WordBowl: jussulent, a delicious term meaning “full of soup or broth”, common vernacular in the early 1600s, falling out of favor around 1658. Our first “dead word” suggested with fervor by 11-year-old Noah, submitted via his Auntie Jasmine.

Noah, son of S&S, inveterate explorer, WordBowl conquistador.

Happy Hour view of Gramercy Park from the bar at Maialino

Happy Hour view of Gramercy Park from the bar at Maialino

A burbling, jubilant gumbo is a joy to behold, a wonderland of endless combinations of crawfish, chicken, shrimp, smoked ham, andouille,  a tilt-a-whirl of spices, Old Bay and some secret blend passed from Great-Great Aunt to grandmother to daughter, or in more contemporary eras, packaged powders bearing the images of Paul Prudhomme, Emeril. Spices subtle or BAM! eye-watering heat to sear the senses, with an undercurrent of smokiness, redolent of Bayou waters, crawfish boils, deer stands and campfires. A bewitching concoction of mystical power, capable of calming the most savage of hangover beasts, awakening the senses to appreciate the culinary delights of courses to come, comforting a heartache residing in the gut and soul, too recent to articulate.

Gumbo has been known to unite family amidst varying degrees of feuds in one fell swoop of a spoon.

Mexico has pozole, their sacred soup. Japan, miso. Italy their legendary minestrone, and a fishy analogy to bouillabaisse, the composition of which is a more reliable regional designation than any lines on a map. France, the home of bouillabaisse, the grand-pere of soups. Vietnam, pho. Manhattan and Maine, their warring chowders.

Texas, chili.

There is an aura about Vin Sur Vingt the camera cannot quite capture.

There is an aura about Vin Sur Vingt the camera cannot quite capture.

In Mississippi we had no slow-simmering stovetop cauldron, other than a Crock-Pot of white bean soup to accompany the Coca-Cola glazed, pineapple-festooned ham on Easter, we were strictly a Campbell’s family.

Which made the soup tureen puzzling, an inheritance from Great Aunt Myrtle, who I cannot ever recall serving soup in her pristine dining room with cream velvet drapes and delicate lace table runners. Part of the posthumous largess I hauled from the South to my newly adult home of San Francisco in a less-spoken-of-the-better road trip, the ornate serving tureen stood stoic, displayed in an inherited china cabinet in a succession of apartments as I tried on successive lives.  Tureen unloved, as I had yet to find the persona to embrace its vintage value.

Incidentally, there is no indigenous soup of Northern California.

The tureen and accompanying china service for twelve — eight, if doing full place settings, as salad plates and soup bowls shattered throughout the years —along with all the other items inherited too young to fully appreciate, boxed up for the Great Donation Drop-Off in preparation for my cross-country move to Manhattan where I would lack the appropriate square footage to entertain in grand style.

vinsurjussulentNew York City, where I discovered the glories of delivery Chinese and their cornucopia of soups: Hot and Sour, Egg Drop, Wonton. Celebratory Shark Fin, supped in Chinatown, of questionable price and authenticity. In one of the once-grand-gone-to-tourist temples of Dim Sum, I was introduced to the penultimate jewel in the Chinese soup constellation: Soup Dumpling Soup.

Often served o in bamboo steamers, tang bao — diaphanous soup-filled dumplings — on special occasions can be found bobbing, suspended, in an aromatic savory broth. A grand soup, worthy of Great Aunt Myrtle’s serving tureen.

If only knowledge of an ideal soup and possession of an ideal vessel occurred in a convergent moment in time.

Almond Milk Latte at the flower-decked communal farm table.

Almond Milk Latte at the flower-decked communal farm table.


The crafting of “jussulent”  required a bit of simmering, first handwritten in the waning Happy Hour sunlight at Maialino (grammercy), revised over a bouillabaisse-friendly Bordeaux at Vin Sur Vingt (west village), edited with a restorative almond milk latte at Nourish (west village).

Have a word you would like to toss into WordBowl? Use the form below. I look forward to writing something inspired by you!


WordBowl Word-of-the-Day “etouffée” courtesy of Louisiana Kitchen & Culture Founder & Publisher Susan Ford

Crawfish Etouffee Photo: Louisiana Kitchen & Culture

Crawfish Etouffee Photo: Louisiana Kitchen & Culture

I dream of po’ boys, flash-fried oysters mashed between toothsome crisp-crusted French Bread, an un-replicable unctuous bite. Muffulettas oozing oil and olives. Beignets smothered in powdered sugar snowdrifts.

"Double Buzz" at Amor y Amargo — weekend-only coffee+cocktail alchemy

“Double Buzz” at Amor y Amargo — weekend-only coffee+cocktail alchemy

The luscious, lyrical meals of my childhood — flour-roux gumbos, Jambalayas, fried soft shell crabs, Black Bottom Pie —forbidden foods as an adult with wheat allergies.

New Orleans and the surrounding areas, my father’s ancestral home, redolent of seafood seawater and slow-simmered spices, where supper plans were hatched over breakfast. Our family visits, after Grandmother Marie passed, centered around meals with my father’s brother Uncle Johnny, Aunt Susie, our five much older cousins.

My father’s eight-years-older brother, Uncle Johnny, was once signed to Detroit, injured in his first pre-season Spring Training, returned to New Orleans without having played a professional ballgame, became a car salesman, dealership owner, Chrysler company man. Everyone in the family drove a Chrysler — except for Great Aunt Dinky, proud owner of successive Mercedes sedans — my parents on the receiving end of Uncle Johnny’s showroom castoffs.

A talker, Uncle Johnny, as verbose as my father was quiet, sucking and jabbing his omnipresent cigarette to punctuate his point, of which he had a few, his wife alone possessed the power to quell his harangues. Aunt Susie, New Orleans native, grew up just blocks from Uncle Johnny and my father, but across the Maginot Line of another Parish, a Parish of the newly arrived, like her family, from Mexico.

imagesWhich explains how amidst the parade of crawfish, red beans and rice, shrimp remolade, hatbox-sized tins of Charles’ potato chips, there was, on any extended New Orleans visit, Taco Night.

Taco Night, Aunt Susie’s sisters joined us, simmering onions and tomatoes, frying soft corn tortillas until puffed crisp and shimmering with oil, peeling paper-skinned things resembling green tomatoes, what I later understood to be tomatillos, but not from my aunts or whatever you would call them, Aunts-in-Law — who spoke rapid-fire Spanish-Cajun-English, a cascade of words flowing fluid from one language to another — as an adult, I learned about “tomatillos” from a chef in San Francisco who specialized in nouvelle interpretations of regional cuisines.

MoonPie-1Aunt Susie and the Aunts-in-Law arranged heaping platters on the long low table with seating for twelve, extra chairs brought in from the garage or the formal dining room, family squeezed so tight elbows bumped, until a rhythm of raise-taco-lower taco-refill-taco-raise-taco was established with our immediate neighbors.  For my siblings and I, the presence of so much food, our portions unsupervised, was dizzying, we ate well past the point of full, and munched on chocolate and lemon Moon Pies afterwards, avoiding our packaged dessert-abstaining father’s silent stares.

Aunt Susie, Uncle Johnny and our cousins moved to Nashville (some Chrysler-opportunity), the end of such gatherings. Despite scattered siblings and cousins drifting back or towards our familial homeland, New Orleans meals henceforth held in hotels or restaurants, the merits of which are debated against the meals of our memories.

“etouffée” hand-scribbled during Amor y Amargo‘s weekends-only “Double Buzz” hand-crafted coffee & cocktail pairing event. My Great Aunt Dinky (who actually might be a great cousin, several times removed, but she’s always been an “aunt” to me) would approve. 

"Double Buzz" coffee + cocktail alchemy at Amor y Amargo

“Double Buzz” coffee + cocktail alchemy at Amor y Amargo

Do you have a favorite word? Send it along. I look forward to writing something for you!