Carla's Jambalaya

Jambalaya! Damn, my wife has unleashed the swarming spirits of jambalaya!

A symphony of peppers: black pepper and white pepper, bell pepper and cayenne, peppers that cannot be pronounced by the English tongue. A multitude of disparate flavors that were fated to flow together, line up in rows, play the parts assigned by a master conductor, and combine into an essence previously unknown.

Jambalaya! Damn!

No, not a symphony--these peppers have too much mystery in their flavor, too many ragged edges in their bite. True, the dish flows together in a kind of harmony, but the parts retain an obstinate individuality, the way a word's etymology clings to a poem in unexpected ways. The peppers in Carla's jambalaya are rooted in past lives, ancient agonies and triumphs that moderns such as us can only bear as a spice.

Jambalaya! Damn!

Polish sausage? Double damn! Bite-sized slices of sausage, torn and ripped remnants of chicken thighs, ham, veggies, rice, and chicken stock. These ingredients are not just tossed together, like peas and carrots. Oh no, don't get me started: peas and carrots are a culinary fiction, a food factory conspiracy--in no way do they constitute an authentic recipe, a dish with a character not contained in its parts.

But what of jambalaya? Here the ingredients wrestle and simmer, argue and yield to each other in a language only our taste buds can understand. Jambalaya is not just a recipe to be assembled and cooked; the dissonance and harmony of its parts will evolve of their own accord, so that each batch attains a life of its own.

Carla's standard is now a double recipe--otherwise we have no leftovers. Then late in the evening, spirits of the peppers call me forth, not for a bowl or a plate, but just a spoonful or three to snitch, to please my tongue and cloud my mind with dreams of ancient days when the learned could still understand the whispering of the soulful pepper.

Three damns and a bell pepper for culinary expertise and a meaningful dialogue with the dead.

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