I love animals…I think they’re delicious. ? Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty
Hell hath no fury like a woman informed. In case you missed it, Dear Reader, this is where we left off last month when I made a magical brownie surprise for my family after their unrelenting mocking and scoffing of my new menopause prevention diet. Though the inevitable is bound to happen, I, along with all the experts, have recently jumped on the anti-estrogen dominance bandwagon and forced myself to take a long hard look at the superfoods like blueberries, dark chocolate, red wine, fatty fish, and spinach.
The first cousin of spinach and high protein grain called quinoa of the chenopod family has made its way to our dinner table as my newfound fetish. I’ve made everything from shrimp & quinoa, broccoli cheese quinoa, quinoa pancakes to pineapple quinoa. You get the picture.
So why should it surprise me that my Cajun family would either care to know the molecular makeup of my new favorite food or that it was handed down to us from the ancient Incas when they prefer a steady diet of pork fat and Jack Daniels? This is what led up to the day I tailor-made the special brownies for them when I slipped (not accidentally) my leftover breakfast quinoa into the 10 AM brownie batter and baked a secret concoction! Eat my chenopod I wanted to say as their little chocolate-eating grins lapped them all up and they begged for more. I felt every bit as vindicated as The Help’s Miss Minny played by Oscar winning actress Octavia Spencer when she created a special pie of her own for the town bigot Hilly.
“Have you lost your mind? asked Hilly.
“No ma’am…but you ‘bout to,”said Minny, while Hilly had a mouth full of her second slice of the vile confection.
And that’s just about what happened three days later when I confessed to lacing one of life’s most delectable treats with my repugnant health food. Their little Cajun clogged arteries just about lost their collective minds to think they had eaten my city food and, even worse, had SO enjoyed it! Now that I’ve broken the circle of culinary trust with them, everything I serve is suspect, but the flavors are as alluring as some sort of Narnian Turkish delight and they get suckered in once again.
For instance, Dear Reader, let me first begin my story with reminding you of my highly colorful February this year. As you may recall, I was trapped in my office elevator whilst on my way to my office for some Saturday quiet time to pen a Valentine’s article about romantic love in all of it’s glory. No doubt, it was going to be based on 20 year old movie sentiments just before I had an impromptu change of plan in the 45 minute elevator excursion, resolving instead to write about love’s more enduring values—this, after reviewing the many facets of my life just before I might actually plummet to the ground and die. Admittedly, inhaler in hand, I have a slight tendency to overreact.
Well, what else I didn’t mention about my colorful February is our family tradition of simple and elegant Valentine’s meals at home in which there is usually some type of seafood involved that has been closely linked to both garlic AND butter. Forget about the roses, for that IS love to my little Cajun heart! So this year when I told my husband and son to pick up fish for our Valentine’s dinner I never dreamed they would come home with a whole redfish in a box big enough to be a small casket. This little feller was one HUGE Gulf-dweller! Within an hour, that baby had been filleted and plated for a fantastic meal at home, and when we cleaned up afterwards my husband was all too eager to toss the fish head and carcass into the trash before I yelled WAIT!!
I’ll submit the usual warning where animals are concerned in my stories: Pet activists stop reading here.
Now, I’m no Emeril Lagasse, but my instincts told me that throwing away that fish head was probably against not only my entire Catholic upbringing, but also, my new delayed menopausal onset diet! Since I had no nearby relatives of Cajun descent to come to my defense, the entire kitchen paused and my husband and son were more than appalled. They were completely grossed out when I packed that baby in Ziploc and put him in the freezer. This Valentine’s gift was gonna keep on giving as far as I was concerned!
Three days later, I resurrected that Valentine’s fish head from the freezer, body and tail. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had turned his head like some kind of Big Mouth Billy Bass and begun to look me square in the eyes, “You were once dead in your transgressions, but now you are raised to walk in newness of life because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.”
Instead, I tossed him into a huge pot of boiling water as my husband continued to declare, “I’m not going to eat that.” My son’s curiosity piqued and he couldn’t wait to see what Mama was cooking. We saw eyeballs and fins floating everywhere when I lifted the cover. Oh boy. What was I making, you ask? I really hadn’t decided, but the strong fishy smell fueled everyone’s pessimism SAVE MINE! In the end, I strained the stock, tossed in some roux, Holy Trinity seasonings, a couple of pounds of shrimp, a pound of oysters, smoked sausage, and filé and continued to add spices until I had produced the most “high functioning thyroid” gumbo ever known to man! Like the time before when I prepared my special brownies, they just about licked the bowls!
It was only fitting that I freeze some of the gumbo for Easter when I will prepare even more estrogen-friendly dishes, and pray that God will resurrect more than a talking Valentine’s fish head from my freezer.
I thought about last Easter, as I made my way home to my own Mama’s table, we pulled over at a roadside country church. Run!… I told my son as we noticed an Easter egg hunt already in progress. He was a head taller than the other kids and this would likely be his last year to hunt for eggs. When we realized after a few minutes of hunting that there were no more eggs to be found, this mother’s heart began to break. Too late. The hunt was over. Head held low, he had nothing.
Without being prompted, the little children came to him one by one and placed an egg in his basket until it was overflowing. And so were our hearts, teeming with acceptance and love from these roadside strangers acting in the name of Jesus Christ, the Lifter of our heads. Though he faced a cruel cross on our behalf, three days later he arose to make this wretch a treasure. How deep the Father’s love for us! Happy Easter, Dear Reader, from my desk to yours!
Read Brandi’s column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper. Follow Brandi on Twitter @BrandiChambless