New Orleans Rhythm n’ Roux

I remember the smell of my mother’s roux cooking in our restaurant like people remember the smell of their grandmother’s peppermint scented purse or their father’s tweed jacket with a hint of fresh rolled cigar. It was music to my nose. I say music because everything we did was laced with music. New Orleans rhythms like our food are unique, highly magnetic and built on the backs of our ancestors who still beckon today. My mother’s delicate nutty-scented roux wafting through the air along with the sounds of New Orleans music still makes my heart flutter.

When making a roux you reply to the melted butter in your pot by adding the flour. They are dependent on each other; as vessel and cargo they are a well-paired match. Much like the call and response drumming brought here by our African ancestors, one is dependent on the other; if I’m calling with my drum you politely respond on yours. I can see mom now in her well starched white uniform and white shoes. Even as owner of the place she was always properly dressed and neat just like the hired brass bands in their well-fitted suits n sashes. She and her staff brought pride and joy to the table along with some of the best food in the city. You wouldn’t know they cooked and served a few hundred people over each 24 hour day Hank’s Restaurant and Bar was open. Then there was the music that accompanied most of those 24 hours in the form of the juke box thanks to TAC Entertainment as well as local musicians and make shift bands passing in the street doing impromptu second lines. Like deep frying shrimp they popped up almost any time without notice.

How long do you cook a roux is the question most asked of me. My response is however dark you want it to look and most importantly, taste. We don’t roux in minutes or stirs of the spoon, we roux in smell equating with taste. When we second line we don’t count our steps or gauge our timing we just roll with the music and our feet move not through some pre-planned dance routine but from our souls, our feelings erupting through the music. See, you can use lard, butter, liquid oil and any brand plain flour and make it what you want; you can use a drum, horn, tambourine and any beat and make the music you want. It’s all about heart and soul. Feeling what you do and doing what you feel. Rancid oil like sour notes are a definitive no-no and just don’t burn it or get burnt out….Then you gotta start all over.