February 24, 2013
On what was supposed to be our last day at the American Legion, I mentioned that I wanted to buy some crawfish to take with me before we left crawfish territory. Mark and Marlene told us, no, you don’t want to do that, it’ll stink up your camper. You go see Cody and Leslie Newman. She called them on the phone and we went and ate crawfish and got a tour of his business and learned how it is done. Then, we got a date for the following morning to ride his boat and see how crawfish are trapped and harvested. I’m blogging the process in reverse.
We followed Cody to his ponds. His boat is a two-man operation. Cody checks the bait tub to make sure there is plenty for your jaunt.
This Honda motor is air-cooled, quiet and propels the lightweight boat through the shallow water without harming anything. Once the process starts, the boat doesn’t stop.
His worker picks up the trap on the move.
He dumps the crawfish onto the grader…
…pushes them into the bags that hang at the end of the table, which allows the small-sized fish fall through the bars and slide back into the pond.
Then he re-baits the trap, and stabs it back into the pond behind the next trap he picks up. It is continuous. Dump the trap, throw out any old chewed up dead fish bait and put in new bait. Right now, Cody is using a poagie bait, a cooked product that has an attractant. Fish are better but it takes three times the weight for the worker to bait the trap. Weight is an issue when you may have to lift three thousand pounds of fish in a days work with one arm.
The bags hold from 30 to 35 pounds of crawfish. On a good day, he might harvest 1100 to 1200 pounds a day. In the peak of the season, they harvest every day. Every other day as the season wanes. The ponds have to be drained, dried and clean water put in between seasons. He plants rice as food tor the crawfish. He doesn’t harvest rice as some do since he works in the petroleum industry.
The advantage to this boat is that it can be operated by one man. The big wheel gets set in its groove and just moves along at the right pace while the driver pulls the traps, baits and sorts in the same way. The disadvantage is the damage to the pond has to be graded and repaired after using this method. Cody also mentioned that ducks ruin a crawfish pond. They kill the rice plants, decay removes oxygen the fish need, their poop is acidic and harms the fish. They have to fire guns to scare them away when they arrive by the thousands.
The previous day, when we walked into his shop, Cody was taking a delivery of shad, the bait fish.
And Cody’s mom had just delivered crawfish from her farm to the store. He buys from several other farms as well.
The crawfish are cooked in plain water for six minutes in these big boilers. Then they are placed in hot seasoned water for 12 minutes. Cody explains that he and others in the area are the only ones who boil that way. The 12 minutes gets the seasoning into the meat. Other places around the country add seasoning on the outside of the crawfish which gets on your fingers from the shell to flavor the meat as you eat. His crawfish is mildly seasoned. If you want it hotter, he will put it on the outside.
This is what they look like when they come out ready to serve. At this point he will add seasoning for a customer.
He bags and weighs the fish and put it on a platter for me.
He taught me how to eat them. You push the tail in toward the body, and make a quarter turn.
Then you squeeze the tail and the meat pops up and you can bite it out in one piece easily. We’ve watched people in restaurants tediously peel away the shell from the tail. Cody showed us the proper way. It works so well and I was so grateful to be able to eat those delicious little buggers so easily. Now, I know.
He also gave me a taste of his specialty Cajun marinated mushrooms which were delicious as well.
We were joined by another couple from Alaska and they told us about sucking heads, which Cody also referred to. You suck the head for the tasty juices that come out. And it is yummy. You can dig the meat out of the claws if it is a big crawfish. It took me no time to polish off three pounds of crawfish. I wish I’d bought about six pounds to go. But, it is best eaten the way it is served all over Louisiana. Freshly boiled. Thanks a million Cody!
January 5, 2013
When Jim arranged to be near an airport I questioned Harlingen? Why drive the whole of Texas to the southernmost tip?. My weather wimp declared this is what they call Winter Texans, where retired Texans like to winter for the heat. Yesterday in the bitter cold we ventured out in the rain to visit the Harlingen Arts and Heritage Cultural Museum. And, yes, I’m poking fun at Jim about the horrible weather.
At the center, the staff was removing their Christmas Extravaganza and the museum exhibits were in temporary storage. The local organizations and businesses trim themed trees for everyone to enjoy for the season. A couple trees hadn’t been dismantled yet and the display must have been spectacular. Open for visitors were three buildings, Harlingen founder, Lon Hill’s house, Paso Real Stage Stop and the old Harlingen Hospital.
Lon Hill moved with ten wagons to this part of the world and built here and settled in and founded the town. The house above was his second house, which is open to the public.
The completely furnished house was quite beautiful.
Notes on various items were attributed to family members who donated stuff for the museum.
I was impressed with how prosperous the Hill family was, considering he was from the approximate same generation as my grandparents who struggled and worked very hard but didn’t live as sumptuously as the hills off the land. Then from one note I learned that Lon brought his slaves with him and it all became quite clear. I tend to forget that Texas was a slave state.
The curator’s told us the next cultural center exhibit would be their yearly quilt show, beginning January 16th. We will miss it, but the Hill house bedrooms had many nice quilts on view besides this crazy quilt. The house was very worth visiting and well done.
Someone rescued the school bell.
The Stage Stop had the most beautiful cash register. Makes one long for the days of such craftsmanship.
The old PBX machine reminded me of my first major job at age 17 working one not much bigger than this. The Stage Stop also served as a telegraph office and post office.
The hospital, like the house was so completely furnished, it made one think they just walked away and left everything in it. A very complete dental office above.
The color blindness test gave me a chuckle.
The eye doctor gave very simple tests, but, glasses were such a precious invention. The optician performed such a needed service for those times. And, I swear the eye chart is the same one used today.
The surgery, cribs, hospital beds, pharmacy, all so complete and well done. So often we see medical items in a museum, but the whole hospital completely furnished is an eye opener. The braces on this wall give evidence of the horrible polio epidemic that struck during my own time.
I’m beginning to rightly own the title of old-timer I suppose, though I certainly don’t feel old. The buildings were unheated and we moved through quickly and on to the grocery store to stock up on things I like to cook. (Jim is a mono eater.) But, I gotta have Greek yogurt, onions, garlic, lentils, lots of veggies and, the spinach souffle I made and the soup for today, heated up the motor home. Tasted great.
April 9, 2012
My daughter and her husband both love to cook. Cedric is Greek, Russian and English. His maternal grandparents were Orthodox Christians and practiced the ritual 40 days of self examination and strict fasting before Pascha, (Easter) to cleanse themselves in preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. After 40 days of doing without eggs, cream, milk, leavening, and meat, it was a joy and relief to prepare and taste, rich foods again.
Cedric separated the whites from eight eggs for the special Russian cake, kulich. The symmetry and color of the eggs as they were set aside made an eye-catching sight. We noticed that the organic eggs from their own chickens have dark, yellow yolks. The store-bought organic eggs, the three centered, have a lighter color. The back yard eggs taste better I can attest.
While the yeast worked its magic on the cake batter, Virginia prepared the creamy cheese topping made with part yoghurt, cottage, ricotta, and feta cheeses; sugar lemon juice and egg yolks, mixed, mashed and then wrapped in a cheese cloth, and weighted with a couple of bricks to drain the whey. Nuts and other fruits can be added to the topping. Virginia added brandied white raisins.
Two halved lemons and eight dried figs were placed in the cavity; the goose sits on a low rack over enough boxed white wine to steam the bird for an hour, or just until the meat begins to pull away from the leg bone. Then the rendered fat is removed and the bird is browned to crisp the skin in the oven.
The best tasting part of the dinner, was the gravy made by removing the bird to cover and rest in a warm oven while the giblets and neck were simmered for 30 minutes with a handful of dried apricots and a 1/4 standard size can of orange juice concentrate and 1/3 cup of honey. Boil down to make a thin gravy. The goose is sliced thinly, even the leg meat, and served with the gravy over the meat and baked sweet potatoes. Wonderful, wonderful stuff. This recipe is Cedric and Virginia’s own, straying from Cedric’s grandmother’s recipe which is boiled for three hours covered in a wine and water mixture, then finished in the oven.
Cedric sliced the cake, or Easter bread, to be eaten while still warm with the creamy cheese concoction. (We had it for dessert.) While the gravy covered goose meat and sweet potatoes was the best tasting part of the meal, the best part of Easter dinner was listening to Cedric tell stories of his childhood where he participated and learned to cook traditional family dishes from his grandmother and mother.
In keeping with family traditions, Theo is learning from his dad as he butters the baking dish and coats it with crumbs for the kulich.
February 5, 2012
Yesterday, I took a bike ride to town, just to look around. I found an Antique Mall that was so full my eyes kind of glazed over. In a motor home you can’t really shop, but I still like to look.
A beauty of an old pot belly. I can relate.
Graceful sideboard in appearance, but a cast iron wood stove, instead. This one took me by surprise. It actually has burner plates to cook on.
Amazing how many different types of irons were made. I like collections and when I look at these I can say, “praise be, I live in an era of a steam iron and permanent press.”
Someone saw fit to cast a flower on this iron, maybe to cheer up his wife during a tedious task.
Fill that brass iron with water and it took muscle to lift. I have a wood stove at home and occasionally put a pot of beans or steel-cut oats on to cook. And, during winter, I always have hot water for tea. It was then I remembered I bought tepary beans at Organ Pipe. They are a desert food source from the palo verde tree and have the highest protein content of any bean, and I had a pot of them soaking on the stove for dinner. I rushed to get back and found my self on a dead end portion of Broadway. Hmmm. Could I actually get lost in Apache Junction? I crossed the highway and found a second extension of Broadway, also dead ended. I had to retrace two intersections to find my way, and was grateful that I carry a cell phone, even though I didn’t bring my glasses and couldn’t see to call Jim.
The tepary beans were great tasting. I cooked them for a couple hours (2 cups) without salt, then added seasonings, and vegetables. A 15 oz can tomato sauce, a half medium sweet potato, a half cup of (cooked) brown rice, a serano pepper, 1/2 an onion, a stalk of celery, two tablespoons chopped cilantro, 2 toes of garlic, salt, pepper, oregano and cumin. The usual stuff you add to beans. Before serving, I cut up chunks of mozzarella cheese on top, and a dollop of thick yogurt in each bowl. Rib-sticking good.