Whirly Girl Gumbo

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I really enjoy writing for The Southern Reporter as I do every week. It tickles me pink to think of those I have recently met and laughed with about something I wrote. What began as a self serving project to learn the computer has become somewhat of a social spotlight for me. I imagine myself as the host on a variety show from long ago. It comes not from the eye of a camera in a studio. It’s a grass roots effort about small town life in Mississippi and we all make up the show. Of course, far away family and friends often play their cameo roles. Here is an introduction to one femme fatale and dear friend of many years from New Mexico. Her name is Charmaine Brown but for a couple of reasons, I lovingly call her “Whirly Girl”. She has a quicksilver mind with wit and is a fun loving, energetic, determined woman. Secondly, Charmaine is always in motion and uses a wheelchair to get around. We talk often but always try to check in and chat every Friday afternoon. This week I’d like to share part of our colorful conversation. Dianne (Denman) Reed if you are reading this and are on face book you and Charmaine should become friends too. Because Charmaine is always seated have to look down to meet her gaze. She is also one who I look up to and identify with. I can’t consciously remember what it is like to see clearly anymore, except when I am dreaming. I wonder if Charmaine runs and dances in hers. My visual experience of the world is clouded and distorted. She has a view of it from a lowered level than most. Imagine looking up in public places that have been designed with the average upright individual in mind. Suddenly everything seems bigger, higher and objects are too far for hands to reach. Now you have to flag someone to get it for you now I’m going to head toward the meat of last Friday’s telephone visit with Charmaine. Recently while out shopping she had a close encounter with a human kind. Charmaine was in a parking lot where the woman noticed lifting the folded wheelchair from the back seat of her car and out onto the pavement. Shortly after transferring from the car to the chair, the kind human rushed over wanting to help. Charmaine being an old pro at this didn’t really need any but realized the woman herself had a need.
Simply, to be needed and to help after responding to the fragility of the human condition. Generally people tend to act out of fear or like this stranger out of love. Charmaine and I have had to continually struggle for our independence and aren’t very good at asking for help. I pointed out that when you learn to ask you will then understand what a gift you offer to those waiting to assist. What’s up with these helpful robots they are trying to develop? Will they take the place of us having to serve one another? Our conversation ended with her telling me about her weekend plans. She and some of her Si-Fi friends are heading two hours north of Albequerque to Los Alamos, New Mexico. They’re meeting a friend whose father owned a place he called the black hole. He was a Los Alamos lab freak and bought everything they would release and sell. Charmaine said it’s like a junk yard full of bazaar stuff. Parts from disassembled bombs, glass boxes that you can reach into with attached gloves and creepy gas masks. I can’t wait to hear about her strange sojourn this week.

Mrs. J.Q. West From the Sardis Women’s Club Cook Book – 1951
1 Tablespoon Lard
1 piece of ham or veal stew or both
1 small can tomatoes (or 6 fresh ones)
1 dozen crabs
1 quart okra
Chopped onion, green onion top, thyme, bay leaves, parsley, a leek, salt, pepper, Drops of Tabasco, Rice
Scald the crabs, pulling off the legs and clean well, then quarter them, saving the quartered pieces and the claws for use in the gumbo. Wash and slice the okra in small pieces. Put about 1 tablespoon lard into the pot and when hot add the sliced okra, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Then add the chopped onions. When lightly browned, add the tomatoes. Season with thyme, one or two bay leaves, a few sprigs of parsley, a leek, salt, pepper and Tabasco. Add 2 quarts of boiling water, the ham or veal stew and the crabs. Cover closely and resume the gentle cooking for about an hour. Serve with boiled rice.

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