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Cooking with Myra: Memories on Somerset

By Victoria Advocate
Aug. 23, 2011 at 3:23 a.m.
Updated Aug. 25, 2011 at 3:25 a.m.

Spring Roll Salad

Spring Roll Salad

Shrimp Marinade

1 pound large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 tsp. red curry paste

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. vegetable oil

1 pinch salt

Cooking oil, for sautéing shrimp

Vinaigrette

2 tsp. fish sauce

1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice

3 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. fresh gingerroot, minced

2 tsp. chili-garlic sauce

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Salad

4 oz. dry rice noodles

3 cups Nappa cabbage, shredded

1/2cup carrot, julienned*

1/2 cup cucumber, seeded and sliced into half-moons

1/2 cup fresh snow peas

1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, torn

Chopped peanuts

Marinating the shrimp: Mix the curry paste, sugar, oil and salt in a medium bowl. Add shrimp and stir to coat. Marinate shrimp for 15 minutes while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Vinaigrette: Combine all the vinaigrette ingredients except for the oil in a mixing bowl. Using a whisk, gradually mix in the oil. Set aside. This may need to be whisked again before using.

Noodles: Bring a pan of water to boiling and remove from heat. Soak the dry noodles in the boiling water until soft (approximately 3-5 minutes). Drain softened noodles and rinse, making sure that noodles are not clumped together. Don't oversoak them or they will be too soft.

Chop all vegetables and sort into different piles on cutting board.

Heat cooking oil in a skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat, saute marinated shrimp (cooking both sides) until firm, approximately 5 minutes. Do not worry if shrimp chars slightly on edges.

Divide salad ingredients evenly between four plates. Top with cooked shrimp and chopped peanuts. Toss with the vinaigrette to taste.

*There is a special julienne tool which looks like a potato peeler with individual teeth. This makes quick work of producing slivers or thin julienne strips. It can be found at most kitchen stores.

By Myra Starkey

When I was a very little girl, my parents had a playhouse built for my sisters and me. The house was white with a green floral-patterned linoleum floor, and two small windows that opened and closed.

We spent countless hours in the backyard, playing with our dolls and having tea parties.

When we got a little older, it became a neighborhood hangout for the girls. It was a place to run to when the boys chased us.

When we were not in the playhouse, we were hauling scrap lumber and old chairs to the drainage ditch at the end of our street, where we built our elaborate forts. These were added to and changed as the wind and weather forced us to redecorate.

My family built a new house when I was entering junior high. We packed up our lives on 132 Heather St. and made our way to 4411 Somerset Road in Lake Charles.

The new house was large, and I felt like I knew every inch of it since our family had spent hours there during the previous summer painting and cleaning. My sisters and I were old enough to help.

In our old house, I had my own room. In the new house, my parents had built a very large girls' bedroom upstairs much like a room in the "Goldilocks" story with three beds, three desks, three closets and three sinks in the bathroom.

We had hot pink shag carpeting and wicker chairs at the end of the room with our own telephone line. The three sisters sharing a room was great since it forced us to spend all our nights and many of our afternoons together in our room. It was a good place to learn about conflict resolution.

Last weekend, Taylor and I drove to Lake Charles to finish getting the old house ready to sell. Years ago, my parents moved to the bay south of town, where my father can walk down the back steps and out onto his pier to fish. He loves this.

My parents moved back into the old house in town a couple of times when this new bay house had been damaged by the hurricanes. My parents needed our help in moving out the final boxes in order to make way for new carpeting and flooring.

They had finally agreed to sell the old house in town. I went upstairs to our old room. Most everything had been moved or sold, but I found a small box with my sand dollar collection tucked into the cabinet near my desk.

I cleaned out our hobby room, remembering the hours of sewing lessons and craft projects accomplished under the skillful direction of my crafty mom.

Going through the drawers, I found scraps of the fabric from the first dress I ever made. I wore the dress to a sweetheart banquet at church that I attended with a redheaded boy named Richie.

I recalled names of boyfriends and events as I collected the last bit of memorabilia and tossed it into the dumpster in the yard out front. I wondered why I had kept so many pictures, ticket stubs, receipts, programs and small scraps of paper stored in boxes. I'm sure these things were important at the time.

My father hired a man named Thomas to help clean out the attic above the garage. After I worked my way through the house, I walked out to the carport to see if Thomas needed help. He sheepishly pointed to stacks of old letters in boxes addressed to my mother. He lowered his eyes when I smiled and said they must be love letters from her single days.

I guess he somehow hoped he had not revealed a long-held family secret, and I assured him my mom was an unmarried nurse in New Orleans for several years before my parents met. She was a petite brunette living in a party city, so I know she had many beaus. Of course, I was making sure that none of the letters looked new.

It is amazing what people keep. I guess it is in hopes that a part of our youth can be remembered, so at least mentally we can return to it.

I uncovered a cache of pictures from the college summer I went to Europe to study English literature. I found photographs of our group camping near the street in London, so we could watch Lady Di pass by in the royal carriage on her way to her wedding ceremony.

I found several photos of me dressed in jeans and clogs sitting with friends on a castle wall. I showed these to Taylor, making the comment that I looked the same then as I do now. He smiled and cocked his head to the right saying, "You sure do honey." I wondered at that moment if it is always wrong to say something less than the whole truth. Anyway, why would I save albums of old boyfriends when I have a husband who thinks I look just like I did in college?

Normally, our trips in Louisiana are filled with Cajun food, but this was a working trip, so I had only one plate of fried spicy catfish and a bowl of gumbo.

On Saturday evening, we had gone over to the nearby town of Sulphur to eat at the Cajun restaurant Hollier's. For those of you who don't speak Cajun, this is pronounced "Oh-yehs."

I came home hoping to eat a little lighter fare, thinking I had gained just a few pounds since the days recorded by those old yellowing photos.

My mom gave me a recipe, Spring Roll Salad, which I made with rice noodles and shrimp. The shrimp are marinated with red curry paste, which gives them a spicy flavor. The salad is perfect for these hot summer days and is light in calorie counts, too.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email myra@vicad.com.

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