yeast, honey and love! I’d set aside a whole afternoon, it was like a vacation day for me. Then I developed a wheat allergy, and all of that was out the window. (deflated sigh)

Last Tuesday I was at my friend Gina’s house for lunch and a confab, and while we talked, she made Gumbo. I have never made it…ranking it up among the things I deemed too difficult; like an elegant Crown Roast or a Buche Noelle. I have lived this long without needing to cook any of them…and then I tasted her gumbo.  Holy Gina Marie Lucia! Gumbo

I had been watching closely, asking questions and taking notes as she cooked. And as she did, we sipped wine and caught up on each other’s lives (yes, we were day-drinking…but it was wine. Doesn’t count) and when she finally put a garnished bowl in front of me – I was hooked on gumbo. This stuff is the ‘Crack’ of the soup world!

This Tuesday, I made my first pot of gumbo. I overcame my fear, and when it was finished and ladled into bowls with some fresh steamed rice, I was thrilled!  (I had to substitute a gluten-free baking mix for the flour in the roux, yet it was still delicious.

I realize that I am rewarded every time I take steps to overcome a fear. And I’m  reminded that cooking is a lesson in staying present, a form of mindfulness meditation. From organizing the shopping list; remaining patient through all of the cutting, chopping, and measuring; and slowly, slowly browning the roux. The payoff  is not just in experiencing a delicious meal, but feeling both love and gratitude as I sit at the table and eat.  Gratitude that I have such healthy, delicious food to eat. Love for the partner I prepared it for (who adores gumbo), and for the dear friend who shared her expertise with me.

I can’t wait to make another batch!                   Want the recipe? Let me know in the comments!

XO Donna