New Orleans, vampire types and a fish jambalaya - imagination lets you get away with murder
On the third volume of my current work in progress, a couple of vampires sit at a New Orleans diner and one asks for shrimp and grits while the other orders a jambalaya. As I wrote down those lines, I could see the rolling eyes of every vampire puritan and every vampire fanatical that claim allegiance to Bram Stoker or Anne Rice. Usually, vampires don't eat. Because, usually, vampires are dead. And yet, I feel as if vampire literature has come a long way since Mr. Stoker first introduced his Count into polite and educated society. Vampire lit has a life of its own, nowadays, and that means that anyone can create their own vampire mythology. Some will have them old school: perishing under the sun, living dead creatures with no heartbeat, victims to roses and garlic alike. Others will choose different traits. To some, vampires won't even be dead.
My vampires aren't dead. They're alive, yes, but in a different way. They're genetically different from humans, but so are the witches in my stories, and the Fey, the can de loup. My vampires have no trouble with the sun, nor garlic. Holy water does nothing. My vampires feed on blood, yes. But they also like food, some more than others. They're mine, you see, so I can make them up as I like. Some will eat regularly, human food, some will even enjoy cooking a meal. Others eat only when they really need to, and can go long stretches without that kind of nourishment. But every single one of my vampires falls under the spell of New Orleans and its cajun and creole cooking. Don't ask me why, it's just something that came organically into the writing. That New Orleans would weave some sort of spell into vampires and make them crave its local cuisine. Hencethe vampire ordering a jambalaya. I find that, as much as music, food is very important in the way I weave a character. Or a scene. Or the ambiance inside a set of scenes.
As soon as I wrote down that particular chapter, my mouth was salivating at the thought of jambalaya. It had been ages since I last cooked one, and my son had been asking for it ever since he tried his first gumbo and fell prey to its spell. Now, jambalaya is quite similar to gumbo, only it doesn't have the okra - at least in the recipes I have come across so far. Which is a bit of a shame, because I am a fanatic for okra, I could eat them with every sort of stew I cook. My son quite agrees with me in this, and there's even one vampire who is rather particular to fried okra himself, which actually makes me want to try that soon enough. Or as soon as I find okra in the market again. But back to the jambalaya. For years, I believed it was a fish dish. See, I had this cookbook where jambalaya New Orleans style figured amongs the many delicious recipes, and it had fish in it, not chicken. But then I came across a number of recipes that feature chicken and andouille as well.
Now, I have never come across andouille sausage in Portugal, but I'm sure there's the likes of it to be found somewhere. But to me jambalaya was a fish dish, and I wanted to keep it that way. I wanted to cook just the thing I had enviosioned as I wrote down the diner scene, and pictured in my head the vampire taking a bite of the food, a fork full of fragrant red rice, with shark or monkfish, the cellery, the bell peppers, the spicy hot chilli, the prawns. I wanted it to be what I had lived years believing it was, so I cooked the jambalaya I had become used to, I cooked a fish jambalaya. It has all the right flavours, and to me it hits all the right spots, making me feel like I am transported into that diner, down in Louisiana, by the waterfront, watching the sunset tinge the sky with pink and orange, sipping on a cold glass of chardonnay, listening to some jazz band play, while the lazy hum of mosquitoes slowly drives me mad as I find myself under their ravenous attack. Plus, my son liked this version so much he managed to finish way ahead the rest of us.
So here's my personal take on fish jambalaya, that stands to compliment my own take on New Orleans, where I've never been. Imagination is a wonderful thing, don't you think?
- 250 gr any type of white fish you prefer - I used shark, but monkfish is great for this
- 1 small red bell pepper
- 1 small orange bell pepper
- 1 red chilli
- 1 small celery stalk, choped finely
- 1 onion, choped
- 2 garlic cloves, diced
- 1 can tomatos
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 cup red rice
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 scant cup of frozen shrimp
- olive oil, salt, white wine