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Norma Jean and Horace have put together the full line-up: Crawfish Bisque, Poblano Cream Soup, Wilted Spinach Salad, Smothered Pork Ribs, Zesty Broasted Chicken, Baked Catfish, Cajun Rice Jambalaya, Stuffed Cornbread, Five-Flavor Pound Cake, Margarita Pie, and on and on. "This is food to pass on to your loved ones!" says Horace. "You'll want to try it—again and again!"
For years, my husband, three sons, and grandchildren have asked me to write down my recipes so that they can make their favorite foods, and have the recipes to pass along to the next generations. This is a great compliment to my cooking, but I haven't found it easy to record the recipes. You see, I don't always cook a dish the same way every time I make it. I may add something one time or take something away the next time.
My cooking has never been something that I had to do—it has always been something I enjoy and take great pride in. Mostly it's my imagination working, along with a pinch of this and a little of that. My greatest feeling of accomplishment is when my family and friends let go with the "Ooh's" and "Aah's" and "Please tell me how you cooked that!" My mother, after much argument, let me cook lunch one day, all by myself and unsupervised. I will never forget the experience. She bragged on me which made me very proud. And from then on, she let me experiment in the kitchen whenever I wanted. Recipes seemed to get in my way, so I would imagine what I wanted to create. I loved dreaming up dishes, experimenting with creating them, and then discovering that other people liked them, too.
After I married my husband, Joe, and started a family, I was able to stay at home for several years while my sons, Richie, Cliff, and Gordon, were growing up. I used recipes given to me by my mother, grandmother, and aunts, as well as recipes from Joe's family. While my family ate traditional Southern food, Joe's family cooked with a Louisiana Cajun flavor. His mother, Josephine Morvaunt Haydel, was raised on a sugar cane plantation and was a very good cook. Joe enjoyed the spicier dishes his mother cooked, so I did my best to do justice to them. I learned to be more creative in my use of seasonings.
My sons are now grown and are all married to wonderful women. And I've learned more dishes from them! In fact, some of the recipes that I'm sharing in this collection are ones that we've all learned to love from my daughters-in-law.
I am 68 years old and still experimenting with food. I get such satisfaction and enjoyment when I succeed. For the last four years I have tried to remember to measure my ingredients when I cook. Many of the following recipes are in this family collection because I did remember to measure—and then write down what I did! You may want to add or subtract to your own taste, but the basic information is what's important. I hope you enjoy all of these favorite recipe of ours.
— Norma Jean McQueen Haydel
I am Norma Jean's youngest sibling, so I've enjoyed her cooking for a lot of years. My mom and sisters, as well as my two brothers, were all good in the kitchen. Being surrounded by such great cooks made me want to try my hand at making food, too.
My parents had seven children. On top of that, my father was not well during most of my childhood. Looking after us and after him took a lot of my mother's time. Instant mixes and modern appliances were not a part of our life, so Mom did all of her cooking from scratch. But she did that everyday cooking with care and love.
My earliest assignment in the kitchen was to help with the dishes after a meal had been cooked and served. The only cooking I was permitted to do in those years was on Boy Scout camp-outs.
When I was a teenager, I worked with my oldest brother on a charter fishing boat in Biloxi, Mississippi. He was a wizard at cooking the seafood that he brought home from his fishing trips. He let me experiment, and I learned a lot about cooking from him. As important, I saw how much pleasure it gave him to create a meal that everyone enjoyed. Much of my interest in and appreciation of cooking stems from watching the joy it gave him.
When my wife, Carleen, and I first married, neither of us had much experience cooking. Carleen came from a farming family in east Texas and grew up eating Southern country cooking. But we learned by tackling the recipes our families and friends gave to us. And we discovered how to adapt them to suit our tastes.
As in many Southern families, our children, Greg, Denise, and Melissa, often threw their hands up in frustration at our inability to give them exact measurements in a "handed down" recipe. When one of them would ask, "How much of this or that?", we would answer as best we could—"A pinch," or "Until it looks (or tastes) right." Now that they are grown up and on their own, we've made an effort to write down the recipe measurements they need. Those family favorites are in this book. One more thing. I have come to believe—out of necessity, you understand!—that an essential ingredient in cooking is a sense of humor. Not everything I've cooked has turned out as I had imagined it should, and my family always finds a way to let me know when it hasn't! But after years of having family and friends share recipes and honest advice with me, I am confident enough to do more than fire up the grill. I'm now getting my share of "Aah's," and you will, too, with these recipes!
— Horace McQueen
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