It was early morning and as I was getting ready for the day to head back home I heard a stirring in her kitchen. I hurried because I didn’t want to miss a thing. Almost too late! She already had the cornmeal mush in her black iron skillet. It was puffed up on the sides and time to start turning it over. I had brought Mama home late the night before from a visit to my house in Arkansas where we enjoyed lots of conversation, coffee, good food, and grandchildren. Before bedtime, I had asked her if she would make me some couche-couche (pronounced coosh-coosh) for breakfast in the morning. She was happy to oblige and the thought of a bowl full of that warm cornmeal cereal soaked in coffee-milk made me smile.
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Couche-couche is a traditional Cajun dish in south Louisiana. It’s been served for generations not only for breakfast but as a snack or the evening meal. I asked my Ma Ma Trahan once what they used to eat for supper when she was a child. She said their main meal was at dinner (that’s lunchtime) and supper was usually leftovers or something simple, like couche-couche. I can imagine what their day was like having to wake up early enough to get all of the work that needed to be done during daylight hours. It started with preparing breakfast, serve it, clean-up, start cooking the big mid-day meal, serve it, clean-up, and then there were other chores (without electricity and modern appliances) like washing clothes, cleaning the house, working in the garden, sewing their clothes, taking care of children and many more. There wasn’t much energy left to prepare another big meal so simple suppers were the answer.
I think the idea of couche-couche is so smart. It’s made with common ingredients found in most kitchens. It’ easy, quick, economical, filling, tasty, and can be eaten in so many ways. Mama said her daddy used to eat it with fig preserves like rice and gravy. I would never have thought of that one, but every Cajun has their own favorite way of eating their couche-couche. My favorite as I mentioned is with strong coffee, milk and I used to use lots of sugar, but now stevia is my substitute. Some people like it with milk and sugar, steen’s syrup, any kind of preserve you can come up with like watermelon rind (uh-huh), eggs, sausage, and who knows what else! If you’ve never heard of couche-couche before you may think it’s strange, but I’ve been eating it since I was a child and it’s nourishment to me. All I have to do is smell it cooking and I am instantly comforted.
This is my Mama’s recipe. I hope you give it a try any time of the day. You ought to make some just to enjoy the aroma – kind of like popcorn, but richer. Yum!
1/4 cup oil
2 cups yellow cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/3 cups water
Heat oil in a black iron skillet. Mix dry ingredients together with a whisk in a medium bowl. Add water and stir to mix well. Pour batter into hot oil and allow crust to brown and form along sides of pot.
Start turning over the couche-couche then cover and let cook for 15 minutes on medium to low heat stirring occasionally. Serve it up hot and eat it your favorite way!
There is a time for risky love. There is a time for extravagant gestures. There is a time to pour out your affections on one you love. And when the time comes – seize it, don’t miss it. Max Lucado