Omnivore - Guest blogger: Feeding 15 on the fly

Zen cooking

By Julia Stedman

I turned to my husband and said “if Mama asks me to cook supper, will you give me five dollars?” He gave me a very knowing half smile. Surely to God, with an hour left on our four hour drive and the sun setting, I was in the clear. Not so. Fifteen minutes later mama called asking us to retrieve my sociopathically late sister and bring her to join the rest of the family, their families, and a dozen or so out-of-towners all there to celebrate my sister’s wedding. That’s fine Mama, we’re happy to pick her up. Then it came, in a voice that chirped like a song bird – “oh, and when you get here can you cook the etouffe? I’ve already peeled the shrimp for you.” I held the phone towards my husband and asked her to repeat the question, feigning cosmic cellular interference. He gave me another knowing half smile. Of course Mama, I’m happy to help.

While my mother is a perfectly respectable Cajun cook, I tend to be on the more adventurous side. So when some twenty years ago I announced my newfound avoidance of meat, I was pretty much left to my own devices if actually wanted to eat when I visited. Accommodating my constraints was not considered considerable.

We arrived to a chaotic household, and an even more chaotic kitchen. There were two aunts, one uncle, and at least one sister-in-law buzzing about with all the grace one expects from bumblebees. I went into “sarge” mode, which didn’t quite have the effect I was hoping for – looks like I’m dealing with a bevy of conscientious objectors.

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