words:Trenton Mann images: courtesy Kathy Ewing
A few months ago, Kathy Ewing, an English teacher at Belle Point Center: A New Tech Academy, in Fort Smith, Arkansas, came up with a creative writing project. She’d been thinking about her grandmother’s cooking, of the time she spent in her kitchen when she was a child. Kathy understood the impact food has on our memories, our families, and on the traditions we hold dear.
From that reminiscing, Kathy came up with an assignment. Students in the ninth through twelfth grades were asked to think of a food that had a strong memory for them, and then write an essay about it.
Before the students began this project, she asked our managing editor, Marla Cantrell, to visit her classes to talk about writing, specifically about how to take something as technical as a recipe and turn it into a story.
Do South® was also asked to help judge the students’ essays, and select the winner. What a difficult job! The work was so good, and these stories were glimpses into the students’ lives, the people they loved, and the food that they’ll remember for a lifetime.
Trenton Mann, who will be a junior in high school when school starts in August, wrote the winning essay. He’s an outdoorsman who loves mudding, fishing, hunting, and camping.
Every year my family and I go to Louisiana for Thanksmas. We cannot all get together for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so we combine them. We have Thanksmas in a cabin in the woods. We drive four wheelers and just have a good time.
For years, my family and I went to Chemin-A-Haut State Park. My whole family loves being outdoors, and this park was in the woods in Northern Louisiana. There were tons of trails, and the biggest cypress tree in the world was there. You could paddle an entire canoe under it. Sometimes you could wake up in the morning and see alligators.
A while back, some of the cabins were damaged in a flood. Now we go to my great-grandma’s cabin. It’s kind of falling apart and old. Last year we brought our camper and parked it behind her house, and other family members set up tents. We still got to hang out outside and had a great time.
Everyone brings food, but the highlight is the gumbo. The gumbo is a special family recipe, and every year a different family member makes it. The recipe is 120 years old and has been passed down through cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents, etc. This meal is so special to me because I don’t get to eat it very often, and it reminds me of Chemin-A-Haut State Park and family gatherings.
> 4 pounds unpeeled, large fresh shrimp
> 4 (32-ounce) containers chicken broth
> 2 pounds sliced andouille sausage
> 2 pounds sliced Italian sausage
> vegetable oil
> 2 cups all-purpose flour
> 2 chopped medium onions
> 2 chopped green bell peppers
> 6 sliced celery stalks
> 6 minced garlic cloves
> 4 bay leaves
> 4 teaspoons Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning
> 1 teaspoon dried thyme
> 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
> 5 to 6 teaspoons hot sauce
> 1 cup chopped green onions
1.Peel shrimp and de-vein. Don’t throw away the shells.
2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, add shrimp shells and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes. Pour mixture through a strainer to discard shells. Set broth aside, and keep warm.
3.Cook both sausages until browned. Put sausages on a plate. Pour the drippings into a measuring cup and add enough vegetable oil to measure 1 cup. Cook oil mixture and flour in a big pot over medium-low heat about 35 to 40 minutes, whisking constantly, until roux is chocolate colored.
4.Stir in onions, bell peppers, celery and garlic, and cook for about 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Gradually stir in warm broth; bring mixture to a boil. Stir in bay leaves, Creole seasoning, thyme, Worcestershire, and hot sauce; reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 50 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5.Stir in all the meat and cook 5 to 7 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Throw out bay leaves. Serve over white rice.