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Cooking With Myra: Visiting old house brings back fond memories

June 17, 2014 at 1:17 a.m.

Crawfish pie

Crawfish pie

By Myra Starkey

Last weekend, Taylor and I traveled to Lake Charles to celebrate Father's Day with my dad.

My sister, Cindy, her husband and youngest daughter joined us for the weekend.

I don't get to see Dad as much as I would like, but we talk on the phone several times a week to stay in touch. My mom died two years ago, and my father has remarried, so going home looks a little different.

My dad lives in a nice, smaller house in town with his new wife, Arlene. We still have the big house at the lake south of town, where he and my mom lived. He is about 81 years old now, and he agreed to move into town a year ago.

The lake house is beautiful, but it would be a long way into town if something ever happened, which is why we wanted him to move.

When we all visit him in Lake Charles, we flip a coin to see who stays at the lake because the new house doesn't have room for everyone. I won or lost, depending on how you look at it.

The lake house has a magnificent view of Big Lake, and there is a long wharf in front to walk out on and watch birds as they skitter about and dive for small fish. There's a cool breeze that seems to never stop blowing.

The house is on the market, so the person who stays there has to restore it to "Realtor ready" before they leave.

The lake house has only minimal furniture left, but it's full of memories of Mom. Each time I go, I usually pack a few more boxes, knowing the eventual sale will demand the house be completely emptied. Then there will be no trace of Mom's things.

Much of her stuff has been either given away or transported to my two sisters' houses or mine.

This weekend, I packed old photos and linens, and I could still smell Mom's perfume on the sheets. It's amazing how a faint scent can evoke such emotion.

I think I'm used to the sadness I feel as I see her things. The material items a person collects, accumulates and surrounds themselves with almost become a part of them.

Then, they die and leave it all behind. It remains a real part of their existence - proof that they were around - to see these things refresh the reality of their absence.

There are only empty echoes as I move about the place.

Most of the weekend we spent with Dad and Arlene, and as is the tradition this time of the year, we ate uncountable quantities of boiled, spicy crawfish.

We would spread newspaper on the kitchen table then dump piles of the steaming, red mudbugs in front of each seat at the feast.

The repetitive, familiar motions of disassembling and devouring would begin and not stop until there was nothing left but empty, wet carcasses.

Being grossly full is never a reason to back away early from the table.

We also took advantage of crawfish kolaches for our Saturday morning breakfast.

At lunch, we had shrimp and crab gumbo at a place on Enterprise Boulevard that's only frequented by locals.

Between all these meals, we would visit, walk, go shopping or do whatever we could to try to work up an appetite. We were in south Louisiana, and it was our goal to eat.

My dad and Arlene have put in a small garden in the back of their new house. They are growing eggplant, cucumbers, green beans and tomatoes.

Dad is doing well, and it makes me happy to see him happy. He and Arlene seem to be settling in to the realities of a peaceful co-existence. Even older newlyweds have to do that. And the more I'm around Arlene, the more I get to know her and can appreciate her as the good person she is.

I love being from Louisiana. Going back there feels like old home. My memories of that life are like faded photographs.

I brought crawfish tails back with me to make a crawfish pie. The ingredients are simple. Make a crust or buy one, but enjoy this taste of Louisiana one bite at a time.

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



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