bowl of catfish gumbo, 2 fresh tomatoes and several okra. Instant Pot on stand.

image: bowl of catfish gumbo with Anne's brother's garden tomatoes and okra and her Instant Pot

|| 15 August 2021

Catfish Gumbo

Summer is the time for gardening — and for fishing. My brother has been doing both. A couple of days ago he arrived bringing tomatoes and okra from his garden and catfish from his recent fishing.

Tomatoes, okra and catfish meant that I had the major ingredients for Louisiana-style Catfish Gumbo.

August is our hottest month of the year so I try to keep cooking heat in the kitchen to a minimum. The traditional method for preparing gumbo involves sautéing the vegetables in a skillet stovetop, then simmering them an hour or two before adding the catfish and okra for a last quarter hour of cooking. That traditional method can put out a LOT of heat into a kitchen for a substantial amount of time.

And put an additional strain on the air-conditioning coping with the summer heat.

I assure you that after last winter’s Texas Freeze brought down our electrical grid and left many without power, we are conscious of how much strain we put on our electrical grid this summer with air-conditioning.

Using my Instant Pot to prepare the Catfish Gumbo reduced substantially the amount of heat put out to the kitchen compared with traditional preparation. The Instant Pot also cut cooking time substantially. And the gumbo was delicious.

I also used my Instant Pot for cooking rice over which I served the gumbo.

For the six months or so I have had my Instant Pot, I have been using it for cooking beans, rice, lentils and various other grains. For the most part the liquid ratio prescribed by the chart that came with the Instant Pot gets perfect results. But not the recommendation for brown rice. Not unless you like your brown rice really al dente.

I find my brand of brown rice cooks to my taste at a 1 part rice to 2 parts water ratio at 22 minutes on high pressure. Not the 1:1 rice to liquid ratio of the chart. Twenty-two minutes is about half stovetop preparation time, generally 45 minutes for brown rice.

Yes, I know traditional Louisiana catfish gumbo would be served with Louisiana white rice. But I had no white rice on hand. In any case, with the spices in the gumbo, the healthier rice choice is not as noticeable as it might be in some dishes.

Louisiana-style catfish gumbo has both French and African heritage. But the addition for thickening of filé powder to which the Native Americans introduced the Louisiana cooks is an American contribution to the dish.

Note: My brother brought a couple of dozen tomatoes, a big bag of okra and a plentiful supply of catfish. Unfortunately by the time I found time to take the photo above, I had eaten all but two of the tomatoes and most of the okra. The catfish I did not use in the gumbo was in my freezer. I had also eaten most of the gumbo. The portions you see above are to give you an idea of ingredients and product. Not actually quantity.

be chic, stay slim — Anne Barone

|| 8 August 2021

Let Her Suffer

When I was 14, my brother and I shared a hospital room when we had our tonsils removed. My brother, eight years younger, suffered no noticeable post-surgery pain. But I was in agony. And it was my own fault.

Not long before the tonsillectomy, I had studied in high school General Science class that aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) in sufficiently high doses prevented blood from clotting.

Frightened by the idea of having something cut out of my throat, I missed the part about high doses and convinced myself that if I took as much as one of the aspirin the doctor prescribed for the post-surgery pain, I would bleed to death.

After the surgery, my mother, distressed by my suffering, pleaded with our doctor to explain to me that aspirin would help, not harm — that there was no medical rationale for my fears.

Our family doctor, father of five, just sneered down at me and said: "Let her suffer."

Grumpy, gruff Dr. Smith has been dead for decades. But I am sure were he alive today, if asked to convince the unvaccinated that their fears about the Covid vaccines are unwarranted, he would just sneer and say: "Let them suffer."

be chic, stay slim — Anne Barone