BRIAR CIRCLE RECIPES
By LEON YOUNGBLOOD
My Cajun friend “Lefty” Schwartz came up to visit, and that was something of a triumph, for me. He’s only ever lived in southern Louisiana. He doesn’t care for the unfamiliar.
However, when I told him, “Lefty, I need some Cajun recipes, or I’ll go crazy!” he considered himself to be an evangelist, of sorts. He left his native swamps, came to Briar Circle, and seemed comfortable in his surroundings. He was off the “grid.” He had to use an “outhouse” that was “outer” than most. He had to use a cot for a bed.
He was accustomed to mosquitoes, dog flies, moccasins, and similar inconveniences, but when it came to scorpions, he asked with a little fear and awe, “Wat de h— are dese? Can you eat ’em?” But Lefty adapted well to everything, and we were down to business by the next morning.
I told him I was craving simple Cajun cooking; he told me, “Boss, I reckon you wantin’ some seafood cakes and gumbo. Let’s go at th’ fishman’s store.”
Well–that did not work in LeFlore County, of course. We went to Walmart. Lefty was not entirely happy with the only option I could offer him for shopping, but he made do. I told him I would pay, so he got lump crab meat, salmon, shrimp and even “dam’ Yankee” oysters. Crawfish were not available. We got some seasoned bread crumbs, “Quiet, Doggy!” (hushpuppy) mix, an assortment of seasonings (most of which I already had), a chicken, and some andouille sausage made in Wisconsin. (I won’t repeat what Lefty said about the sausage, but multiply what he said about the Yankee oysters X3.) We got red beans, ham and Louisiana hot sauce, which, as I’ve said before, is the only thing invented by the Devil that will be allowed in Heaven.
After all this, we had to stop by the liquor store, embarrassing as it was. Lefty got two big bottles of wine, “Fo’ de cookin’, an fo’ me!” he explained.
We went back to Briar Circle. Lefty started cooking right away, and made some wonderful dishes over his three-day visit. The only recipe I’m going to give, however, is for his seafood cakes. They are easy to make, pretty tasty, and the recipe can be adapted easily, too. From a manilla envelope, he gave me the following handwritten recipe, presented exactly as written:
Tear 2 slices of white bread into small peices
1 can of tuna or samon or shrimp
1 teaspoon Worchester sauce
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
Mix well all the ingreidents together and shape into 3-4 paties haf inch thick. Brown in oil on both sides til done golden, about 4-5 minnits.
Written under this, in different handwriting, was the admonition, USE FRESH NOT CANNED and GOOD WITH CRAB AND CRAWFISH.
Lefty did not follow the recipe, which are always indications of an extremely bad cook or an amazingly good one. Lefty is the latter. He tripled, more or less, the ingredients, added seasoned bread crumbs and spices to suit his personal tastes, and added crab, salmon and shrimp (all cooked, but he did not overcook the shrimp), and was generous with the meat. There were dips: cocktail sauce, Ranch and French dressing.
There were french fries, and oyster chowder (“Dees oysters ain’t big ’nuff to fry.”), and store-bought coleslaw. Lefty did not care for the coleslaw, but it sufficed. At any rate, all the portions were generous and there were no leftovers.
After dinner, we sat on the porch and talked. We admired the view. I mentioned a friend I’d recently heard from, whose family had gone west on vacation and had sent photographs of the Grand Canyon through the computer.
Lefty was unimpressed. “Now, boss, dat nice, but where de a’venture? Dey none, ‘less you climb down dat per’lous gully! Tell yo’ frien’, nex’ time t’ come to Lou’s’ana an’ fed dem allahgaters! Git oud da boat an’ in de wadah, an’ give dem a raw chicken! Now, man, dat’s a vacashun y’all won’t fo’git! Tell yo’ frien’, nex’ time take a vacashun for somethin’ he remember DOIN’, not fo’ somethin’ he only SEE!”
So, if anybody’s game, let me know, and we’ll plan a trip in stages. First, come to Briar Circle, and we’ll hunt up a rattlesnake or two. Then we will slap a bear and hunt up a cougar. Then we’ll spend a couple of nights in one of the high-crime areas in one of the major cities. Maybe then, we’ll be ready to go to the Louisiana swamps and pet the alligators. And maybe you’ll find out how my Cajun friend got the nickname Lefty, too!
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