Y’all. It’s cold AF in South Louisiana. Last night it snowed. SNOWED. I didn’t know what to do so I cooked. Go figure. This past weekend was great. On Saturday, we celebrated Shelby’s third birthday. Her birthday was on December 26, so I try to host her party a few weeks after so everyone (mostly me) can rest from the holidays. Her party was the Children’s Museum in Lafayette, and she had so much fun! All of her friends and family were there, and she really enjoyed the uninterrupted play, king cake, and presents. I love birthdays, especially hers, because it is such a celebration of life. Her life has changed mine the most.
My mom came in for the party and spent the night at my house. I love when she spends time here because we always end up staying up late, drinking wine, and talking. My mom is the wisest woman I know with so much insight on life. My friends all go to her for advice, as she is an expert at deciphering dreams, sees all situations in a positive but realistic light, and she takes all the facts into consideration before making any big decisions. We joke and say she needs to write a book, and we titled it “Classy Southern women who cuss”. My mom is the epitome of class, but her true Southern roots show when she drops the occasional F bomb. This weekend after Shelby’s party, we were talking about a family friend who has experienced many trials and tribulations. This friend has experienced a great amount of loss, losing her children and husband, and being the only living member of her family still here. She’s the definition of a steel magnolia. My mom was describing this friend’s attitude as “accepting life on life’s terms”. I was intrigued by this saying, so I asked more. My mom explained that my dad always used this term, and it explains this family friend because she loves everyone for who they are, does not place expectations on them, and accepts each day as they come. How profound.
One of the hardest things about my dad being gone is not being able to ask him about these simple sayings he always used. I wish I could call him and ask him how this saying helped him get through tough seasons, and how it can help me get through mine. I googled “life on life’s terms” and I discovered it is a popular term used in AA. My dad was a recovered alcoholic, sober for the majority of my life and attending AA meetings regularly. He had an incredible sponsor who held him accountable, and my dad sponsored several young men throughout the years as well. My dad used a lot of AA mantra in our home. We said the serenity prayer often, and when things were tough he’d remind us to take things “one day at a time”. I’m sad he suffered from alcoholism but so proud of him for choosing to be sober for his family. I’m also happy he had so many of these lessons to teach us. Also, learning about his disease is what inspired me to be a social worker. As with many of my blog posts, this is an example of good outcomes coming from struggle.
After researching “Life on Life’s Terms”, I learned that those 5 little words have helped many alcoholics to overcome their entitlement issues, and learn to accept life as it is. Facing reality can be challenging for all of us, addicts and non-addicts alike. However, facing and accepting reality can help us surrender and let go, accepting things as they are, especially the things we have no control over. Anxiety, worry, and stress are useless. They are like riding a stationary bike and expecting to get somewhere. Once we learn to accept life on life’s terms, love those around us for who they are, and accept our human condition, we are then so free to be happy and work on ourselves, instead of trying to change others. Now, this takes daily work and reflection, and it must be combined with other things that are healthy and we must participate in self care.
I love hearing words of wisdom from my dad. It seems like they’ve been coming at me from so many different directions. His ever-positive, life loving attitude is so present in my heart. I miss him so much, which is a reminder of why I started this blog in the first place: to share positivity, food, and South Louisiana values. I’m now focusing on Life on Life’s Terms and sharing it with friends, family and my hospice patients and their families. Powerful words from a caring man.
Another thing my dad did, of course, was gumbo. He made the best gumbo. Like his jambalaya, his gumbo was one-of-a-kind. It was colorful, spicy and different every time he made it. He always made shrimp and okra gumbo, which is my mom’s favorite. She likes smoked sausage in hers, so I added that in this recipe. Of course my dad had very few recipes written down, so I recently have been working on perfecting my version of this gumbo, and I think I found success. NOTE: if you think you don’t like okra, neither did my dad. He cooked down the okra so much that he “cooked the slime out”, as he would say, and it adds an intense flavor and richness to the gumbo, AND you barely know it’s there. He also did not like celery but was a believer that it was necessary in cooking especially in the Cajun Trinity (onion, bell pepper and Celery), as the flavor it provides is necessary.
It’s been ridiculously cold in South Louisiana, snowing twice in 1 month!! So, gumbo is necessary. I hope y’all enjoy this recipe- let me know what you think. Oh, and with Mardi Gras season fast approaching, make extra and freeze it for when you have friends over after the parades!! Just defrost, heat on stove, cook rice and make potato salad. Wash down with king cake and cold beer. Voila. Pure, Louisiana happiness.
Here we Go!
Wine Pairing: Chateau St. Michelle Cab
Music Pairing: Sam Smith’s new album “The Thrill of It All”. Not Louisiana music but I am obsessed right now
2 lbs Louisiana shrimp (if you can buy some locally, fresh and not peeled, do that. Peel them, save the shells, and make your own shrimp stock. recipe to follow)
Shrimp stock (recipe to follow. But if you can’t make your own shrimp stock you’re not truly Cajun and store bought is fine)
2 lbs smoked sausage
1 bay leaf
2 small bags frozen okra
1 can rotel
Shrimp Stock recipe:
Shrimp shells from 2 lbs of shrimp
A few onions, chopped in 4
1 Bell Pepper, Chopped in 4 pieces
A few celery stalks
Salt, black pepper, red pepper, garlic powder, bay leaf
once you’ve peeled your shrimp, save the shells and set aside. Fill a large pot a little more than halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add shrimp shells, onion, bell pepper, celery, carrots, bay leaves, salt, pepper, garlic powder. Let this simmer on your stove for a few hours. Mine simmered about 4 hours. Drain the stock. I don’t have fancy cooking accoutrement, so I put a colander over a large bowl, draining the stock and throwing away the shells and vegetables.
While your stock is cooking, smother some okra:
Set a medium sized pot on med high heat, and add a little vegetable oil. Place 2 bags frozen okra (you can also use fresh) in the pot and cook down. Okra will appear slimy, but you are “cooking the slime out” as my dad would say. Once okra has cooked down a bit and is not longer slimy, add the can of rotel. Continue to smother the okra until it’s dark, soft and no longer has peaks. Honestly it’s ready when it appears a bit mushy.
Once Stock is made, put it in a large pot, heat on the stove. Add the okra, a spoonful at a time until reaching desired thickness. I used all of the smothered okra. I know I am a big advocate for making your own roux but I must admit: I don’t make my own roux for this gumbo. Reason being, this gumbo requires less roux than chicken and sausage gumbo does due to the okra making it so thick, so making a big roux would be overkill. I had some leftover frozen roux in my fridge that I used, but you can also use a few scoops of jarred roux to thicken your gumbo to your desired thickness. Or, if you want to make your own roux, do it and freeze what you don’t use! Once your gumbo is where you want it to be, add your sausage, let that cook awhile, about 20 minutes. Skim any fat off the top. Then, add your shrimp and let them cook until no longer translucent, only takes about 8 minutes.
Cook some rice, make some potato salad and boom. You have a delicious shrimp and okra gumbo. C’est Bon.
This gumbo is my new favorite gumbo. Something about it is lighter than my chicken and sausage gumbo, making it perfect for spring. I am desperately ready for warmer weather, but I am going to keep enjoying this gumbo weather as long as I can.
Well I am working on some things for my next blog post that will turn into a series. So, stay tuned!! Take care and remember: Life on Life’s Terms: Eat gumbo and be happy.