|Cinnamon stick||1 (4 Inch Long)|
|Oranges||2 , peeled, cut into thin slivers|
|Lemons||2 , peeled, cut into thin slivers|
|Brandy||8 Ounce, warmed|
|Strong black coffee||1 Quart|
I undertook what amounted to a cram course in the crawfish at the Bon Ton, a small restaurant with a Cajun owner (Cajuns are descendants of the Acadians, the displaced French settlers of Nova Scotia).
There I had a thick crawfish bisque, with the bright red heads —stuffed with the meat, garlic and bread crumbs—bobbing on top.
This was followed in succession by crawfish touffe'e, a sautéed mixture of crawfish, onions, garlic, green pepper, celery and parsley, among other things; crawfish Newburg; crawfish omelet; and crawfish jambalaya.
I had found it hard not to eat all of everything presented to me, so extraordinarily new and delicious did I find the flavors; but I held back.
Deciding that I would be hurting the owner's feelings if I refused his dessert, which he seemed anxious for me to try, I sampled some: it was bread pudding, not the plain pudding I had known in childhood and later forgotten, but a New Orleans version, made with chunks of French bread, over which a warm and sugary bourbon-and-butter sauce was poured.
I ate it all.
The owner of the Bon Ton assured me that in Cajun country, where he came from, "people eats like this every day." They may well do that, but after all, he did say that "you will not make a good bisque in less than two days." He was certainly speaking from pride; this is a dish not to be trifled with, but with care it can be cooked outside Louisiana and it should be: it is too good to be restricted to one region alone.
The next day we found ourselves blinking in Texas sunshine, under a silver-blue sky, waiting to be met at the Austin airport by Wick Fowler, the celebrated chili expert.
We had come to Texas not only to taste chili on its home ground, but to see regional cookery in the process of growing.
While both New Orleans' and Charleston's cooking styles are deeply rooted in the past, Texas' - as such things go - is relatively young, in a state of flux, very much a product of the New World.
It is being shaped increasingly by the sophistication that money brings, but is proud still of its honesty.
(One Texan told me of serving Danish pastries at a party, and of the winning comment of a guest, "The best dang fried pies I ever set tooth to.") Like the cooking of New Mexico and Arizona, Texas cooking today exhibits the strong influence of northern Mexico, with its chili pepper and cumin base.
Cabrito, baked kid, one favorite delicacy of that area, is also much appreciated in parts of this enormous state.
But the Texans are doing more than turning out facsimiles of Indian-inspired Mexican dishes; they are using these foods as departures for a Tex-Mex cookery of their own, either giving their recipes less spice than the originals, or—and this is often the case—a great deal more.
The enchiladas of German-descended Texans are richer and blander than their Mexican prototypes, but chiles rellenos, Texas style, can raise the hair.
It is perhaps still too early to say what Texas cookery will be like in another dozen years, but I hope that here and elsewhere in the great culinary leap forward, all recipes for congealed salad, that inland jellyfish of many hues and ingredients (known also as the gelatin salad), will have been forgotten and replaced by something more intrinsically edible.