In case some of you don’t know this, I am not just Susie Jane Wilson. I have been given the gift of the nickname Carmen by a few friends and colleagues.
The recipe for this will be inside the upcoming short-story-enhanced cookbook, Little Miss Cornbread.
Once upon a time in a little college town in the Ozark Mountains my dear friend Vanna Mae was up to her ears in a real dilemma. Her other dear friend Polly wanted her to go with her to Guatemala for shopping and adventure. Vanna Mae’s job as a chef for the Theta Tau Upsilon house, the engineering fraternity at University of Arkansas came first. We did some talking and I agreed to take over for her for the next few weeks.
Next came the boys at the frat house. They were intelligent and sweet and liked fresh dishes with a Deep South twang to them. It was a wonderful experience and gave me a chance to hone my skills and offer up my own versions of my family’s traditional Southern dishes. The boys came back from the Gulf Coast on Sunday and handed me their haul of fresh caught shrimp and crab. I knew I wanted to make a gumbo and knew how to make a roux and most of what I wanted to put into it. I had faith, but needed a little guidance. I called Vanna Mae, who was still in town prior to her trip. She gave me her opinion and expertise. I then made the rounds calling the best of the best in my circle to confer and discuss. Among the ones I called on were Rick and Ritchie as well as Polly, Michael D. and, finally, my daddy Mr. Perry Wilson.
What happened was one of the most legendary gumbos ever created. I don’t take all the credit as much of it goes to those listed above and to the opportunity to cook for those engineering boys. So, was it synergy? Was it serendipity? I’ll tell you one thing, I wrote it all down as I put it together and I made it again and again, often without the shrimp as I am allergic to shrimp. And like gumbo itself, the creation was a collage of tips and traits from my friends and family. I make it now for special occasions. I make it for holiday parties and friends. Sometimes, I cater a party or two. Maybe someday you will be lucky enough to attend!
Much thanks and much love to you all! – Susie Jane aka Carmen