(the perks of being) a kitchen wallflower.

Food

Where do I go from here?

This question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately, especially when there’s not much clarity in these times of transition.

Mardi Gras was wonderful. A room full of people gettin’ happy and full. It really doesn’t get much better than that. Though I usually only have about a good 30-45 minutes of being with people when not having to either cook or clean. But that’s okay. I love watching, more than anything. I love being able to hop around and check in, and then head back to cook more. Or clean my station. Or just take a sip of good whiskey and soak it all in.

These things help hone in on what I want to do. Each year I say to myself that I probably won’t go through it again and each year I get way too jacked up not to.

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The thing is, these parties have shifted through the years. I wrote a bit about it last week, but I learn more from each dinner. I learn about the work and the passion. The idea that some things just don’t make sense. That’s the way it goes, though. I also can’t picture myself sitting in a classroom again, but some people love it. That’s quite alright, ya know?

More so, I have friends and family that root for me. That want to see me succeed in the things I’m passionate about.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.

I see things and understand. There are people I love to impress and others I know who won’t get it. And that’s also okay. I never feel pressured either way. I guess this is the part where I feel most independent. When a ‘big deal’ walks in the door, I like to remain myself and hold fast to that. I feel like it’s gotten me to where I am today and I’m proud of that.

I’m stoked that I get to hold my head up and serve people and know that I put in a lot of time. We all have our gifts — and maybe I’m starting to learn what mine is.

I’m the wallflower in a kitchen.

Facilitating.

Adding salt.

Tasting.

Telling people, “It’s all about the mayonnaise…”

Scrubbing.

Turning off the lights.

And I’ll do it over and over again.

hey pocky way!

Food

I moved to Oregon in 2009 from my Beloved South.

Upon doing so, I loaded my car with all of my belongings and 15 bags of Zapps potato chips.

They weren’t all for me, but for the people I was staying with along the way. Sort of like a, “Thanks for letting me crash! Here’s a little piece of my story!” I mean, Zapps are delicious! But they’re funny, ya know? That’s the whole idea.

This Saturday, (yikes, tomorrow!) I will be hosting my 5th Mardi Gras party right down the road.

I have very sentimental memories of my first Mardi Gras here. I didn’t know everyone that well. I was still meeting the people my wife knew and loved and was aching for something familiar.

I made fried chicken, hushpuppies, fried pickles and for good measure, (crab) boiled veggies with shrimp. Zapps were a part of it, as well as our favorite King Cake from Paul’s Pastry in Picayune, MS. — my hometown.

The gumbo I didn’t make until our second year. It wasn’t very good. I was up till 2am stirring the roux, not realizing how long it takes to make a proper gumbo. I used carrots instead of bell pepper for the Trinity — which was okay — but not the Trinity, ya know?

We had about 12 people in our tiny apartment.

A couple of years passed and now we’re nearing 40-45 people in a space not my own.

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Can’t say that it’s not a little over-whelming to know that, but I’m so excited. It’s so fun to pull something like that off — especially when it’s something that means so much to me. Having people experience that part of my culture and eat some good food along the way. It just does my heart good.

Not to mention it comes at a dreary time in the Northwest. It always lifts my spirit to get that twinge of excitement in the middle of January. Knowing that in a few weeks, we will be celebrating and eating and inevitably dancing with another year of Mardi Gras in Portland.

I’ll let y’all know how it goes. Until then,

I got a roux to make!

Fat Tuesday! (And the dirt around my neck.)

Story

Happy Mardi Gras!

Well, not so much in the Pacific Northwest, but where I come from, it’s a three day holiday. (For the kiddos, that is!)
I love that. It just goes to show you how important the holiday is to southern folk. We need a few days to celebrate. We could all use more days to celebrate.

I grew up going to parades in Slidell and outside of New Orleans. I can’t say that I’ve been in New Orleans on a Fat Tuesday. I also can’t say that I’ve wanted to. I’ve seen it. I’ve heard the stories. Not my cup of tea to move down Bourbon in a river of people. I’m a little too claustrophobic for that. Much respect to the people who continually make it out to do so. Because after all, being over-the-top is what makes Mardi Gras well…Mardi Gras!

The beads. Goodness gracious. The beads! Nothing is more prized than a good set of beads. We all know which ones are the money beads. Not the clear ones. The big shiny golds, greens and purples flung high from moving themed floats — hands reached high — kids sitting on their parents shoulders — “THROW ME SOMETHIN’ MISTUH’!”

As beads would hit the ground (and if they made it through the crowd of outstretched hands) we would immediately toss them around our necks. I would, at times, have them all the way up to my chin where I wouldn’t be able to rotate my head — like some beautifully crafted beaded neck brace.

When we would get home, I’d take off my layers only to find my neck streaky brown from the beads I’d picked up off the road.

It’s something that always sticks out in my memories. The beads that would sometimes pinch my neck skin and I’d have to dig through to figure out which one it was.

The dirt around my neck.

Washed off, but never forgotten.

Happy Mardi Gras to my Southern Folk and those scattered around in our little homes — I know what it means for you to celebrate…
And if you do so,

Let it fill you up.