Creole Jambalaya

   During this short tour, I bought a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates.

   I bought both because I was still thankful for the repair of Coco.


   Back at the motel, I took a shower and watched TV until 6:45pm18:45.

   At 7:00pm19:00, I was standing in front of a small house in a nice class district when Jamal opened the door. 


   The moment the door opened a delicious smell left the house. A second later, it reached my nose.

   I had a healthy appetite so the smell made my day.

   Behind Jamal, in a small corridor, I saw a boy and four girls in line and at the end a lady of about the same age of Jamal.

   Jamal approached me enthusiastically and gave me a firm handshake.

   I had to move the wine and box quickly to my other hand to receive his hand.


   After a whole minute of holding my hand and telling me, how honored he was, he started to introduce his family to me.

   His oldest son Darryl was not there to welcome me. He was 22 and  married and had a house a few blocks away.

   The next one he introduced me to was his 21 year old daughter Imani.

   Imani was a beautiful young woman with a very sympathetic smile, a little shy and tall.

   “Guys in our neighborhood are standing in line for her, but she is very selective,” Jamal told me.

   He probably expected an angry face from her. Instead, she got a blush from ear to ear.

   Shanice was the next in line. She was 19 with a funny rebellious expression on her face and completely not impressed by this strange white guy.

   Kiara was the third girl, and she was 16 and eyeing me curiously without a blink.

   Alexus was 14 and a copy of her sister Imani only seven years younger.

   The last in line was his 13-year-old son Darnell.


   After he introduced all his children, he took a special time with introducing me to his wife Chloe.

   Looking at the apron she was wearing she just left the kitchen for a moment, to greet me.


   I didn’t ask the manager of the motel, whether to give the presents to the lady or the man of the house.

  What I remembered was that she told me not to give flowers without a vase.

  Her explanation was that the person would be too busy with the preparations for dinner to have time to cut the flowers and to find a suitable vase.

   I concluded that it would be correct and save to give the wine and chocolate to Chloe.

   Looking at her reaction, she totally agreed with my choice.

   She was pleasantly surprised.

   The whole family escorted me to the living room, and Jamal invited me to sit down, in what was definitely the most important armchair in the room. 

   Kiara told me that her mother prepared a traditional regional meal today.

   “It is called Creole Jambalaya, my favorite,” she told me.

   “We hope you will love it too,” Jamal complemented her.

   I asked them if they knew the origin of this regional meal.

   Chloe was just coming in from the kitchen and told Jamal that dinner would be ready in half an hour, and that she wanted to tell the guest all about the history of Jambalaya.

   “Honey, if you prepare the dining table for seven people and watch the stove that would be great.”


   With a big smile, Chloe nested herself next to me and started her story about this traditional recipe.


   “Most families change the recipes a little to make it their own. I have two brothers and five sisters, and I can taste blindfolded, who of them made the Creole Jambalaya.”

    “But my mother makes the best” Darnell reacted spontaneously. 

    “Creole refers to enslaved people of African born in Louisiana,”

    Chloe continued 

    “They are our ancestors. It started around 1600 in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

   With not much to spend they had to use whatever ingredients were available, and therefore, it became a diverse mixture with as many variations as there are cooks who made it.

   In general it is called Jambalaya or Creole Jambalaya.

   The basic ingredients are meat and/or seafood, onions, celery, bell peppers, tomatoes and rice.

   The meat is browned in the iron pot.


   The bits of meat that stick to the bottom of the pot are what gives rural Jambalaya its brown color.

   The meat is taken out, and the onions, celery, and green or red bell pepper are added together with some oil.

   It all is sautéed.

   Next, the stock and seasonings are added, and the meat is returned to the pot.

   This mixture is covered and then simmered for at least one hour.

   After one hour, the mixture is brought to a boil, and raw rice is added to the pot.

   It is covered again and left to simmer on a low heat for at least a half hour without stirring.

   I just put the rice in the stove. So within a half-hour we can go on and enjoy the dish.”


   Chloe had a fascinating and attractive way of talking about this subject. At the end the half hour seemed way too short.

   She herself loved talking and looked a little irritated when Jamal came with the general request to rise from our comfortable chairs and take a seat at the dining table.

   Not much later, Jamal entered the room with the Jambalaya in the iron pot.

   They were religious people so Chloe started with a short prayer.


God, we thank you for this food.

For rest and home and all things good.

For wind and rain and sun above.

But most of all for those we love.


   It was not the standard way of reciting a prayer, but more like singing a gospel.  

   At the end of her prayer, there were a harmonious six voices saying “amen”.

   Altogether, it attested to a long family tradition.

   Thereby, I recognized that they all had skilled vocal voices.

   With a fraction of delay came my “amen,” resulting in an overall smile.

   Darnell took the serving spoon and one by one the family gave their plate to Darnell who filled it with Jambalaya.

   Meanwhile, I asked Chloe if they also sang in front of public.

   “The whole family loves singing, and Imani, Shanice and Kiara often perform together during social events in Houma and sometimes New Orleans.”

   “Chloe is the lead singer in the Sunday service here in Houma.” Jamal told me with pride in his voice.

   “If you like, the girls can sing a few songs for you after dinner” Chloe complemented.

   I was afraid the girls wouldn’t like the way their mother forced their hands.

   Instead, Shanice reacted very enthusiastically and with the same enthusiasm, she told me, her mother would also love to sing for me.

   “This would be something I will never forget,” was my reaction, knowing this would raise the pressure a little. 

   Chloe waited a few seconds and then told me that singing is always a pleasure to her.


   At the end of this conversion, Darnell had covered all plates with this traditional meal.

   Everyone was waiting for “the signal.”

   The magic words came from Jamal “Bon appetite.”

   For a number of seconds, the whole room was without words because they were all concentrated on their first bites.

   After everyone had swallowed it, they all looked at me, expecting my reaction.


   During that moment of tasting my brain was telling me that they would expect more than “it is nice” from me, so I was racking my brain to find a suitable reaction.

   The Jambalaya tasted delicious, so that was not the point, but how could I put that in the right perspective.

    In a way that I could convince them, I liked it very much.

   I decided to compare it with one of my favorite typical Dutch meals hoping that this would express my appreciation enough.

   “First of all, it is really delicious, but I do not know the exact English word to express it correctly.

   The best way is to compare it with my favorite, typically Dutch, meal my mother makes during winter times.

   It’s about a meal-Soup that needs a long preparation, including leaving the soup a night untouched before it is perfect.

   You cannot compare the taste with Jambalaya but you can say they both have a long history behind it. Like the Jambalaya, in the past, the soup was prepared because people did not have too much to spend. It was a very nutritious meal, which was important, especially during wintertime.

   Nowadays, this soup is still prepared when it is freezing outside. It’s partly tradition, nostalgia but it also tastes delicious. 


   I think I made the correct review because Chloe told me she was very glad with my kind words.

   She asked me about the name of this typical Dutch food, and I told her I did not mention the name because I do not know the English translation for it.”

   “That answer is too easy. You can describe the ingredients,” the comment came from an unexpected direction.

   Imani’s reaction was spontaneous, and she was scared up by it and got a blush.

   The others were also surprised.

   “You’re right and I will try. It’s a soup but not served like a pre-dinner, but it is the main dish.

   It is like the Jambalaya, cooked and served in a great pot.

   It’s with meat, not fish and with potatoes instead of rice.

   The main ingredient is a very small, around five mm hard and round vegetable called spliterwt cooked until it’s soft and weak and it’s called erwtensoep or like popularly snert.


   A typical Dutch winter event is skating on natural ice.

   As soon as the rivers and lakes are frozen everyone from very young to old will be searching for their skates on the attic. They will go outside with their gloves, scarfs and wool hats on to skate on natural ice.

   During this Dutch event, the few who do not like to skate are placing stalls at the bank of the river or lake selling the snert in a plastic cup.”  

   Chloe told me she thought I referred to pea soup. In America, they know about the recipe, but she herself never tasted it.

   She went to her bookcase and found the right cookbook.

   After checking the index, she navigated directly to the page with a recipe of pea soup illustrated with a little black-and-white picture.

   “Yes, that the soup,” I reacted very enthusiastically.


   I told the family that during my trip, passing towns and cities, I am always interested in the history of the towns.

   “The results are sometimes entertaining, exciting stories.

   Can one of you tell me something about the history of Houma.”


   Darnell stood up from his chair with his finger in the air. He stated too everyone that he could tell the story because he just learned it at school.

   Without waiting for a confirmation, he started telling me a great nineteen-century story.


   European Americans founded Houma in 1834.

   They built it on the location of a former settlement of the Houmas Indians. In their language, Houma means red, which referred to their war emblem, the Crawfish.

   Before the civil war, this area was developed for plantations, using enslaved African Americans for the hard work.

   During the civil war in 1862 four Union soldiers, traveling from New Orleans to Houma, were attacked by several armed citizens.

   Two of the Union men were killed, and the other two were seriously wounded.

    The Union brought troops into Houma, where they began to arrest residents on a large scale. The investigation of the murders lasted several days, without any result. To frighten the citizens, the home of the local Doctor and two other houses were burnt down; two other houses were torn down.

   The soldiers confiscated the sheep, cattle, mules, wagons and saddled horses from the area.

   The slaves began to desert their masters under the protection of the soldiers. The frightened citizens had no means of resistance.”

   “What a great story” was my reaction.


   I hope I can remember all details when I am back at my motel because I will write it down in my notebook before sleeping.

   Is it possible that you put in a few words, the facts and figures, like the dates and the name of the tribe?” I asked him.


   After dinner, Chloe and Jamal invited me into the Living room for local liquor while the children were doing the dishes.

   Chloe told me the liquor was good to oil her vocal cords.

   Thirty minutes later Alexus and Darnell had finished doing the dishes and Imani, Shanice and Kiara changed clothes for their performance.

   They were standing two meters in front of us.

   I was flabbergasted.

   Suddenly, they were stage-animals. 

   “Our repertoire is mainly soul and blues, do you have a request,” Shanice directed her question to me.

  I’m sure that they all were thinking that a young white European guy had no clue about American blues and soul.

   They were wrong because this music already reached Holland for years, and it was my favorite genre!

   My quick and enthusiastic response completely surprised them and as I gave them names and song titles, their eyes grew bigger and bigger with surprise

   “First of all, when the three of you came in, I was speechless.

   As a group, you are just the younger version of The Three Degrees and that’s my favorite group!

   I even have a crush on one of them, Sheila.

   At home, I have a few gramophone albums of them.

   They had some great hits in the Netherlands like; When will I see you again, Dirty old man and Woman in love.”

   During my answer I saw their growing eyes with amazement

   “I also love My Way of Nina Simone and So Sad the Song, Neither One of Us, and I feel A song (in my heart) of Gladys Knight.

   But my favorite is Loving Arms of Millie Jackson.”

   For a brief moment they were flabbergasted, Chloe was the first to respond

   “I will sing the last one; I love that song too” Chloe interrupted.

   The girls had a short consultation together before Shanice told me they would sing Woman in love.

   To be honest, the moment the three girls did their performance right in front of me with all their intention and glance in my direction, I felt a little uncomfortable.   

   It made me weak, and their powerful voices amplified this feeling.   

   I even got a little emotional, but I made sure they didn’t notice it.    

   After Woman in love, they sang a couple of songs from their usual repertoire. We got a private performance of one hour, which I will never forget.

   However, there was more!

   Chloe’s took the floor.

   When she started with the first lines of my favorite number, I noticed the tension within the family;

   “If you could see me now.

   The one who said she would rather roam.

   The one who said she’d rather be alone.”

   Her beautiful low dark voice and her great appearance, it was too much for the family.

   I saw that Jamal and some of the girls got emotional. 

   For how this family loved music and because of the low dark voice of Chloe so close in front of me, I also had to remove a few tears.

   Later, I understood that for a neat Christian family, the songs and the appearance of Millie Jackson is controversial.

   Their religious community ignored Millie silently.

   The girls never listened to the numbers of Millie Jackson. They were very surprised about their mother’s choice.

   Therefore, this slight tension was understandable, but a large part was definitely also excitement about this beautiful song.

   I can almost feel your loving arms again.”

   After Chloe had sung this last line, there was a loud applause.

   After this musical intermezzo, we continued talking about this subject.

   I told them about my Jazz experience on my first day in New Orleans.

   They sounded not enthusiastic, maybe because the bad reputation of the Bourbon Street.

   I told them I would never forget this evening with them and when I was back home, I would certainly cook Jambalaya for my family.

Darnell gave me a paper with a short summary of the history of Houma. Such a great guy! Jamal made a picture of me with the whole family.

   At my request, he also made a picture of me together with the Three Degrees,

   It was an extra-special moment for me.

   I was angry with myself because I did not bring my camera with me!

   At half past ten, I had to say good-bye.

   With a heavy heart, I took everyone's personal farewell and left this loving family.


Dear Note ,

I’m back in the motel and before going to sleep, I watched TV for a short time. The weatherman from the news program predicts a rainy-day tomorrow. Despite the rain, I certainly want to go on with my trip because it is still a long way to the West Coast. It was a great evening! I still remember it as a wonderful experience. Let’s hope a lot of interesting days will follow. With all those little events as testimony entrusted to you, you became priceless to me.

Sleep on tight dear Note,