The Jambalaya Chronicles

interstate 10

The Louisiana Cajun-Yankee line of demarcation (we don’t know about Mason and Dixon – that was way too far north).

Although I am a native of Louisiana, I am a Yankee from Shreveport.  When I moved to South Louisiana, someone told me that Shreveport was almost Louisiana.  And I freely admit that Shreveport is the capital of East Texas.  North Louisiana really is culturally and geographically more like East Texas and South Arkansas.  If you want to talk about Cajun and Creole culture and swamp land, you have to go South – and some say you have to go South of Interstate 10 (and by that standard, I’m still a Yankee by 1.2 miles).

But, since becoming embedded in the southern Louisiana life, and more particularly the culture around Gonzales, I have become obsessed with making a good jambalaya.  All cities worth their salt around here have some festival dedicated to a local food or legend (mostly food).  And each one lays claim to being the world capital of said food.  It’s really no different than anywhere else.  I mean no one honestly believes that the Magnolia Blossom Festival is the home of World Champion Ribeye Steaks…or is it?  Whatever you believe, those are some of the best steaks you will ever eat.  And they have become a qualifying event for the World Food Championships with Adam Richman.  So, maybe they are the world capital.

Likewise, Gonzales, LA is the self-proclaimed Jambalaya Capital of the World.  Living in such a place one gets exposed to a lot of different jambalaya recipes.  And one begins to lean toward a favorite.  During our time here I have had the opportunity to work in a few concession stands at football games.  As you might imagine, in a place like Gonzales, jambalaya is a concession stand staple.  Any stadium worth going to on a Friday night in the Fall is selling jambalaya made by a volunteer parent or grandparent.  And the Dutchtown High School stadium is a fine example, with Mr. Mike making one of the best jambalayas around.  It’s so good, even my Yankee kids get excited to know they’ll get a bowl.  People have come to the concession stand and asked if Mr. Mike made the jambalaya this weekend.  And if he didn’t, they order a hamburger.

523230_10151044463463716_323759553_n

One of my first, full 10-gallon batches for the college group.

And so when I asked for a 10-gallon jambalaya pot for Christmas, I also asked Mr. Mike if he’d give out his recipe (which is kind of like asking for the keys to Fort Knox).  But he was happy to share.  Turns out that his recipe is a very simple, very rustic kind of thing and that’s what I like.  If you enter the Gonzales championship cook-off there is a very limited list of ingredients you are allowed to use.  I think they are trying to determine only two things:  can you cook rice, and can you make it brown and yummy looking without using artificial coloring (like Kitchen Bouquet).  To that end, most competitions around here do not allow artificial coloring or parboiled rice.  Using those two things is considered cheating.

I have learned that there are a thousand ways to make jambalaya, and that like everyone else, I think I’ve got the best recipe.  I have a simple, old-school recipe that is a descendant of recipes used by past champions, and I am a traditionalist.  I can accept that there are lots of ways to make jambalaya and people have different tastes.  Some people like to put in Pickapeppa sauce, and Tiger Sauce, and Worcestershire sauce, and on and on.  I got a recipe from one guy that had 20 different seasoning ingredients and a couple of different cream soups.  You can find a LOT of different stove-top recipes on the internet, and most of them look pretty good.  I’m not so sure about this quinoa version with turkey sausage, but just about anything else looks pretty tasty.  But I still prefer a traditional, simple recipe with salt, pepper, garlic and hot sauce.  And no seafood (save that for the boiling pot).

My Dad, working on 10 pounds of onions.

My Dad, working on 10 pounds of onions.

You might not have many jambalaya competitions where you live, but around here that’s how people raise money.  Little League baseball teams stand out front of Lowe’s hawking jambalaya lunches, families of kids with medical problems have benefit fundraisers with jambalaya lunches.  The Kiwanis Club in your town is probably selling BBQ chicken dinners to raise money.  Around here, it’s jambalaya.  And usually from a gigantic pot – lots of fundraisers and competition cooks are using 30 or 40 gallon cast iron pots to cook in.  Mr. Mike told me he has a pot that will hold 110 pounds of rice (enough to feed 600 or 700 people).  The amount of jambalaya you cook around here is measured by how much rice you are using – a 10 pound jambalaya means you are using 10 pounds of rice.  It also means at least 10 pounds of everything else – 10 pounds of sausage, 10 pounds of chicken (or pork), and 10 pounds of onions.  If you are cooking for a fundraiser, keep it simple and straightforward to keep the costs down (we’re trying to raise money, here).  If it’s for family, add more sausage and meat.

413383_10151081108163975_48791711_o

Competition style (again, it was not a winner, but it was yummy). (P.S. I do not recommend wearing sandals when cooking jambalaya).

And so with my simple recipe and my 10 gallon cast iron cooking pot, I have found a few fundraiser competitions to enter around here (football booster club, United Way, Race for the Cure).  I’ve also cooked a little for the college church group, and a fundraiser for the Winterguard team.   When I entered my first competition, I was told I could not win because I did not have the right last name (look at the list of winners in Gonzales – Ulton Diez, Edward Braud, Fatty Lessard, Tibby Lambert, Tee Wayne Abshire, Norbert Loupe – I’m not Cajun enough to win). But I have had a few people tell me they like my recipe.  I wasn’t real sure if they were being sincere or just neighborly.  Not until a few weeks ago

DSCN3768Me and Randy Fuson got together and entered the Komen Race for the Cure Jambalaya Cook-Off in Baton Rouge to help raise a little money for breast cancer research (BIG thanks to Dräger for sponsoring us).  As we passed out samples for tasting, some of the people told us they liked ours better than the other competitors.  Nice.  Thanks for that.  (Really?  Are y’all just being nice?  Are you telling everybody that?).  But then, a group of about five or six ladies came back to our table and asked if I had a card.  They wanted my number so they could hire me to cook for their event.  SCORE.  YES, it really is good.  Maybe not the best, but “the best” really is  hard to define.  It depends on how much pepper you like, and if you like the brand of sausage we used, and if you like a lot of complex flavors or something simple and rustic.

I’m not looking to start a catering business, but if you need to feed 100 people (or 50 or 20) and you want a good, simple, rustic jambalaya, let me know.  I can hook you up.  And if you need to feed more than that, I know a guy.


How Will I Testify?

They all shouted, “So, are you claiming to be the Son of God?” And he replied, “You say that I am.” “Why do we need other witnesses?” they said. “We ourselves heard him say it.” (Luke 22:70-71)

I will probably never stand in a formal court to answer for my faith. But, as I read the account of Jesus before the Sanhedrin court, I am reminded that I have the opportunity to stand in the court of public perception every single day to stand up and say “I AM HIS.”

How will I testify…

  • when I am cut off in traffic? Do I respond by tailgaiting, flashing my headlights, waving a fist, or maybe even a little sign language?
  • when a cashier is rude and impatient with me?  Do I respond in kind?
  • when I am tempted to engage in gossip? (Do I even recognize gossip when I hear it? It’s pretty subtle sometimes.)
  • when someone frustrates me by disrespecting my schedule or my plans?
  • when someone else takes credit for my work, or blames me for their mistakes?
  • when I am called out for my own mistakes and sin?
  • when I am tempted to spend time on Facebook (or WordPress) instead of with my family or my Lord and His Word?
  • when I am tempted by my own private sin (and the temptation to avoid confessing that sin in public)?
  • when someone challenges my tradition and my theology?
  • to people who openly and proudly engage in coarse talk and sinful lifestyles?
  • to people in need of prayer or encouragement or physical help or financial assistance?

Does my life testify that I have been filled with love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?

In the court of public perception, will I be found guilty of following my Savior’s example and proudly proclaiming His message?

Does my testimony say “I am His”?

Will the court say “Why do we need other witnesses? We ourselves heard him say it.”?


A Fair Blessing

While cleaning up at my parent’s house, I came across a folder full of family history materials.  There were a couple of genealogical charts, some handwritten sermons – more on that later – and a diary.  The diary is typed (apparently copied from the original) and titled “DAY BY DAY REPORT OF A COVERED WAGON TRIP FROM LAWN RIDGE, KANSAS TO UNION CITY, OKLAHOMA made by Wilson W. Jackman, Dave Todd, and others.  Lawn Ridge, Kansas – March 28, 1893.”  (Dave Todd was my great grandfather, born 1866 in Holton, KS)

Some of the text has faded and is unreadable, but the parts that are still legible make for interesting reading.  The closing paragraph is a fantastic blessing from Wilson Jackman to Dave Todd.  A couple of months ago Mark Scott told us that a handwritten letter is a warm and personal way to communicate with someone.  This blessing from Wilson is just that.

We are pretty badly sunburned but, withal, as hale and hearty as can be.  I enjoyed every day of the trip and feel sorry that it is over.  David tired of it, though he stood it pretty well.  David is a good boy and always does his part.  He is good company and, remembering that last dinner and forgetting all the other,  I can recommend him as an excellent cook.  I wish him the success he deserves in all his undertakings, matrimonial and otherwise, and trust that he shall be blessed with a worthy helpmeet to accompany him through the “journey of life”, and that as the somber shadows of “the night” shall lengthen toward the close of a long and useful life, when the pleasures of the world shall cease to delight, the consciousness of the close and ever nearing proximity of the unexplored ocean of eternity shall depress, and only enjoyments which afford comfort and consolation is in the happy reflection of a life well spent in the exercise of piety and virtue, may he recall with pleasure the incidents of the journey we took together from Kansas to Oklahoma and ever fondly cherish on memory’s fairest page, the pleasant days of April eighteen hundred ninety three.

As this year comes to an end, and we prepare to begin again, may I also wish for you a fond recollection of the incidents of the journey through 2014.  Even when we look back on the tragedies and sadness we’ve known this year, I pray your memories are filled with the good times and love you’ve known – may you enjoy the “comfort and consolation in the happy reflection of a life well spent in the exercise of piety and virtue…and ever fondly cherish on memory’s fairest page, the pleasant days of” 2014.


Mistaken Identity

I’m not who I thought I was, and neither is the Church.

I still struggle with an appropriate response to God’s love (nothing I can come up with is enough), and I’m realizing that I have expended much effort on rule-following even when I thought I wasn’t.

Some time ago our elders held a series of classes on church history and passed out a book called “Distant Voices” by C. Leonard Allen.  (Used copies at Amazon for a dollar – what have you got to lose?)  I’m no authority on the Stone-Campbell restoration movement, but reading this book has really challenged who I thought the Church was and is.  I thought that even though the Church of Christ doesn’t have a central governing body, we all pretty much agreed on the same central issues and that Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone came together to reform and restore the Church into the pattern of the New Testament Church.

Turns out that not only was that not their intent, they didn’t even agree on some of the basic principles I thought we all agreed on.  They did not agree on baptism as a measure of fellowship (ch 6, p.39), and they had significant differences of opinion on “the dynamics of conversion, the Spirit’s work, and the Trinity.  They differed on the nature of Christ’s atoning death,  fellowship with the unimmersed, and the Christian’s relationship to government.  And they differed over the nature and demands of discipleship, the possibility of present-day miracles, the earthly reign of Christ, and other doctrinal matters.” (pp. 173-4)

I also thought that the Church of Christ has existed since Jesus died on the cross.  While His Church has existed since then, what we know today as the Church of Christ doesn’t look much like the Church did in the first century. And that’s okay.

In a recent post titled “Lessons from the Churches of Christ,” Adam Wood lamented some of the changes in our musical tradition that he thought were degrading the quality of our worship.  I find it curious that as a Catholic, he’d be worried about the quality of music in a Church of Christ worship service that he never participates in.  But, aside from his thoughts on our musical traditions, he did make what I think are some very astute observations about us (or maybe astute observations about human nature), observations that further challenge my thoughts on my identity as a Christian.

The heart of the Church of Christ’s congregational orientation – a theology of community derived from the Acts of the Apostles – has been reduced in common practice to a mere legalism: “No musical instruments.” Once a theological proposition has been reduced to a legalism, there are two inevitable consequences: circumnavigation and abandonment. Circumnavigation happens when the question becomes, “How can we do whatever we wanted to do anyway, without ‘technically’ breaking the rules?” Abandonment happens when the pretense of technicality is dropped and the rule is simply ignored or removed.

There are two typical ways of reacting to this seemingly inevitable evolution from law to legalism to disregard. Most people go along with whatever trend is currently in vogue, whether actively supporting the change or simply allowing it to happen without comment or resistance. A small minority oppose the change, but usually for spurious reasons having to do with legalism and habit.

Philistines and Pharisees. Progressives and Prudes.

Adam cites some examples of how we have disregarded and abandoned the rules, but all his examples are music related.  There are others.  We have rules about how to conduct a worship service, but we don’t spend a lot of time evangelizing outside of the church building.  We have rules about how and when to hold a weekly communion service, but we don’t actively go house-to-house daily breaking bread with our brothers and sisters.  I have seen people show up at worship, and leave immediately after taking communion so they can make it to another engagement – as if taking communion were a “ticket punch” for showing that you worshiped this week.   I know we don’t pick-and-choose which “rules” to follow and which ones to ignore, but I also know we, as humans, simply cannot get it all right all the time.

Even among the most conservative Churches of Christ who all agree on the role of baptism, a cappella music, regular weekly communion services, and women’s roles, there are differences of opinion on what’s allowable and what isn’t (one cup or multiple cups for communion; break the bread before the prayer or after?; paid preachers or not?; institutional support (orphanages, universities, etc.), and so on).

We like rules.  They make it clear to us what is allowable and what isn’t.  Who is right and who is wrong.  But, it’s just not possible for us to “follow the rules.” Hebrews reminds us that the entire experience of the Israelites made it clear that we cannot.

I know there are some of my friends and family who think I’ve drifted away from the old paths, slipped away from holding to the Truth, and begun to engage in popularism.  But I have begun to recognize that as much as like to be a rule follower, it’s just not possible for me to have all the answers, to know what is absolutely right and what isn’t.  But I can pursue a personal relationship with God, read his Word daily, talk to Him regularly, and let Him show me His Way.

What I’ve come to understand is this:

  • God is the creator
  • Jesus is the Son of God
  • Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life (there is no other path to God)
  • Adult baptism by immersion is essential
  • Regular meeting with the Saints and regular Bible reading is essential to your relationship with Christ.

Everything else is open for discussion.


Prayerful, Joyful, Thankful

During the month of November, many of us posted, on Facebook, something we were thankful for each day.  Just before Thanksgiving day, Patrick Mead posted this comment:

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends. Remember: you have to conscientiously practice joy and thankfulness to get good at them. Ready, set, go!

I had already been reflecting on the impact that posting a thanks giving note each day had made me more conscious of the gifts I’ve been given, and it made me more thoughtful each day of those gifts.  I found myself thinking of them throughout the day, and not just when I was on Facebook.

At the beginning of this year, our congregation began reading the chronological daily Bible together, and I re-discovered that being a faithful daily reader significantly reduced the impact of Satan’s temptations on me.  (duh!)

As we neared the end of November, and the end of our thanks giving posts, I started thinking about the impending Christmas season.  I know a lot of people (including me) want to hold off on celebrating Christmas until Thanksgiving is over.  But it occurred to me that these two celebrations really are inextricably bound together.  How can you spend an entire month giving thanks, and ignore the fact that we are about to celebrate the birth of the One to Whom all our thanks is due?

When Patrick Mead posted his note, one of his friends commented

I have 3 words written on my mirror to remind me… “prayerful, joyful, and thankful.” The reminder to practice has helped me a lot. The results of doing each of these is very noticeable.

That made me start thinking.  If I get back to being a diligent daily Bible reader (and the chronological Bible is a huge help with that), and I strive to post something on Facebook each day that is either prayerful, joyful, or thankful, there is just no telling what impact that could have on my life.

I’m a bit afraid to commit to you that I will post something every single day*, but I am willing to commit that every day I do post something on Facebook, I will endeavor to make it prayerful, joyful, or thankful.  For the month of December, I’ll try to focus on praise to Christ.  Thereafter, I’ll just go with whatever is praiseworthy.  Who’s with me?

*(Committing to a daily post is difficult for a few of reasons: (a) I’m terrible at daily commitments, (b) I don’t typically log in every day when I’m travelling, and (c) once in a while I do try to practice an electronic fast and get away from this thing.)


Esta Tierra

Yeah, I know.  It is wildly unpopular to speak of immigration in a favorable tone.  I should clarify that I think immigration is a grand idea, and that I really wish we could find a way to make the legal process a lot easier for those people who are seeking a better opportunity.

On the heels of our independence celeberation, I find this version of Woody Guthrie’s classic song a grand reminder that we are all here because of immigrants who were seeking the hope and promise  of a great opportunity. And I’m reminded that there is no other country where people are climbing fences, swimming rivers, braving starvation and death in a desert, or building a raft to cross an ocean just for a small taste of that opportunity.

How bad do you want it?

La tierra es para ti y para mí.

Via con Dios mis hermanos.


You Might Be an Industrial Hygienist if…

…you know what fart rock is and why it’s called that (and you’ve used it for training)

…you know how to hang a 2-pound sample pump on a lady wearing spandex pants

…you know what a pump jockey is

…you’ve ever been a pump jockey

…you know how to make a belt with duct tape

…you’ve ever eaten lunch from a vending machine (because you can’t leave the plant)

…you know why the glass in a microwave oven door is not necessary

…you get a charge out of running towards the chemical spill

…you’ve ever bought soap bubbles to use at work

…you know what 85 decibels sounds like without using a meter

…you know what Q=VA means

…you’ve ever told a chemist his burette was upside down

…you’ve ever bought 9-volt batteries in bulk

…you carry ear plugs in your pocket (just in case)

…you wonder what happens to the fines from a Dyson cyclone vacuum

…you wish you had that “black box” analyzer they use on CSI (and you know why you never will)

…you know what isoamyl acetate smells like (and like it)


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.