Writers! Leave Yourself Open To Stories!

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you know that I am a proponent of keeping yourself open to life, stories, and snippets of tales.

shrimp-and-gritsI recently heard this question asked of a West African chef, “How did you feel when you heard a fat, rich, white woman (cooking show) claim that her recipe had been handed down from  generation to generation in her family? When actually the dish (Shrimp and grits) has been cooked on the west coast of Africa for hundreds of years?”
The answer?
The chef/host who was giving an intimate dinner party in his home in Dakar, Senegal, West Africa (each syllable drips with mystery, fish.senegaldoesn’t it?) smiled and said, “Gratitude that our cuisine lives on and is enjoyed in the United States.”

And Gumbo is another example. Louisiana claims it originated there. A poor man’s dish. Ingredients: Fish/seafood from the river out back, tomatoes and other veggies from the garden, a roux from pork drippings,(from the pig pen out back) butter  and flour.  Again, Africa via France and brought to the south with the Cajuns.

When I heard this conversation (above) what this writer’s ears heard was:  “MamaBelle, cook up some of your shrimp and grits as a side dish for my guests!”  The fine lady, from the senegal.Mamabellmansion on the hill, had walked down to the kitchen house to talk about the menu for her dinner party.  MamaBelle had been the head cook on the plantation for decades but still had knife-sharp memories of arriving in Georgia, bound in shackles, barely surviving the trip on the slave ship from West Africa. Put on the block for auction, teeth examined, hips examined (for breeding) stripped naked. Being marched miles and miles to the plantation. Working the fields until it was discovered that she was of better use in the kitchen. Living through the horror of her children being sold off when the Masta’ needed ready cash.

What I am saying is there’s a novel in there somewhere.  So we, as writers, must always be listening, watching for our next story. The images of Dakar; the people, the cuisine, the music kept me awake all night writing this post in my head. In my recent interview with Kathleen Grissom she told me,  “With The Kitchen House it was a notation on a map that read Negro Hill. I can’t say why that notation became such an obsession, but it did. I just had to know what happened there.”  Kathleen’s hard work resulted in a best-selling, critically acclaimed novel.

I live in Savannah, Georgia and know how colloquial the deep south can still be.  The recipes of West Africa live here and are served every day, under the guise of ‘southern cuisine’.  Whatever they want to call it, its fabulous!



DON’T MISS UPCOMING BLOGS featuring INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS! In April, a long awaited interview with Kathleen Grissom (The Kitchen House) May’s author is Jordan Rosenfeld.  Michael Saad, Canadian author, will be June’s author. Robyn Carr is July’s author.

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3 thoughts on “Writers! Leave Yourself Open To Stories!”

  1. I laughed, smiled and learned every minute while eating my way through
    Louisiana. My favorite way to have a good time. Come on lets get some
    Shrimp and grits.

  2. I just read about Georgetown University selling off all their slaves and the project they now have of trying to find out what happened to them, seguing into just finding out about family I have/had in this area I’ve moved to that I had no idea, finding out they had slaves – must have been the rich side, right? none of that family I ever knew anything about and that I’m directly descended from had any that I ever knew of, anyway – anyway, due to – lesson here – the man not redoing his will with his wife ending up passing away first that he was just going to leave all his slaves to – though then what, I don’t know – the paperwork says that, since they couldn’t be divided equally? among his/her? heirs when he passed away – how do you divide slaves equally – he have an odd number of either slaves or heirs? – they were to be sold at public auction – I’m eager/anxious to find out more about all that now, too

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