I was sitting at the table last evening having supper by myself (a reasonably frequent situation, given that Kim and I don’t always get hungry at the same time and we’re hungry for different things). Anyway, I was having a typically thrown-together fave of flour tortillas, rolled around some chili, shredded cheese, chopped onion, jalapeno and hot sauce. Pretty simple stuff and very filling. Essentially, some homemade soft tacos and a beer.
This meal has been a mainstay for most of my life, and I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when all of these items weren’t available in the house.
We’re into a time of year when Home Food becomes more important than usual. Of course, everyone has their holiday favorites at home, their parents’ home or with a particular relative – or at least in a certain environment. But it’s also a time of year to indulge myself, when possible, in the foods I treasured while growing up and acquired special tastes for in the years since. Being raised in Texas, this brings an element of Tex-Mex, some chicken-fried steak (with cream gravy, of course), Frito pie, the German foods of my dad’s heritage and, thanks to the trips I took with my dad, fried crawfish tails.
One time when I was an older teenager, dad and I went duck-hunting near Sabine Pass, Texas -– a dirty, mud-flat town on the coast south of Beaumont (where, some 15 years later, my daughter would be born at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital). We were done hunting for the day and a friend of my dad’s took us to a place for lunch. This friend was a true Creole with a Spanish surname from nearby Port Arthur, and told me to order whatever I wanted. I chose the crawfish tails because I’d never had them, despite all our previous trips to South Louisiana and the Texas coast.
As I remember, I ate three plates. Of course, I was like 17 years old and boys of that age do that. But I swear, if turned loose again with similar lack of concern about health issues, I’d do it again today. And tomorrow. I love them that much and, really, it’s a good thing for my heart and entire vascular system they’re only a seasonal item.
It’s gumbo season, it’s etouffee season, it’s jambalaya season. Any drive down toward Houma and Thibodaux brings sights and aromas of smoke from burning cane stalk piles and, soon, we’ll be seeing the bonfires being readied along the levee tops. Such sights, smells and, well, general feelings are just how it is in our part of the world. It truly is special, despite the never-ending streetcar track work on lower St. Charles Ave. One of the reasons I’m looking forward to Carnival/Superbowl season is that all this work will be done and I can cross the damn street. But I digress…
We have local friends and neighbors from Boston, from Florida, from Kentucky, from Arizona, San Francisco, England and many other points outside New Orleans. One commonality is all have chosen to live here. Another is their individual backgrounds are so different from here. At this time of year, we each appreciate where we are, but we also lean toward the culinary favorites of where we grew up. It’s only natural during the holidays.
Earlier this week, I went to the holiday lobby-lighting ceremony at the Roosevelt Hotel on Baronne. While there were many locals in attendance, of course, there were also plenty from out of town who were at first bewildered by the goings-on as they stepped out of the elevator. But, seeing what was going on, they stopped and joined in. It was delightful.
What are some of your holiday favorites you make an effort to enjoy this time of year? Maybe we’ll find something new to add to our own special delights!
Craig Giesecke has been a broadcaster and journalist for over 30 years, including nearly two decades at the AP and UPI covering news, sports, politics, food and travel. He has been the owner of J’anita’s for five years, serving well-reviewed upscale bar food and other dishes. Comments are encouraged and welcomed.