Friday, November 5, 2010

You Gotta Have the Right Sausage

After finishing a critique of my manuscript, one of my beta readers told me, “I was hungry when I finished your book!”  It’s true; there’s a lot of cooking and eating in my WIP.  Hey, food is a big deal!  The kitchen is an important place—it’s where we gossip, share secrets.  It’s the emotional center of a house, which anyone who’s ever thrown a party knows.  I may be wrong, but I think this is especially true in the South, where food and cooking are huge parts of the culture and community.  

Some of the foods I grew up with (like thin, crispy cornmeal-battered fried catfish and New Orleans-style cafe au lait) can't really be found anywhere but home, but The Enabler and I do our best to recreate our favorites out here.  It isn't always easy.  As much as we love San Francisco, one of the problems with living in California is the lack of good sausage.  Southern comfort food—gumbo, jambalaya, red beans & rice—requires GOOD SAUSAGE: fatty, don’t-wannna-know-what’s-in-it, heart-attack-inducing sausage.  I’ve despaired of finding it anywhere but the South.

Luckily, every six months or so, we either make a trip home, or someone comes out to visit.  These trips are great opportunities for sausage-smuggling.  We even have a special suitcase for it,The Amazing Traveling Bag:

 My mother bought it for a dollar at a thrift store, and it holds a Styrofoam cooler with four packages of Richard’s:

 I *love* Richard’s sausage.  No other will do.  (It's pronounced "ree-shards," and the tag line is "C'est Si Bon:" It's So Good.)

Of course, ingredients are only part of the story.  To make a good gumbo, you’ve got to have the right cooking implements, too: a long wooden spoon, a sharp knife, and most importantly, a pot.  Cast iron is best.  It holds heat better than steel or aluminum, so the heat gets distributed more evenly over the base.  When you’re making a roux, this helps avoid hot spots where the fire hits the metal, so you get nice, even browning. This is my pot:

 It was my grandmother’s, one of her many cast iron Dutch ovens.  It never gets washed with soap--that would destroy the baked-in "seasoning"--and since it's really too big for any of our cabinets, it lives on top of the stove year-round.  I can’t imagine making gumbo without it.

Next week, I’ll be posting my PERSONAL GUMBO RECIPE, complete with pictures.  (If you want to try it, you've got a week to find yourself a pot!)  Stay tuned!


  1. I love this post! I live in Houston, and I think if I moved anywhere else I would get nostalgic for Tex-Mex. You can't find Tex-Mex anywhere else... they try and fail.

  2. Can't wait for that I've said before, I'm a fan of New Orleans, just not so much the food. I'm going to give your gumbo a shot. My pot's ready! :)

    Oh, and the sausage smuggler? Awesome. You're my hero.

  3. @Jaimie: Thanks! I love how food & place are still intertwined even though we have airplanes. I know if I leave California, I'm going to miss the avocados (and the Swiss chard--it's so good out here!).

    @Kristin: I'm nervous! I know your feelings on NOLA food... ;) I've also been known to smuggle pickled pork (for red beans & rice) and olive salad (a must for muffalettas).

  4. I love it:) I can't wait to see your gumbo recipe!! I've been making Gumbo from scratch for about a year now - sooo yummy (even if I did cook it!) - it does require a WHOLE day at home. Wish I would have thought to send you some bday sausage - maybe next year!

  5. No worries--I'm going to bring back another shipment when I come home for Christmas. And you sent that awesome jalapeno pepper jelly. Yum!

    Gumbo does take all day, but it's so worth it. I made a batch yesterday for the LSU game, and the apartment still smells delicious. Plus, it will taste even better today.