From Mary Anna–When all else fails, talk about food.

In the universe of cocktail party conversation, talking about the weather holds the status of recently-demoted-by-the-establishment-but-always-a-planet-to-me Pluto.  Unless there’s a hurricane howling outside, a conversation centered on the ambient relative humidity is wobbling aimlessly along a highly eccentric axis, far away from the warm sun of worthwhile chatter.  While researching my first book, Artifacts, I stumbled across a first-person account of an 1857 hurricane that struck an island resort for wealthy planters during high tourist season.  These nineteenth-century tourists did not have access to broadcasts from intrepid journalists employed by The Weather Channel, standing on windswept beaches and urging them to take cover, so they had no way to know that the storm outside was destined to swamp the island under their feet and drown most of them.  Instead, they threw a formal ball where the conversation and music were so scintillating that they danced until water seeped under the doors and flowed across the ballroom floor.  Clearly, none of these people were conversationally inept enough to be talking about the weather when there was waltzing to do.

But suppose you’re not that scintillating.  I’m not.  My go-to conversational gambit is usually food.  “My, aren’t these cocktail wienies divine?”  This opens an opportunity for my companion to expound on cocktail wienies he has known and, lo and behold, the ice is broken.

Since I’m drawing a blank on a blog topic today–Could you tell?–I thought I’d share one of my favorite recipes.  Coincidentally, my archaeologist heroine Faye knows a really gorgeous man named Joe Wolf Mantooth who loves to cook.  In Artifacts, he cooks her some corn-crab-and-squash soup that is all the more special because he caught the crab and grew the corn and squash.  Here’s the recipe, along with the cool new cover for Artifacts. Try them both, and bon appetit!


Joe Wolf’s Spicy Corn, Crab, and Squash Bisque

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 medium yellow onions, diced

4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced

4 tablespoons flour

1 large can chicken broth (about 6 cups)

8 large tomatoes, peeded, seeded, and chopped, or 1 can diced tomatoes

1 quart whole milk

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 cups fresh corn, cut off the cob, about 6 ears

4 large yellow summer squash, diced

8 ounces lump crab meat

1 cup heavy cream

Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot.  Add the onions and jalapeno peppers and saute until the onions are clear.  Add the flour and mix wel.  Add the broth, squash, and tomatoes and stir until the flour mixture is evenly distributed, t hen bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer.  Add the milk, cayenne, salt, and pepper.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the corn and crab meat.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Stir in the cream.  Adjust seasonings and serve.

Serves 12.

4 Responses to From Mary Anna–When all else fails, talk about food.

  1. It sounds a good hearty soup of the type that was a family favourite in my childhood, to wit, split pea and ham shank soup. And talk about economical! The shank provided the basis for a separate dinner, with enough left over for sandwiches.

    • Mary, the southern American cuisine of my growing-up years was all about being economical. Some of the most basic and delicious components of the cuisine–biscuits, gravy, and dumplings–were no more than flour and grease. I could tell you a dozen uses for bacon grease (but never mind, because I know you’re vegetarian), because it’s too tasty a source of calories for people without much money to even dream of throwing away. I have a jar of bacon grease in my refrigerator right now, waiting for me to make cornbread or black-eyed peas.

      My mother would have used that ham shank in a pot of mustard greens or blackeyed peas, or she would have used it as a base for her vegetable soup. I’d still rather start vegetable soup with a hambone than any other base.

      Now I’m hungry, and I’m supposed to be writing….

  2. Yeah, I’m short on hunky men who are desperate to catch and grow dainty delicacies for me, too. I get my crab and tomatoes at the grocery store. Sometimes I grow my own tomatoes and peppers, but not this year. It still tastes good, though!

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