Herbs and Spices – California and Texas

My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me.

~ Winston Churchill

 

California 1977

Like most young people, I truly thought I was bullet-proof and could lick the world. After graduation from high school, I drove across country to seek my fortune. While I was trying to make a living, I was exposed to an entire galaxy of new food. LA had and still has an extremely diverse number of cuisines to enjoy. Being an adventurous eater, I tried them all. I learned about serious pepper heat. I fell in love with Chinese stir fry. I craved tacos and salsa. A plate of Pad Tai was a steaming wonder. A falafel pita sandwich often made a yummy filling lunch. I was in culinary training but did not know it. However the months spent in LA were a massive personal disaster. Not only did I lose everything I owned, I had my heart broke in several pieces. With great failure comes greater wisdom. After returning to Iowa licking my wounds for a long while I decided to try again. This time I ventured forth with a different approach.

 

Texas 1980

Still seeking adventure I moved to Texas so I could begin my carrier as a professional salvage diver. My training had taken me back to southern California. There on a lonely Sunday afternoon, I met Donna. How I got so lucky I will never know. She took some time to win over, but I think she had a soft spot for scruffy lovable rouges. She soon followed me to Texas. Coastal Texas has a different approach to food. Tex-Mex was abundant however, shrimp ruled the culinary roost. When I was home, (I spent long periods at sea) we could go down to the docks and purchase shrimp right off the boats. We never realized what fresh seafood tasted like until then. On the work boats, we would fish for and catch snappers, grouper, barracuda, and dive for spiny oysters and rock lobsters. The Cajun and Creole cooks on those boats knew exactly what to do with those tasty critters. I am forever spoiled on any other kind of seafood. On my journeys across from Freeport to Morgan City and other industrial oil industry docks, the crews I worked with would stop at small village food shacks for food. Often, you could see thru the floor boards to the swamp below. I not sure the most hygienic standards were met but the food was insanely good. Boudan, jambalaya, crawfish, smoked pork, and as always, shrimp. We washed down with gallons of sweet tea.

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