The shrimp boats dock at the end of street on Bayou Lafourche.
Alzina Toups says, "My son bring me the seafood. He's a shrimper."
The name of this Cajun
dining spot, Alzina's, has disappeared from the building. Alzina's fresh herb garden grows in the back
of her dad's decaying pickup truck.
Toups says, "I'm a sentimental person but it's falling
apart so I'm gonna have to find someplace else to do my herb garden"
The wonderful aroma of tonight's dinner seeps through the
metal walls of this welding shop turned Cajun kitchen.
Toups says, "We have okra gumbo, black-eyed peas jambalaya,
we have the green beans, stuffed chicken, pork tenderloin and we have baked
shrimp. And for dessert we have the walnut tart and the flan and homemade bread."
It sounds like a Thanksgiving feast. But it's just dinner for nine, a group of
friends from New Orleans.
Toups says, "We're real Cajun, from real Cajun country."
One customer tells us, "I got all of my best, my
dearest and said we are going to Galliano. They said where's that? I said I don't know but that is where we're
going. We're going to see Miss Alzina and we're going to have the meal of a
Alzina's been cooking these private dinners for 35 years. But she never wanted to turn her kitchen into
a restaurant because, she says, she would have been unhappy.
Toups tells us, "If you bigger, you go commercial and
then the way of cooking change. I think you get greedy, you know, the more
money you make the more you want to make and money is not that important to me.
As long as I have it to pay my bills, that's all that matters to me"
Miss Alzina does everything the old-fashioned way. There's
no website, no emails, no computer, no cell phone. In fact, she rarely touches the microwave.
All of her business comes from word of mouth, from those who have tasted her
Cooking is a slow and delicate process. All of the ingredients are fresh, sliced and
diced by hand, and simmered for hours.
These are lessons she learned from her mother.
Toups says, "My family, they were great cooks,
especially on my mother's side… I want to pass on my history, you know, from my
Alzina is now teaching those lessons to her granddaughter
and her great granddaughter – they both help in the kitchen.
Great-granddaughter Alyssa Goldsmith says, "She said
when she goes to heaven that if she can get one wish while she's up there, it's
gonna be to not do the dishes anymore."
Toups says, "I taught my granddaughter the feeling and touch
of the bread. That's how you can tell, you know, like you would touch another
person, when you touch the bread."
Alzina cooks the way she speaks, with simple ingredients and
a soft touch that clashes with the idea of spicy Cajun food.
Toups says, "They
put too many ingredients in it. It
overpowers their food and you don't get the taste of it, or use sauce over all
their food and you don't get what you tasting."
At age 85, Alzina Toups has no plans to slow down.
She says, "I have a passion for it, you know, I really
believe when the Lord want me to stop, I'll know that day."
But until then, her patient, loving style of Cajun cooking will
create satisfied smiles, and empty plates, at the dinner table.
We'd love to tell you how to get in touch with Alzina Toups,
but she doesn't want to advertise her phone number. She did give us a few of her recipes to share:
AMARETTO SWEET POTATOES
Ingredients for 6 - 8:
8 medium sweet potatoes
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup amaretto, or to taste
Bake potatoes in a 400 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours or until
soft to the touch. Slightly cool then peel. Place in a deep baking pan.
Sauce -- Combine the sugars. Cook until sugars are smooth
and dissolved. Remove from heat, add amaretto. Pour over the potatoes, bake for
45 minutes to 1 hour in a 375 degree oven until a glaze forms.
2 lbs. Jumbo shrimp - peeled and de-veined
1/4 cup green onions
5 cloves of garlic
4 tbsp. Butter
1/4 cup white wine
1 tbsp. Fresh lemon juice
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tbsp. Parsley
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
French rolls, pasta or rice
Season shrimp with 1/4 cup olive oil, salt & pepper.
Place on a baking sheet in a single layer apart. Bake at 400 degrees for 5
minutes, remove and set aside.
Sauce -- Sauté green onions, jalapenos and garlic in butter
and 1/4 cup olive oil. Cook for 8 minutes. Add wine, lemon juice, salt &
pepper, cook for 5 minutes. Stir in parsley and shrimp and cook 3 minutes more.
Serve on French rolls, pasta or rice.
BLACK-EYED PEA JAMBALAYA
2 tbsp. Oil
1 lb. Smoked sausage, cut
1/2 lb. Ham, cut
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 sweet pepper, chopped
2 15 oz. Cans black-eyed peas w/jalapenos
2 cups beef broth
5 cups cooked - long grain rice
Salt & cayenne pepper to taste
Parsley & green onion
Heat oil, add sausage, ham, onions, garlic and pepper, cook for
25 minutes. Add peas, broth, parsley and green onions, simmer, stirring
occasionally for 1 hour. Add rice, 1 cup at a time, depending on moistness
desired, stir gently to mix well.
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