When the weather turns cold, I start thinking about the big steaming pots of gumbo and jambalaya of my childhood, so I make a trip to T’Beaux’s seafood stand down by the Wal-Mart parking lot, pull out the iron pots, and get to work. Naturally, this activity needs the proper soundtrack. I’ve noticed that sometimes people from outside of Lynyrdskynyrdsville seem to think that since I grew up on the Mississippi/Louisiana line, I would have had a childhood background steeped in the blues. To this I must say au contraire mon ami.
True, I did hear the blues blaring from the beer joint next to Dipper Dan’s ice cream shop when we went to get a cone on Saturday nights as a kid, but that was my only exposure to it until I was old enough to get into beer joints and blues clubs myself. I’ve also noticed that other white bread mayonnaise eaters like myself from the same region seem to try to promote this misconception, which causes me to inwardly roll my eyes, because I know good and well they probably have the same childhood musical background as me, which was a mixture of bluegrass, Hank Williams-style country, old-style gospel, and traditional, accordion-centric Cajun and fais do-do.
I love this old music as much as I love classic rock, which as you know by now, is a whole lot. The only thing is, listening to the music of my grandparents and my Daddy and others I’ve lost can get the grief thing stirred up, so I kind of listen to it in small doses and at particular times – like when I’m making Granny’s gumbo or Aunt Vernell’s jambalaya. So today I’m making Aunt Vernell’s jambalaya (pronounced jum-bah-lie-ah, by the way), and I thought I would give you the recipe and link one of her favorite songs, “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man”. I’ll be posting more recipes and talking more about these styles of music as we approach Mardi Gras, so laissez les bons temps rouler, cher.
Aunt Vernell’s Jambalaya
In an iron pot, make a dark brown roux out of 4 tbsp. flour and 1/2 cup of oil. Add 3 chopped onions, a chopped bell pepper, and garlic powder to taste and cook until veggies are tender. Add a quart of raw shrimp and 2 lbs. of cubed pork sausage and cook until done. Then add enough water to make a nice thick gravy and fold in 3 cups of cooked rice. Serve this deliciousness with cornbread cooked in an iron skillet for the full Aunt Vernell experience.
Scoff if you must at this song, but I’m here to tell you that you haven’t lived until you’ve done the Cajun tw0-step to it. By the way, Jack White’s championing of Loretta Lynn is one of the things that makes him so cool. Here’s “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” by Loretta and Conway Twitty. Note that Loretta properly pronounces the word Loo-ze-anna. Ayee!
The ultra-cool Jack White also does a version of the classic, “Jolene” which really conveys the almost scary desperation implied in the lyrics. Here’s a traditional bluegrass version done by a little homegrown group called “Lonesome Meadow”, followed by Jack’s version so you can compare.
It occurs to me that if Jack White is cool, and he digs supposedly “uncool” music, maybe I don’t have to surrender my cool badge after all. Except that I don’t think I ever had one in the first place. And let’s not forget our lessons learned from Mr. too-cool-for-school Parsons, either. Here’s The White Stripes, “Jolene”…
And if you need something to really get the uncool taste out of your mouth, have a ball and biscuit, sugar, and take your sweet little time about it…
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