Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Call Me Old-Fashioned

     I'm a slacker.  I'll admit it.  I'm supposed to be sitting in my Nutrition class right now, but I forgot about my online Chemistry homework that was due at 3:00 this afternoon.  I just finished that (and went ahead and did the next assignment for good measure), but now I have time to kill.  I could get ahead on my English reading, but as I've mentioned already, I'm a slacker.  It's still summer.  That's my excuse anyway.

     You know, last night I met a couple that have been married for all of a month, and I caught myself several times looking at them, shaking my head, and thinking to myself, "Geez, they're so cute!"  J and I will be celebrating our 5th anniversary this year, and although there are veterans of much longer marriages than ours that read this, I can't help but feel that the best is yet to come.  The past five years have been work.  They've changed both of us.  They've challenged me to go above and beyond what I thought my limits were.  Through trial and error we have both grown into the people we are today from the kids we were when we started out.  We've come a long way.
     I'm sure at this point a few of you veterans are already shaking your heads, thinking, "Awe!  How cute!  She thinks she knows something." Maybe y'all are right. Maybe I have yet to realize just how much marriage can tear you down and build you up again, but I think I'm beginning to have a clue.  And you know what I've discovered?  It's worth the trouble. 

     I remember watching "Coal Miner's Daughter" as a teenager, and I remember thinking to myself, "Why does she let him treat her like that?"  But when I watched it again as an adult, and I realized she loved her husband through his faults.  I also realized she wasn't perfect either.  There is something to be said about the marriages of days gone by.  The ones that stuck it out, even through the worst of circumstances.  The ones that inspired songs like "Stand By Your Man".  Those marriages aren't to be shrugged off and excused by saying "those were different times" or people were old-fashioned with "out dated ideals".  No; those marriages should be honored as an example.  Those "old-fashioned ideals" teach us that just because something is broken doesn't mean it can't be fixed.  It doesn't mean it isn't worth fixing.  

    A few weeks back, I finally had enough okra from my little garden to roast as a side for dinner.  That was the best tasting okra I've ever had.  You see, I've raised those okra plants from seeds that I planted back in February.  That's four months of waiting for just a few okra.  I have had to transplant these stalks 3 times so that they would finally have the right amount of space to grow.  Through trial and error, I've learned the proper amount of water they require (which is more that I imagined).  I've even learned the hard way how much sun they really need.  I guess my point is, I could have quit.  I could have never started.  I could have said that it wasn't worth the hassle.  There were times when I was sick of my little garden! (Mostly when I had to go buy even more pots because I didn't have the foresight to give my plants enough space to grow.)  But I didn't give up.  Now I'm rather proud of my little plants.  I have been complimented on my garden several times.  People see the work I've put in, but more importantly I see it too.  I've been able to reap what I've sown.  So why not apply the same logic to marriage?

     If I could go back in time and talk to newly wed me, I think I'd tell her to stop wasting time with selfishness and pride, and just love J.  That's all we can ever really do.  And if I could talk to newly wed J, well, maybe it's a good thing there is no time travel ;-)  

    Keeping with my theme of marriage, tonight I want to share one of J's favorite things I've made for him.  
Paula Deen's "Real Deal" Gumbo
     Gumbo, like a good marriage, takes patience and time to get it just the way you like it, but once you get it to that point, people will be begging to know your secret. :-)

So here's what y'all need:

1 TBS vegetable oil
1 cup chopped okra, fresh or frozen then thawed
3 TBS butter
3 TBS all-purpose flour
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 TBS chopped garlic
4 cups chicken broth
3/4 lb andouille or other smoked sausage, sliced
1 tsp Tony's (or other Cajun seasoning)
Salt and black pepper
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 cups cooked rice, for serving
Hot sauce, for serving

*In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the okra and cook, stirring frequently, until no longer slimy, about 3 minutes.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until it is a light chocolate color, about 5 minutes.  (This is the roux, and my dog's namesake for all my Yankee friends.)  ;-)

Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the broth, sausage, okra,  and Cajun seasoning and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  

Add the shrimp and simmer until they are pink and cooked through.  Serve over rice.  Add hot sauce as desired.  

*According to Paula Deen, cooking the okra separately before adding it to the gumbo takes away some of the sliminess that turns some people off of okra. I'm making myself hungry.


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