Posts Tagged With: spices for life

THE SPICE OF LIFE

I really get into cooking Thanksgiving dinner because its always exciting to try new dishes and use everything in the spice cupboard. Well, in my case, that isn’t actually possible because I have soooo many spice choices. In fact, the spice cupboard is full.

It has spilled over and taken up a shelf in the pantry. Some items are dried fresh from the garden and put in little bottles and jars.

And then, there are seasonings I have to have handy to the stove that I use the most.

I tend to plan for weeks ahead, choosing and discarding recipes, favoring this one over that one. I like to make paella with saffron rice. No stores in my area carry saffron anymore because it is too expensive. I should have thought to go online. Gosh, what bounty we have in our country. I’ll remember next year.

 

New this year is a kale recipe my daughter and her mother-in-law tweaked from a deli dish they tasted. And, as always, her pear with almond paste desert that has become a family tradition over the last five years. Its nice that family traditions change a bit with time, giving the feast an element of surprise.

 

Normally, the whole family arrives with their own special treats, and usually some extra friends or brothers, or cousins.  Daughter-in-law Laurie, daughter Virginia and son Douglas are all good cooks and love to make special dishes for Thanksgiving. Doug picks summer berries and freezes them especially for holiday pies. He plans to smoke the turkey this year and I plan to make two different stuffing recipes on the side with a zinfandel and apple gravy. We always have something with pumpkin and corn to remember the Pilgrims.

 

Laurie always surprises us with some exciting new recipe. She is an artist and designs special place markers for everyone attending. This year, they will not attend since grandson Mason will be playing in the Macy’s Parade and at Carnegie Hall. He is part of an awesome band from Green Valley High School. He plays clarinet and will have some camera time because a group of the boys will do a little spotlight take-out on the street.

 

Today is my major cooking day to prepare everything that can be made ahead. Ain’t life grand? The spice of life probably isn’t spices, but at Thanksgiving time, they play a great part of making life exciting.

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OPELOUSAS CROSSROADS

Opelousas, named for an Indian Tribe, was always a crossroads, a gumbo of cultures, trading, hunting, trapping, spices, music and food. Before Mardi Gras,  a couple we met at Mamou, from Targil Spice  Company of Opelousas, invited us to stop in and say hello!  They weren’t available, but we stopped and found retail spices, in large and small sizes; everything from a can cooker, butcher supplies, cookie cutters to boots. Boots? You need those boots to catch things in the swamp before you spice ’em up and cook ’em, doncha know. We left there with some Seasonall that has a picture of hot peppers on the package. Compliments of the nice folks at Targils.

Next stop, Tony Chachere’s, (say Sash-sherries), a hardworking character with a penchant for success. A pharmacist who made and sold his own cough syrups, bug spray and other products. He switched to insurance, was very successful and retired a rich man. A love of cooking,  with his own concoction of spices  that he brought with him everywhere he went,  turned  into a multimillion dollar business, putting together spices and convenient food packages. His was the first cookbook on Creole cooking and it sold 10,000 copies the first week  it came out. The company is huge and doesn’t do tours but Tanya Bellard, the Gourmet Sales, and Customer Service Manager said she would let us take pictures, for our blog.  When we arrived, she regaled us with wonderful stories about Tony Chaschere, his irrepressible personality, trying out his recipes on the staff at the company and always involving  everyone he met in food and spices, and fun.

We laughed out loud when we spotted a garbage can of popcorn and Tanya explained it was an environmentally friendly packing material for shipping their products and people call her and complain the popcorn is stale, or it didn’t have any seasoning, it was all broken…They now include a sticker that explains the popcorn is used for fill only.   Three million pounds a year of raw materials go into their packaged food and spices. They sell 90 different  food items and spices plus Tony Chachere’s Cajun Country Cookbook. I’m going to print a recipe from the book tomorrow, but here is a list of things you’ll find in it:  Piquante Alligator Sauce, Roast Goose with Sauerkraut and Dumplings, Coot in Soy Sauce,  Pork Backbone Stew, Stuffed cucumbers, Broiled Frogs, Yam Candle Cakes, Japanese Chicken-Pork Barbeque, Irish Potato Casserole, and Hot Tamales. He left no cuisine untested.  www.tonytachere.com

Opelousas made their visitor’s center into a little complex of  buildings called Le Vieux Village (The Old Village). They were donated and  moved here to be preserved. The buildings are typical  “of their time” from an 1890 outhouse to a mud and moss (boissage)  Creole House from 1791, below.

An African-American Methodist Church from 1948.

Also in this complex is the Orphan Train Museum. It started with a wealthy woman who heard her parents planning her funeral while she was in a coma. She prayed that if God allowed her to live she would dedicate her life to others. And, she did, as Sister Irene with the Sisters of Charity.  Immigrants were flowing into New York. Many could find no housing or jobs. Many died and left children. Babies were found on doorsteps, in alleys, toddlers were eating garbage on the streets.
Sister Irene rented a cottage. The very next day, a baby was found on the doorstep. The need was so great, the cottage grew, with help from her wealthy women friends, and eventually, the church and state, into a foundling hospital and orphanage.
There were so many children, the Foundling Home decided to reach out into Catholic Communities and ask for families to adopt or care for kids until they reached 18. It was the first foster care program in the United States.

In 1907, the first train full of orphans arrived, with numbers pinned to their clothing, to meet prospective families from Opelousas.  Many just wanted to have a child work for them as indentured servants.  Others wanted young children to raise as their own. The Foundling Society visited the families once a year to check up on them. Subsequent years, two more trains arrived in Opelousas.

While they wouldn’t allow pictures in the museum, volunteer Frank Lipari, active in forming the Opelousas Foundling Children Society,  is the son of a foundling father. There is only one known foundling in Louisiana still living, but their descendants are now choosing to tell their stories, which was once a source of shame. Frank’s Lipar’s father tried to find out what nationality he was, he found his endentured papers. He learned that  his birth  mother told her child’s name as Frank Reiger, and her own name as Schoencloster. He was born in the foundling hospital in 1903. Many foundlings didn’t even have that much information, not even records of their birth or their age.

At the first meeting of the Opelousas Foundling Society in 2003, two lifelong local friends met each other, neither had ever divulged that they were children of a foundling, such was the ingrained shame of their circumstances.

The Orphan trains reached  everywhere the railroad went over the years, placing 400,000 children in family situations.

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