Year One, A very random day in October
My Cajun Cousin Fabienne Advises on Marriage
Catfish strips fresh from the market are best,
if you don’t catch them yourself. The pearly fillets
a little pink tell you they take the breading well.
Marinate in buttermilk, cayenne, a dash of salt—
and Tabasco. Then whisk together flour,
fine cornmeal and an extra helping of Old Bay,
more than you think you need—spicy for love—
and dump the lot into a plastic bag for dredging.
Cut up jalapeños, marinate and dredge them too,
make a nice snack. You like jalapeños?
Frying make everything taste so much better.
Fried catfish was the way to my Antoine’s heart,
rest his soul. He could eat him several pounds
after he catch them and I fry. Check the peanut oil:
exactly 365 degrees? Good. Tong them cats
into the frying pan, three minutes, then set the fish
and peppers on paper towels to drain.
Your man—he a fisherman, no? He will like this.
Make him fall in love with you again. My Antoine,
he said he love me forever when I cook him fish.
And then you whip up a remoulade or tartar sauce
and hush puppies. Girl, he never leave you then.
2 medium onions, chopped
1 stick butter
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 TBsp. Chopped garlic
4 (10 oz. each) boxes frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained
1 tsp. Each Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco
12 oz. cream cheese
Salt, seasoned pepper, nutmeg to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Saute onions in butter until limp.
Add mushrooms and garlic and cook until mushrooms have given up their liquid.
Add spinach, Tobasco and Worcestershire sauce and cook for 2 minutes.
Stir in cream cheese and seasonings and cook until cream cheese has melted.
Put in a greased 2-quart casserole and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Can be frozen before baking.
Ice Queen Interviews JC Reilly
Ice Queen: What made you submit to this Trick of Treat issue?
JC: I am a sucker for anything Halloween themed, and when I saw your call for submissions was called "Trick or Treat," I was curious and excited. I don't often write about food, but I like IQ's emphasis on food in writing and I had a poem that I thought might work for the journal. So I sent it in!
Ice Queen: Tell me about "My Cajun Cousin Fabienne Advises on Marriage."
JC: This poem is about frying catfish and the process that it takes to make catfish delish. I am working on a narrative collection right now that has focuses on South Louisiana, and you can't get more Louisiana than fried catfish. It's practically a religious experience to make it and eat it. The poem is also about love and how we have to work to keep relationships together, in this case, through making food our family loves.
Ice Queen: Tell me about the recipe you chose. What made you want to showcase that?
JC: The recipe I'm sharing here is something called "Sinful Spinach." I make it every year for Thanksgiving, and it's probably been in our family 30 years or more, but I don't know where it came from. What I love about it is that it takes something rather bland--spinach--and makes it taste extraordinary. But really, it's so rich that you only want to eat it once a year. Still, it's very delicious and my family loves it. I'm showcasing it because I think other folks might like to add a new recipe to their Thanksgiving offerings too.
Ice Queen: Favorite family/personal recipe?
JC: (Sinful Spinach, above)
Ice Queen: What is your relationship to food in your writing?
JC: When I write about food, it's usually taking a recipe of something I like and making it into a poem. I'm not very good at this process--sometimes I can't erase the recipe enough to reach that "universal" level that poetry aims for. Mostly I try to connect cooking with family--which doesn't sound particularly novel--but cooking is a way to show love. When I write poems about food, I want to demonstrate that connection between being nourished by family as well as by what we eat.
Ice Queen: What do you love about food in writing?
JC: I love how a gifted writer can make me feel that I'm right there at the dinner table. I love how the colors pop, and how the scents remind the writers of childhood or other memories. I love the description! I especially like it when authors include recipes in the back of their book, so you have the option of making the recipe and feeling a deeper connection with the characters.
Ice Queen: Do you bake or cook a lot, and how/when did you get into it?
JC: I think like everyone during the pandemic, I tried to explore creativity through food, especially baking. I had been watching a lot of videos by YouTube chefs, and sort of realized that cooking something fancy didn't have to be a once-in-a-while thing, and moreover, that by cooking something (fancy or not), I was really connecting with my husband on a different level. He and I eat very different things; I'm a vegetarian, for instance, and he's not. So we don't often eat the same foods for dinner. But he enjoys baked goods a lot, so I've taken up making breads and sweets for him. Last night I made him an apple crisp because we had all these apples lying around. Even if I'm not great at it every time, he appreciates the gesture so much, and I feel good about making something for him, out of love.
Ice Queen: What are some of your favorite literary magazines?
JC: I enjoy a lot of different journals--Chattahoochee Review, Hive Literary Journal, PoetrySouth, POEM, and Rougarou. I also really like Atlanta Review...because I'm the managing editor! 😉
JC Reilly has work published or forthcoming from a number of journals, including Peregrine, Isotrope, Louisiana Literature, and Rougarou, and she serves as the Managing Editor of Atlanta Review. When she's not writing, she crochets, plays tennis, or practices her Italian. Follow her @Aishatonu. Or follow her cats on IG: @jc.reilly.