Last week, I came across food52, a site launched by food writers Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. Lovely to look at, the site offers loads of content: a wealth of home cooks’ recipes, a shopping section, and cookbook reviews by the likes of Nora Ephron. Ephron’s comparison of Canal House Cooking and Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way was entertaining, but her principal objection to Seven Fires centered on the inaccessability of open-fire cooking for the city dweller. For example:
“Many of the fires in Seven Fires can be set in the wilds of Argentina or, presumably, on a finca, but they cannot be set on driveways, patios or the back lawn. So where is one to set them? I have no idea. And many of the recipes that are meant to be cooked over fire don’t contain alternative cooking suggestions. There’s a wildly-exciting lamb recipe that’s cooked in a wheelbarrow. In a wheelbarrow.”
(So maybe that’s another line for the diagnostic list “you know you’re from Louisiana if:” cooking in a wheelbarrow doesn’t seem the slightest bit odd to you.)
Anyway, the whole review sent me a-pondering: how many other places in the US can claim such a robust outdoor cooking tradition as Louisiana? Between my carport and garage, I count two Big Green Eggs, a big crawfish boiling pot with basket insert, a small crawfish boiling pot, one jet-type propane burner, two propane tanks, two gas regulators and hoses for the aforementioned tanks, a banjo-style propane burner and stand made for round-bottomed pots, one 5-gallon cast-iron round-bottomed chaudiere (gratton or jambalaya pot), multiple cast-iron skillets in varying sizes, a charcoal chimney starter, smoking wood (cherry, pecan, apple, and hickory), and a couple bags of hardwood lump charcoal. One day, I’ll get around to building an outdoor, wood-burning pizza oven; right now I’m still collecting used firebricks.
No, I’m not preparing for the apocalypse. Hell, in my neck of the woods, I’m underpowered: I don’t own a Cajun microwave (also known as a caja de china), a deep-frying rig, a tall, narrow turkey frying pot, or an electric smoker capable of ultra-low temperature cold-smoking.
Yes, I do have a wheelbarrow suitable for cooking lamb, Ms. Ephron. I’d wager that every household on my block has a wheelbarrow suitable for cooking lamb. Excuse me while I run off to Amazon.com to order Seven Fires….