One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for February 14, 2015.
My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.
Tonight my wife and I will host a Valentine’s Dinner for 11 couples. We love to entertain and tonight the dinner will be a shared experience with each couple being responsible for a portion of the meal including preparation and serving. It will be a great evening. We first got exposed to this concept of shared dining when we lived in Rock Hill, SC and our church started a supper club and we got invited. We have kept that concept part of lives for the last 20 plus years in some shape or form.
We got invited to join the club by a four great couples named the Clinton’s, the Raad’s, the Burch’s, and the Peterson’s. It was thru these four couple that my wife and I got to meet one of the best cooks and funniest man I have ever met a one John Holmes. I owe all my Thanksgiving Deep Frying skills to this man. He and his wife Mandy live in Conway, Arkansas where he is a certified nursing anesthesiologist. John and Mandy are natives of Louisiana and they both have fierce pride in the culinary delights of being from Louisiana.
The concept of supper clubs take on many shapes from formal to informal. Some share a meal in a restaurant but the ones we have been fortunate to be part of all featured eating at someone’s home like we will do tonight.
Each of the couples in Rock Hill shared a common bond we were all in our 30’s or 40’s and had children. Most of us had two or more. My wife and I regret that the move back to North Carolina in 1998 caused us to lose touch with the Clinton’s, Raad’s, Peterson’s, and Burch’s but we know they gave us a gift we continue to share with our friends that communal dining is good for the heart and soul.
The Friends-St. Anne’s Supper Club-church depicted below
The Friend of the Friends-John Holmes
Meeting John Holmes with St Anne’s Supper Club
I would have to describe myself at the time I met John Holmes as a somewhat picky eater and less than adventurous. We got invited to his home as part of the extended St. Anne’s Supper Club and my wife was describing that the meal would include a number of Louisiana flavored dishes I had ever heard of before. Strange sounding things like étouffée, jambalaya, pistolettes, muffuletta, crawfish po-boys, and deep fried turkey. I was less than enthused to be going to some guys house that was cooking what sounded like high fluent French cooking. C’mon man can’t you just throw a couple of steaks on the grill.
When we got to John’s house he took the guys outside to his deep frying pit. He asked me to grab one end of a broom handle and lift the turkey out of the peanut oil. I don’t know what I was expecting but I sure wasn’t expecting to see a 16 lb turkey come out looking like it was burnt. He took the bird inside to begin carving it up and when it was ready we were summoned inside. John and Mandy said a blessing and then started piling food on my plate including a pistollete, jambalaya, and a piece of turkey that had dark brown streak running right down the middle of what I thought should be white meat. I was horrified by the looks of my meal but John was hovering over me and said what do you think it doesn’t look like you have taking a single bite. I put my fork to the turkey that had black crust and a brown streak and steadied myself that I would not gag. The complete opposite happened the turkey melted in my mouth with a sweet spicy flavor accented by some heat from spices on that crust. The deep fried turkey was WONDERFUL and so was the pistolette and jambalaya. I went from Cajun food skeptic to Cajun food addict in the span of two bites of this meal.
At the end of the night I asked John if he would volunteer to help me with a fundraiser at Winthrop University. He asked how and I told him agree to let Winthrop auction off this meal for 8 people. I told him I would help. He said yes and that is where I saw his humor come to light.
About a month later the Cajun dinner was auctioned off and a sweet older lady was the successful bidder. She received instructions the night of the auction to contact John and she did that. Part of the auction stated that the owner would have to provide some items and that John would inform the bidder what those items were.
The night of the auction dinner John picks me up and we head over to the lady’s house. Her yard is immaculate with neatly trimmed shrubs and freshly cut grass. We go to the door and the lady says to John I have done exactly what you asked. She said the end of the concrete driveway was clear for John to cook on and she had the Louisiana Cooking oil in the cooler on ice as he requested. She went back inside and left us to set up the burner, tables, and other prep items. I asked John since I was a novice what was Louisiana Cooking Oil. He went over to the cooler and there was a case of Dixie Beer on ice.
Dixie Beer alias louisiana cooking oil.
John tossed me a beer and said the lady asked what he needed to make the meal authentic and John told her that true Cajun Cooking required Louisiana Cooking Oil on each step. He told her about the importance of Dixie Beer in the Cajun Cooking Method. I was howling. I also need to report that not one step of this auction dinner didn’t get prepared without amble Louisiana Cooking Oil.
At the very end of our cooking we were down to our last 2-3 cans of “cooking oil”. The lady came out and wanted to see the turkey come out of the peanut oil. We had prepared every other aspect of the meal and she had taking it inside to her guests. She was standing on her steps bragging to John how everything so far was wonderful and all of her guests were truly loving Cajun cooking.
As we lifted the turkey out of the peanut oil with the broom handle the effects of the Louisiana Cooking Oil slightly impacted our coordinated effort to keep the bird balanced. It slipped off the broom handle and landed softly in the fresh cut lawn gently rolling over once. John picked it up and without missing a beat told the woman in an exaggerated Cajun accent “that’s how we garnish a bird in the bayou”.
She took him at his word and we cleaned up and left the dinner. That item never showed up at the Winthrop Auction again. The word about the garnish and cooking oil had gotten around.
I miss John and Mandy Holmes but am glad I still have all their recipes including one we will have tonight.