Tag Archives: writer

Another Poem Published, First You Make a Roux

Deep South Magazine has just published another of the poems from my work in progress collection, Always the Heat.

This poem is titled First You Make a Roux. It was inspired by a painting I bought some years ago on a trip to New Orleans with my best friend.

All good Louisiana cooking starts with a roux, and it's something I stessed to my kids when I started teaching them how to cook.

Look for the poem at http://deepsouthmag.com/2013/11/first-you-make-a-roux/ and I hope you like it.

Making a Roux

One of my Poems Got Published

My poem, Winter in Louisiana, was just published in Deep South Magazine.

As you can tell by the name, most of my writing will fit in well there since they have a very distinctive Southern Viewpoint.

Another poem is scheduled for a fall publication date.

Setting the Atmosphere Through Food (and a Roast Beef Po-Boy Recipe)

As I've mentioned before, most writers pull off of their backgrounds when they set the atmosphere and tone of their books. Some do it by smells (who can forget the sour smell of Bourbon Street on a weekend morning), some do it by sounds (Ernest Gaines is great at this, conveying a sense of poverty by the creaking of worn out bed springs), and others are visual. I often do this by describing a food.

In No' Chance I referenced both the Lucky Dog hot dogs found throughout the French Quarter in New Orleans as well as po-boys served at Johnny's Po-boys there. This is probably a holdover from the family dinners we used to have out at my great grandmother's house in the small community of Bellwood, La. Ma and Pa Alford lived in the heart of the Kisatchie National Forest that became the setting for The Bottle Tree. We used to go there on Sundays and Ma would spend all morning cooking so that we'd have a huge lunch and the day revolved around that meal.

The recipe below is one that reminds me of New Orleans, the taste instantly sending me to the humidity, sights and smells of the Crescent City. This one is made the New Orleans way, dripping with "Debris Gravy". It's also great to make homemade french fries and use them in place of the meat to make the po-boy, but then covering them in the gravy. You have to remember, most of the New Orleans and Cajun foods (two different kinds) were developed because people were poor and had to make do with what they had. This one can be made from inexpensive ingredients but the taste is rich!

I started with a recipe from NOLACuisine.com and then made some changes to suit my family.

I hope you try and enjoy it.

 

Roast Beef Po’ Boy with Debris Gravy Recipe

For the Roast:

1 Beef Chuck Roast (app. 2 ½ pounds). Don’t trim the fat since it adds flavor.

2 Garlic Cloves thinly sliced

Kosher Salt & Black Pepper

Cayenne

Flour to coat roast

3 Tbsp Lard or Vegetable Oil

1 Medium Onion, Diced

1 Medium to Large Carrot, Diced (I prefer to shred it using a cheese grater)

1 tablespoon finely Chopped Garlic

1 Cup Beef Stock

1 Cup Chicken Stock

Water if necessary

2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

1 Tbsp Hot Sauce

2 Sprigs Fresh Thyme (you can use dried if you don’t have fresh)

1 Bay Leaf  (fresh or dried)

Kosher Salt and Black Pepper to taste

 

Cut small slits into the roast, about every 3 inches, try not to pierce all the way to the bottom. Stuff the sliced garlic into the slits.

Season the Roast very liberally on all sides with the Salt & Black Pepper, season with Cayenne to your taste, I don’t use much.

Coat the roast in flour. You want enough to form a light crust when you brown it in the oil. This step will make the gravy just a tad thicker.

Heat the fat in a heavy bottomed Dutch Oven over high heat, when the oil starts to smoke, wait a few more seconds, then carefully add the Roast cut side down. Brown very well on all sides, without burning it. Remove to a plate.

Drain off all but 1 Tbsp of the fat in the pan, add the onions and carrots, cook until just before the onions start to brown, add the garlic (be carefult not to burn the garlic) then place the roast back in the pan, then add the stocks. Finish, if necessary, with enough water to bring the cooking liquid 3/4 of the way up the roast. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then back down to a very low simmer. Simmer covered for 3-4 hours or until the meat falls apart when you look at it (you know what I mean, very tender).

For the Debris Gravy:

Carve the meat into very thin slices, it will be hard to do and will fall apart, that is good. All of the bits and pieces, that fall off are your Debris (pronounced Duh-bree.)

Add all of the bits and chunks to you cooking liquid after skimming off the fat from the surface, keep the carved meat with a little liquid on a warm plate, covered tightly with plastic wrap.

Bring the gravy to a full boil and reduce until it coats the back of a spoon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Our family adds all of the meat back to the gravy when it has reduced and lets it sit there for a while to moisten the meat.

  

For the Po’ Boy:

New Orleans Style French Bread  (we found out that if you can’t get the good, crusty French bread to make this then you can use the canned Pillsbury Crusty French Bread and it is surprisingly good)

Cut the bread 3/4 of the way through so that the bread folds open as opposed to slicing it all the way through. If you slice it through the sandwich will fall apart. If you are using fresh baked bread wait for it to cool before slicing.

Shredded Lettuce

Mayonnaise

Roast Beef (see above)

Debris Gravy

 

Slather the bread with a very generous portion of Mayonnaise on the inside of the upper and lower halves. Place about a cup of Shredded Lettuce on the bottom half. Cover the lettuce with a generous portion of the “sliced” Beef. Drown the beef with Debris Gravy.

 This recipe will make 4 big Po Boys.

The Story of Junebug and the Body

While I had written a couple of books before  Junebug , this is the first novel that I liked enough to pursue publishing. I started it almost 18 years ago, and mostly finished it back in 2006, but then kept messing with it until last year.

The book was represented by a couple of agents at different times, but they were never able to sell it without the publisher wanting me to "update" it to the current time, which I actually did at one point but in my mind the story lost a lot of its character being set in the 21st century as opposed to the early 1970s.

Junebug and The Body involves two friends, Joe Ben and Junebug, who live in the small east Texas town of St. John. While the setting in the book is ostensibly Texas, in reality it is based on what I remember of my hometown, Natchitoches, La.

Junebug and The Body actually started as a couple of pages written about a person that I knew, a local reporter who could often be seen walking around town scribbling in a little notebook he carried with him. For some reason, while at work one day, I wrote a paragraph about "Scoop", as the local newspaper reporter was jokingly referred to by the townspeople. The character seemed to take over and before I realized it I had written two full pages, including the character sketch that eventually made it into  Junebug and The Body . However, for some reason Scoop quickly became a secondary character as Joe Ben, Junebug, and Uncle Jasper appeared.

Unlike many writers I have an absolute inability to outline a story or book, even the non-fiction ones that I occasionally write. Instead, I find that the books take on their own life and the story kind of writes itself. I may make a note or two about something I eventually want to add, but usually the end result of the book was nothing like I thought it was going to be.

I knew from the beginning that  Junebug and The Body would be the first in a series and that it would be both a comedy and a murder mystery, but  other than that  I didn't know anything about the book. I had the book almost completed at one point and had written the lead in to an ending that I didn't like, I now don't even remember what it was, but for some reason the creative juices just stopped flowing. I had the dreaded writers block.

I started on a couple of other books, but Junebug was sitting there in the back of my mind, 95% completed and a book which I not only enjoyed writing but also one which I enjoyed reading. It cruised along like that for several months, percolating in the back of my mind but still unfinished. 

One day we were driving back home from a visit to my mother's house in Natchitoches. Karren was driving and I was semi-dozing in the passenger's seat, the kids in the back of the min-van asleep (all three of them would instantly fall asleep when we started driving, a trait their mother and I greatly appreciated. My daughter's now-husband says she still does that, and the boys are the same.) We were almost to the Marshall exit off of I-20 when I suddenly came awake, the ending for the book having popped into my mind and tying up all the loose ends I had created and loved in the novel.

I had to go back and do a little rewriting, changing things here and there to make it fit, but the essential parts of the book were finished in a couple of days.

That seems to be the way it works in most of my writings, I don't actually put a lot of thought into what happens. Instead I just start writing and see what develops. In some, I have a general idea of what I want to put in there, like in book two of the Junebug Series, Junebug and the Monkey, I knew there was going to be a monkey and voodoo, but other than that the story is once again writing itself.

I just wish it would write a little faster!