Morbid Meals – Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya-Ya

EXAMINATION

A wise man named Penn Jillette once said, “Everybody got a gris-gris.Gris-gris (pronounced gree-gree) is a French term from voodoo for the medicine pouch that vodouisants wear around their neck. What Penn was saying, however, is that we all have something that we cling to, whether it be something tangible to bring us good luck (or ward off bad luck), a belief, a superstition, even a firmly and long-held conviction that centers us or even defines us. That something, according to Penn, is the one thing we should scrutinize first and foremost in our lives and try to change about ourselves, hard as it may be.

For me I think it is fair to say that my gris-gris is food. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Dan,” I hear you say, ”we all need food.” Yes, which is why we should scrutinize it. I fear that so many folks walk through life just throwing anything bite-sized (or super-sized) down their gullet without thinking about it.

It is one of the reasons why I started Morbid Meals. We must eat to live, which means something else must die. We don’t like to think about that, though. We’ve pre-packaged, homogenized, and mass marketed products so that we don’t have to think about where our food came from. That nicely fits a model of consumption not sustenance.

Now I’m not saying we should all jump on the latest food fad of dietary detritus. That too is a gris-gris; putting your faith in what somebody else says is good for you, bad for you, will help you lose weight, etc. The corollary to my mantra is that we are all going to die no matter what we eat. Some food will kill us faster than others, but an acceptance of moderation is really what I’m advocating here. Everything in moderation including moderation.

You’ve likely noticed this at play in my recipes here before. Many of them offer alternatives for those with dietary restrictions, suggestions for alterations, never requiring you follow these recipes to the letter. I’ve also presented my share of crazy creations that would be fun to try at least once, and then you can go back to eating healthy or whatever. Live a little while you can. Food is life, food is love.

So, I’ll step off my soapbox and say that if you need a gris-gris, why not try a little bit ah Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya-Ya, hey now. Doctor’s orders. Dr. John, the Night Tripper, that is.

Now before y’all freak out, this recipe makes a lot of gumbo. It is meant to be shared with a large family. (The loas might like a bowl, too.) We also love having leftovers. Gumbo gets even better when you put it up and eat it the next day. Feel free to divide in half if you prefer. It also takes a long time to cook, like almost 3 hours. Gumbo is not fast food. It is completely worth the effort.

ANALYSIS

Servings: 12 to 16

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs. whole chicken, or 4 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 medium yellow onions, chopped, divided
  • 4 ribs celery, chopped, divided
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 8 whole okra, sliced (about 1/2 cup) (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp creole seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 to 4 quarts water
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced (or 1 Tbsp minced garlic, or 1 tsp garlic powder)
  • 1 lb andouille sausage, chopped
  • 1/2 lb tasso ham (cajun ham), chopped
  • Cooked rice (1/2 cup per serving)
  • Louisiana hot sauce, to taste when serving

Apparatus

  • Pressure cooker, 7 quart
  • Large, heavy stock pot or Dutch oven
  • whisk

Procedure

Mise en place (everything in its place)

  1. Chop all of the veggies. Do this first. You’ll thank me later. Divide the onions into half portions (one for the stock and one for the gumbo). Divide the celery in half as well. Set aside.

Make the chicken stock

  1. Into your pressure cooker, add the carrots and the first portions of onions and celery, along with the salt, seasoning, and bay leaves.
  2. Cut up your chicken and arrange all of it, including the bones, fat and skin, giblets, gizzards, etc., into the pressure cooker on top of the veggies.
  3. Pour in the water, but make sure NOT to go above the “maximum fill” line.
  4. Cover with the lid and lock it down. On the stove top, turn the heat to high and bring up to pressure. When you hear the pressure release whistle, reduce the heat to low, for a steady low hiss. Cook for 30 minutes.
  5. Release the pressure and open the cooker carefully.
  6. Strain the stock into a container to cool. Reserve 3 quarts of stock for the gumbo. (If you have more, save it to cook the rice.) Separate the chicken meat from the bones and set aside.

Make the roux

  1. In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over high heat until it begins to shimmer before it reaches its smoke point.
  2. Reduce your heat to medium and carefully whisk in your flour in small batches, which should immediately begin to sizzle. Whisk constantly for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the roux turns a deep brown color, like milk chocolate.
  3. Lower the heat to medium-low and stir in the remaining onions, celery, and bell peppers. Stir occasionally for another 10 minutes, or until the roux thickens and turns a glossy dark brown color, like dark chocolate.

Bring it all together

  1. Into the pot with your roux, still at medium low, add your okra (if using), garlic, and chopped andouille sausage. Stir occasionally and cook until all of the vegetables are soft, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add your reserved 3 quarts of stock and stir until the roux is well combined with the stock. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally to keep everything well combined.
  3. Now you can add the cooked chicken and the chopped tasso ham to the gumbo and cook for an additional 15 minutes.
  4. Turn off your heat and let your gumbo cool down for at least 5 minutes. This stuff is very hot.
  5. Serve with steamed rice. If you like, add hot sauce to your taste.

DISSECTION

Let’s address the okra first. I love okra, especially fried, but most folks I know can’t stand how gummy it is. That’s what makes it gumbo, though, in my humble opinion. In fact”gumbo” means okra. It does tend to be optional in a chicken and sausage gumbo. It is more common in a seafood gumbo. Okra adds an earthy flavor and extra thickness, for even though we are adding a lot of roux, a dark roux doesn’t thicken gumbo very much. (A light roux will thicken more but has less flavor.) Don’t use “okra season” as a reason to skip it either. You can probably find frozen okra out of season.

If you can’t find tasso ham, you can substitute with smoked ham or regular smoked sausage.

Can you make the stock without a pressure cooker? Sure, but it will need to simmer for at least two hours.

POST-MORTEM

Save your hot sauce until the end. Again, trust me on this. I know cajun and creole foods can be spicy but not everyone can handle it. Also, we’re using andouille sausage and creole seasoning, where various brands have different levels of heat. This is why I suggest adding the hot sauce at the end to your own personal taste in your own bowl. Once you make it often enough and you use brands you are familiar with, feel free to spice things up.

One of my favorite stories about Marie Laveau was that she often made large batches of gumbo and would give bowls of it to condemned prisoners in New Orleans, as well as feeding it to the sick and poor. I don’t know how true this story is, or the tales that mention a few other medicinal herbs which might have made their way into the gumbo, but I do know the power of a good bowl of gumbo and rice to make everything all right with the world.

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The Scarlett Dahlia : Mornings by Jesse Orr

 

The hour was late the morning after Ruth drank the Dahlia’s water. Birds had long been awake and busy. The slaves had risen with the birds and took great pains not to make more noise than was necessary as they went about their morning tasks. They knew a slave named Ruth from the pens by the creek had been brought to the Dahlia. Nobody had seen her since.

Charles, laden with a silver breakfast tray, padded with care up to the side of the hallway leading to the Dahlia’s room, stepping over the boards he knew had a creak. He had delivered this tray to his mistress times innumerable and never knew exactly what lay on the other side of the door. His heartbeat increased as he grew closer, and his palms dampened with nervous sweat. Running out of the hallway, he tapped the Dahlia’s door with his leather shoe.

“Enter,” came the voice at once. Charles jumped a little at its suddenness and fumbled for the doorknob. Unbidden, it opened.

“Good mornin, Miss Dahlia,” Charles said, maneuvering through the door and closing it behind him with his foot. His eyes fell upon her first. She was sitting on the bed, clad in a red filmy gown, sunlight cascading around her. Not for the first time, he thought she was beautiful.

His eye shifted and he became aware that the gown had not started the night as any color but white. Moving further, his eye observed the crimson sheets were soaked with a darker stain. It was hard to tell, for laying on the bloody sheets was Ruth, her now-sightless eyes frozen forever in terror.

“Good morning, Charles,” the Dahlia said and turned to smile at him. Her eyes pierced his, and for that instant, it took every fiber of his being not to obey his instinct to run. “How are you today?”

“Good, missus,” he said, averting his eyes and placing the tray on the table which stood at the foot of the enormous bed. He saw that blood had splattered all the way across the bed to the table. His heart fluttered.

“I am delighted to hear it.” She returned her attention to the window. “I may have exsanguinated this one, I’m afraid. You may try if you like.”

“’Das all right, missus, plenny mo’ where ‘dey come from,” said Charles, and picked up a large steel syringe, normally used for livestock. He rounded the bed to the side opposite the Dahlia and stopped, surveying what remained of Ruth. She lay on her back, her head pulled back, and her throat cut deep enough for Charles to see her spine. She was nude, and her skin was a pale blueish color.

Charles had learned any blood the Dahlia left would collect at the lowest points of her victims, and using the needle, he pierced the bottom of Ruth’s stomach, where the skin seemed darker. The bed heaved and there was a rustling sound. He looked up as the Dahlia rose to her feet, leaving her robe on the bed. There was nothing beneath it but blood.

Charles tore his eyes away with an effort, horrified at the thought of what would happen if she saw him looking. He dug the needle still deeper into the dead woman and pulled at the plunger. A dark sludgy liquid made its way with reluctance into the syringe, filling it halfway. Charles pulled the needle out and stabbed it into another low place on the body, yanking at the plunger.

“When you are done, please remove this one and everything with a stain. You know what to do,” the Dahlia said, pausing at the door to the room which held her bathing tub. She flashed Charles a smile he was too afraid to see. “I would like another tonight.” The door closed behind her and Charles released a breath he was not aware he had been holding.

He went on milking the body for any liquid the Dahlia had left behind. He had developed a technique over the many slaves the Dahlia had used. He worked his way all around the body where it met the bed, inserting the needle every three or four inches, and by the time he had circled the body, there was nothing more coming into the syringe.

Returning the needle to the silver tray, the rest of the routine came easy. The bedsheets were bundled around what remained of Ruth. Tying the corners, Charles went to the door and whistled, long and high. After a moment, a pair of dark hooded eyes showed at the door. Mary the slave girl entered and without a sound she and Charles lifted the blanket off the bed and out the door. They deposited their bundle in the small staging room off the black and white tiled ballroom. Without a word, Charles picked up the bucket of water and followed Mary and the mop back to the Dahlia’s chamber. By the time the Dahlia emerged from her bathing room, the bed was once again spotless and the servants and silver tray with its syringes were nowhere to be seen.

Back in the staging room, Charles handed one of the syringes to Mary. Expressionless, she upended the syringe over her mouth and pressed the plunger. Dark sticky blood dripped into her mouth, and she closed her eyes, her normally downcast lips turning upward in a smile. She sighed, savoring the taste, as a shudder ran through her. Charles felt his pulse quicken again as he followed suit with his own syringe. Before he was through ingesting its contents, he felt himself stiffening into a regular railspike. This was not lost upon Mary, who fell to her knees before him. Charles reflected as she undid his trousers that there was only one syringe left, then even that was gone from his mind as she took him into her mouth.

Misconceptions About Southern Conjure Magic

                           Misconceptions About Southern Conjure Magic

         by Eden Royce

        Conjure magic is a catchall term for folk magic. Those of you who, like me, played Dungeons and Dragons, may be familiar with the term “hedge magic”. Popular culture, movies and certain books, would have you believe that this type of magic is evil, and that you should flee at any cost. I’m reminded of a horror writer Facebook group I was in where a person shared an idea for a novel:

        Police officers kill a young black guy and the cop gets off for the crime. Then his grandfather does hoodoo voodoo on the cops for revenge. It gets really bloody by the end. Several people commented on what a great idea this was. Um.

One: It’s been done.

Two: Hoodoo is not voodoo.

Three: Murder is not the intent of conjure magics.

       I’ll start with number three. Murder Is Not the Intent of Conjure Magics:  Conjure magics have been a part of every culture on the planet, each of which has specifics on ingredients, spells, and incantations. Southern Conjure is a mélange of African, Native American, and yes, some European magic systems. (There goes that D&D terminology again.) The main reason for the European influence is that when slaves were brought to the Americas, the tools and ingredients they were used to did not exist and substitutions had to be made. In many cases, they were also not able to perform ceremonies with any freedom and had to adopt methods that could be activated in a more clandestine manner.

      The original purpose of conjure was to make life better for the practitioner and those around them. In the case of the earliest examples of this magic, it was to create protection spells, spells to send away those what would do harm, increasing luck. As time went on additional spells of luring love, financial success, and compelling others to your will developed. Conjure is alive, constantly growing and developing as a magic, depending on the needs and desires of those practitioners.

        Hoodoo isn’t instantaneous, as some media would lead you to believe. It’s planned, considered, there is intent. It certainly isn’t the gore-laden blood bath some movies would like you to think. It’s subtle, thoughtful, and crafted with care. And a reliable rootworker will tell you when your situation doesn’t require his or her services. One of the main tenants of Southern conjure is respecting the earth and all that comes from it. Many of the ingredients and supplies needed to work a hex come from the ground and practitioners of conjure are taught to respect that fact. Waste is not tolerated. It’s similar to a chef saying, “Respect your ingredients,” on a cooking show.

       Hoodoo isn’t voodoo I’ve read a great deal of short stories and novels, and have watched movies that use voodoo as a central tenant of the plot. For the most part, authors and filmmakers tend to take one path when portraying conjure magic: It’s evil and must be destroyed. The same goes for the practitioners.

       In these tales, voodoo is practiced in tiny hovels in the backwoods of “insert Podunk town name here”, Louisiana or on the dusty, impoverished streets of the Haitian mainland. Spells are directed at seemingly blameless people out of spite or for some nebulous reason only the truly evil mind could understand. And the practitioners are either hideous crones, or beautiful, yet demented women who dance partially clothed in the swamps at midnight, slashing the necks of flailing chickens. And with this portrayal comes the confusion between conjure magics. What movies show as voodoo is usually not. Many now know, unlike the average person from the last century, voodoo, or Vodoun, is a religion practiced alongside Catholicism, which itself is ritual heavy. Yet the stereotype of it being steeped in evildoing and the love of destruction persists.

       Typically, most hoodoo practitioners are Protestants. But hoodoo itself is not a religion; it is a spiritual and magical practice, whose traditions have been passed down in families and to eager students. It exists in many variations wherever African-Americans are, but it practiced by many ethnicities. The particulars of spell casting, hexing, or laying tricks is not as flagrant as the silver screen would lead you to believe, so some creative license is present in most cases to make those scenes more unsettling. Who wants to show on film a person sprinkling brick dust in someone’s yard? Ooooh, scary.

         Authors and filmmakers understandably focus on the dark side of conjure magic. Blood and ritual is always alluring in horror circles. The unknown, the unusual can be most frightening—and fascinating. Conjure can be cool and/or creepy to someone unfamiliar with it, but what if it’s the norm? My great aunt was a practitioner of root, the Carolina’s term for hoodoo and conjure. She scraped against six feet tall and her frame filled most of a doorway. She drove a late model Cadillac and always told the best stories, punctuated by her table-slapping laugh. The ones I remember were hilarious—from people asking to win big in the local number- running racket to people that wanted to get their boss off their back. Most of the time, people came to her for helpful spells, not things to hurt other people. My cousin went to her for a potion so she could marry before she was thirty. She got married the week before her thirtieth birthday. I was in the wedding, but I wish I asked for a spell to make her pick another bridesmaid’s dress.

*Shudders*

It’s Been Done

         In the Facebook group, I responded to the idea mentioned above. To paraphrase, I said there are a number of books and movies with this theme and I’d really like to see one that showed the original intent of this folk magic. One that showed another side of conjure. The side where women are strong and powerful, but with an elegance and grace under fire. Women who helped each other and worked their magic for the greater good. In reality, male and female workers of hoodoo, conjure, root—whatever term you want to use—are normal people who hold jobs, pay taxes, raise families, and are compensated well for their talents. Even so, don’t cross them. Or they may cross you. I remember reading what bestselling author Toni Morrison said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must be the one to write it”.Guess I’d better get to it.

**********

My beautiful picture

  Eden Royce is descended from women who practiced root, a type of conjure magic in Charleston and had over two dozen stories published.

  Eden is a writer for The 7 Magpies Project  and the Horror Submissions Editor for Mocha Memoirs Press. She also writes a regular feature for Graveyard Shift Sisters, a site dedicated to purging the black female horror fan from the margins. Learn more about her at www.edenroyce.com.

January: Zombie Month

downloadEveryone loves zombies and to celebrate our affection for zombies we made January into zombie month here at horroraddicts.net. Zombies are a special kind of creature because in my opinion they are the scariest and most vicious of all the monsters. Think about it, zombies have one goal and that is to eat you, they can’t be reasoned with, its hard to stop them and if they give you one little bite, you become one of them. This is why we love zombies so much, unlike other monsters, zombies are simplistic. You never know what a vampire has planned but we all know what a zombie wants.

Despite the fact that zombies are simplistic they are terrifying for what they represent. In a movie like download (1)George Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead zombies stood for people’s mass consumption of material objects. Back before George Romero changed what zombies stood for, we had voodoo zombies. In movies like White Zombie and King Of The Zombies that stood for loosing your identity and being controlled by another. The scariest thing that zombies stand for is the fall of society.

Good zombie stories aren’t about the zombies, its how people react to the zombies. Take The Walking Dead for instance. As much as I like seeing the zombies on The Walking Dead what really interests me is the humans and how they deal with the fall of society. Someone I know recently said that he thought it was shameful that an extremely violent show like The Walking Dead could be so popular. I said that people don’t watch it for the violence, the reason they watch is because they want to see if people can keep their humanity as the world they know falls apart. This is what the zombies stand for in The Walking Dead. Some of the things zombies stand for in movies are loss of humanity, the fall of civilization and conforming to what’s popular even when its a bad thing.

zombiesZombies are a metaphor for a lot of bad things but the zombies themselves aren’t evil, they are just the end cause of something bad happening. In fact zombies aren’t as bad as the humans and in most movies it was something that the humans did that created the zombies. In The Walking Dead the people fear other humans much more than they fear zombies and the humans do a lot more damage. The more I thought about it, the more I thought that maybe its better to be a zombie then a human. That being said here are 5 reasons why being a zombie isn’t such a bad thing:

zombies (1)1. You get to dress how you want: If you’re not into fashion, being a zombie might be a good thing for you, zombies don’t care about how they look, ripped up clothing is just fine in fact stumbling around naked is even better, then when you getting blood on your clothes while you’re eating. Zombies don’t have a problem with body odor either, so showering is not important if you’re a zombie.

2. You won’t have to go to work anymore: Zombies don’t believe in working unless its something that they feel passionate about, such as eating humans. There is no 9 to 5 daily grind for zombies they do what they want, when they want.

3. Zombies are above the law: Zombies don’t worry about the law or rules, they break and enter, they murder people, and they don’t believe in hate crimes. They might steel other zombie’s food but they never get arrested.

4. Zombies don’t have to deal with annoying salesman or politicians: Zombies have a simple easy way to deal with people who annoy them, they just eat them, pure and simple and to a zombie democrats and republicans taste exactly the same.

5.  Zombies lead a simple life: If you’re a zombie the only thing you have to worry about is where your next meal is coming from. You don’t pay bills, You don’t wait in line for things like to pay for groceries and the only reason you would go to a shopping mall or church is if there are people inside to eat.

So now that you know the upside of being a zombie, leave a comment and tell us what your favorite zombie movie or book is or why you think it would be fun to be a zombie.

Review: Undead Obsessed: Finding Meaning In Zombies

10668827_949314288430213_2894372591177431099_oMovies and books about zombies are more popular now then they’ve ever been. Some stories about zombies  are humorous while others are scary, but zombies carry a deeper meaning. They represent society’s fears of disease, social isolation, the collapse of civilization, mind control and the fear of playing god. These are only a few of the fears that zombies represent, we haven’t even touched on the biggest fear, which is the fear of the science that makes the zombie apocalypse possible.

In her book Undead Obsessed: Finding Meaning In ZombiesJessica Robinson examines how zombies are a metaphor for our fear of science getting out of hand. She also gets into how the zombie apocalypse could happen and how science may be responsible but at the same time may be the only thing that can save us. A line from the intro in Undead Obsessed really set the tone for this book. Jessica says she once had a professor who said “every film has a message, but if you really want to know what society is afraid of watch horror movies.” The main idea of this book is to find out why we’re afraid of zombies.

This book goes deep into the meaning behind zombies. Jessica Robinson tackles voodoo zombies such as the ones in Serpent And The Rainbow and the flesh eaters that we know from Night Of The Living Dead. It also gets into what zombies are, how the zombie plague can be transmitted, and how to survive in a world full of zombies. Jessica does this by using examples from such movies as The Crazies, World War Z and The Walking Dead.

My favorite part of this book were the chapters dedicated to surviving the apocalypse. I like the talk on how people would need to work together to survive and how egos need to be put aside. Another good point that is brought up in Undead Obsessed is how in most zombie movies scientists are the ones who start the apocalypse such as in the movie 28 Days Later (actually animal rights activists had a lot to do with it also) but in a movie like World War Z, it’s a scientist who is the hero. Scientists get a bad wrap in movies and it’s probably because people fear that scientists are smarter than them and are withholding information. Though we also have to realize that in certain situations we would have to rely on science to fix the world’s problems.

Undead Obsessed is a zombie book unlike any other and a must have for zombie literature fans. While I admit that some of the science in this book went way over my head, I found it an entertaining read. Undead Obsessed is for the horror fan that likes to look past the blood and guts for the deeper meaning

Some people watch zombie movies and see it as simple entertainment.  In this book Jessica Robinson shows us that there is more meaning to zombie films then people think. The main idea I got from Undead Obsessed is that science can be harmful and beneficial. Watching a zombie movie is a way to help us understand these fears. This is a great analysis of what zombies stand for and it will change the way that you look at horror in general. There is always a deeper meaning if your willing to look for it.

Morbid Meals – Feeding the Lwas Red Beans and Rice

EXAMINATION

Vodou is a religion that fascinates me. Unlike the possession of the cheerleader in “Jennifer’s Body”, the spirits that Vodou practitioners commune with are very different.

Those spirits are known as Lwa, and are believed to be spirits of the dead who have been elevated to a saintly level, acting as emissaries and intermediaries for God. Followers of Vodou, called Vodouisants, often call upon the Lwas for help and offer them food in exchange.

Thus enters another one of my favorite cookbooks, Feeding the Lwas: A Vodou Cookbook by Amy Sumida. Amy explains the relationship this way. “It is a symbiotic relationship; they need our help to stay strong and we need their help with the troubles that life brings. They still possess the personalities they had when they were alive and with those personalities come likes and dislikes. When we serve the Lwa, and it is service not worship, we give them their favorite foods, wear their favorite colors, observe their sacred days through Vodou ceremonies, etc. The Lwa, in turn, serve us. They bring us material blessings, physical well being, protection, abundance, etc. Without us the Lwa would not exist, and without them we would cease to exist as well.”

The fascinating thing she points out is that different Lwas have different tastes. So finding the right meal to prepare and serve to a Lwa, depending on whose help you seek, is very important. You not only want to find their favorite dish, but you certainly do not want to offend them.

It turns out that there is at least one dish that they can all agree on: Red Beans and Rice. How could they not? It is simple yet hearty, easy to make, and a familiar staple dish for everyone.

ANALYSIS

Serves: 6 to 8

Makes: About 6 cups of beans and 3 cups of rice

To soak the beans

1 lb dried red kidney beans
Water to cover the beans

To cook the beans

2 cups of chicken stock (or one 14 oz can chicken broth/stock
7 cups water
1 ham hock (optional, but SO worth it)

To cook the fixins’

3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
1 bell pepper, chopped (about 1 cup)
4 ribs celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 to 6 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cups fully cooked sausage, chopped
2 tsp salt, divided
3/4 tsp ground black pepper, divided
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

To cook the rice

3 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried thyme
3 cups water
pinch of salt and pepper

Apparatus

  • Large stock pot with a lid
  • Colander/strainer
  • Large saucepan with a lid

Procedure

  1. Put the red beans into your pot and then add enough water to cover the beans by about two inches. Bring this to boiling and boil for about 3 minutes.
  2. Remove the pot from the heat and cover with a lid. Let the beans soak for at least an hour.
  3. Drain the beans and rinse with clean water. Return beans to the pot and add the chicken stock and water. If you have a ham hock, add that, too. Bring this to a boil, then simmer at medium-low heat for another hour.
  4. Drain the beans, but this time save 2 cups of the cooking liquid. Set the beans aside in your colander/strainer. If you added a ham hock, take the meat off the bone (assuming it didn’t just fall off the bone) and keep that with the beans, but discard the bone.
  5. To your pot, add the oil and bring your heat up to medium-high. Add the Cajun Holy Trinity, aka the chopped onion, bell pepper, and celery. Sauté until onions turn transparent, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the garlic and sausage, reducing the heat to medium, and cook for another 10 minutes.
  7. Bring the beans (and ham) back into the mix, as well as the reserved cooking stock. Add the salt and spices. Simmer over low heat until the liquid thickens up, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the beans, veggies, and meat to just get to know each other really well.
  8. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Then add the rice, bay leaf, and thyme and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes. This gives the rice a hearty, nutty flavor that you and the Lwas will love, I guarantee, ma chère!
  9. Add the water, salt and pepper to the rice, and bring just to boiling over high heat. Cover with a lid and reduce heat to low and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  10. Remove the rice from the heat and keep it covered for about 10 minutes.
  11. Regarding serving, I have seen beans on rice, rice on beans, and even beans and rice side by side. Does it matter? Probably not. Just serve the Lwa first. It’s only polite.

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DISSECTION

When preparing this recipe, do not skimp or cheat on the ingredients. You are feeding the spirits here. Best to make this from scratch. In fact, cooking is part of the communion. Think of it like an offering on the fire, with the smells, smoke, and ash rising to the heavens. This is why the kitchen and hearth are so vital to the home.

You can use what you have on hand, of course. Canned chicken broth is fine, naturally. Not everyone makes their own broth. Dry beans on the other hand are not that hard to cook and are much cheaper and healthier when cooked at home rather than dumped from a can.

As my wife is allergic to garlic, the only substitution we made was to skip the garlic altogether. I’m sure our Lwas know how she reacts and would not want her to be sick over an offering. Instead, we did use some of our homemade chicken stock and a ham hock to make up for it.

To make this as a Vodouisant from New Orleans would, I would suggest Andouille sausage. However, since Voudou is a migratory religion, I’m sure any sausage will work fine.

POST-MORTEM

This dish is meant to be shared. However much you provide as a portion for yourself, that is how much you should offer to the Lwa.

Red beans and rice is more than a staple, it is a home-cooked meal, made with hearth and heart. It is a meal unto itself, but makes a fine side dish as well.