Sunday, January 4, 2009

ROADKILL GUMBO

Even with all the leftovers in the fridge, I have not made "Fridge Soup" in quite some time. It was my Mother's version of use-it-up---a pot of hodge-podge from canning shelves, crisper drawer, baggies stashed in the far corners behind the juice and eggs, little Saran-wrapped bowls of small servings of whatever we had had for Sunday Supper or Wednesday noon dinner.

It was always "fridgerator soup," and started with a quart or two of home-canned tomatoes. Mother made it every couple of weeks, Winter and Summer, as a beginning to a meal, or the meal itself. A little sizzled onion and bell pepper, in with the red sloosh of the tomato jars, a can of Pride of Illinois corn, straight from the can, and an uncovering and choosing from any and everything in the fridge.

A little bowl of pale tan field peas, with the little bits of bacon that made them so delicious; a Tupperware of two-days-ago spaghetti and meatballs, with the meat cut into spoon-bite bits; some home-canned snap beans still holding on to their gentle vinegar tang; a Saran-wrapped block of homemade macaroni and cheese (made mostly with Ronco spaghetti at our house, thick and slabby with all the grated hoop cheese), cut into small bits and added last, to melt and swirl into the mixture, making it rich and homey. Leftover baked beans were nice, with that good brown sugar richness; a can of whole kernel corn, or even a can of Del Monte green beans, to cook up into the final potful. We always said the only two things in the fridge that WOULD NOT go in soup were boiled eggs and Jello.

We had soups and stews and gumbos (one recipe I must go in search of; it was from a dear neighbor who was raised on Avery Island, home of Tabasco sauce, and who taught me the makings of court boullion---soon coo-beyon' with the uplifted "n" came as easily from my lips as from hers).

Her special, not-okra-and-shrimp gumbo was made from the wild mallards brought home by every man and boy, and by a couple of daughters who grew up in kneeboots, striding those fields toward the water, lying on frozen ground for hours awaiting those overflying shadows. Miz A. made the court boullion from several ducks, simmered into softly-falling dark richness. She boned them, and added the meat back to the big pot, seasoned it right at the end with file' powder, and ladled it over big scoops of long-grain rice lying warm in the wide soupbowls.

Nothing in those bowls but rice, the tender, mouth-filling richness of wild duck, the clear brownish broth with tiny golden flecks of duckfat afloat, and maybe a wisp of softly-cooked onion here and there. That was all---duck, onion, salt, file' powder, water. I think. We gathered at each others' houses for potfuls of the stuff. My Dad would make the big cooker full and invite the six of them. She would oblige by cooking up a batch, and having the four of us over.

One evening we arrived to find her blushing a bit, and wanting to explain things, in case we thought her strange for putting roadkill in her pot---a neighbor who had also given my Baby Sis Biddy, the fearless Banty Rooster we raised in the house, had brought Miz A. a guinea hen from his farm way out in the country. The flock of them had scattered around his truck, and he accidentally ran over one, so she was his first thought---that Cajun woman with all her strange herbs and ingredients.

She welcomed it gladly, and I don't think we could tell one tender chunk from another in the bowls. She always wanted me to drive down to her Louisiana home with her sometime, and that’s one of my gentle regrets. I’d have LOVED to meet her family and participate in one of their famous Zydeco gatherings. Makes me wanna dance.

4 comments:

Maggie said...

That soup sounds so good that I'm almost sorry that I cleaned out my fridge!

Um, what's loop cheese

racheld said...

My Daddy always said that you couldn't go wrong with any dish by sizzling some bell pepper and onion as you started. So do that, then dump in a can of tomatoes---any kind---chopped or whole or stewed, and go from there with any kindred bits from the leftovers that seem to GO with.

Doesn't take a long cooking, either, and makes a big pot or a little one, depending on how much you add. But always a can of corn, preferably cream style.

And season as you like---a little garlic powder, a little thyme (very little, just a whiff) or a sprinkle of cumin---depending on the seasoning of whatever you're adding.

Let us know how it turns out---it's hardly ever the same twice, so there could be any number of combinations.

Kim Shook said...

Mike's mom always made 'Mussgoes' every Friday night - ingredients the same as 'Frigerator soup, but sometimes soup, sometimes casseroles, and sometimes cookies. The soup and casseroles were often a success, the cookies - less often. You see, the SAME ingredients went into everything. I'll never forget hearing Mike's sister say to their mom in a exasperated tone, "But Mumma, other kids didn't bring zucchini and baked bean cookies to school!". Poor thing, she still doesn't really understand why no one liked those cookies!

racheld said...

I Guarrr-on-tee that we had zucchini and baked beans in SOMETHING every now and then---but cookies? The zucchini sounds like a logical ingredient, but unless you gave the beans a bath and then included a little peanut butter in the recipe. . . Only in the South could you pass them off as boiled peanut cookies.