Another Voice: Bisque, Baskets and Blogs

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My sister asked if she could blog about our family tradition of making crawfish bisque at Easter. Frankly, I thought this was tradition was from her husband’s Cajun family. I didn’t remember until this morning that this was our Fair family tradition. I remember every Easter going over to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house along with the Fuglers and the Bentons and hiding and hunting Easter eggs in the lilies that lined the circular drive in front of their house. I can see the old Live Oak trees clear as day with the Spanish Moss clinging loosely on their branches as we climbed over the roots to look for eggs. Those beautiful lilies would have been in full bloom as the bisque gravy bubbled in large black pots outside. I’m glad she was paying attention to what we ate for lunch those many Easter Sundays or I wouldn’t be eating bisque today. Enjoy my sister’s blog. Happy Easter, y’all!

By: Susan King Gremillion

Pics by: Laura King (2012 bisque-making) Click on the pics or hover over them to see the captions.

When I was a child, every year my entire extended family on my mama’s side would get together for Easter, and Grandma and Grandpa Fair would make crawfish bisque for everyone. Everyone in the family looked forward to that: deep brown gravy served over rice with crawfish heads stuffed with ground up crawfish tails. It was delicious. The kids had a great time; we would run and play and have fun while all of the adults slaved over the gravy. When it was declared ready, we would all rush over and fill our bowls with the bisque. Life simply did not get any better than that. My grandmother passed away when I was just twenty-four, but the bisque did not stop there. My grandfather, mother, and aunts kept the bisque tradition alive. However, a few years later, when Grandpa passed away, I knew the bisque tradition was in danger.

My husband, Gary, loved the tradition that my family had, and, being the cook of the family, he felt the tradition must go on. Just a few months after Grandpa’s passing, he called my mama and asked her if she would be offended if he began making bisque for the family. My mama quickly agreed, and a new tradition was born: Gary and I began making crawfish bisque for Easter. Over the years we have had to change the tradition a little. We no longer live in the Baton Rouge area, so the family has to travel to our house for Easter weekend. Of course, my family members like to go to their own churches on Easter Sunday, so we moved the bisque extravaganza to the day before Easter. Each year, my brother Terry, and his wife, Laura, and their family comes to spend a few days. Mama and Daddy also come early. Sammy and his family come on Saturday and spend the day. Sharon has always lived to far away to attend, but now that she’s back in Louisiana, we’re going to make sure she gets involved as well.

Everybody gets involved in stuffing the heads.

Everybody gets involved in stuffing the heads.

On Good Friday, Mama, Laura, and I get busy stuffing heads for the Saturday feast. Gary is in charge of the gravy part of the bisque, so he makes the gravy while we work at the dining room table stuffing heads. Although the conversation is not in French, as tradition would have it, we still laugh and have a good time preparing the heads. In the old days, a crawfish bisque took three days to prepare: On Good Friday, families got together for a crawfish boil. Saturday was spent chopping the crawfish tails, the onions, celery, bell peppers, and all the good stuff that goes into the gravy with the leftover crawfish tails, as well as cleaning the crawfish heads. Easter Sunday, it all came together, and the bisque was enjoyed by the family. We have a much easier job now. We buy bags of Louisiana crawfish tails (Please note: LOUISIANA tails are a must; the Chinese version is much less desirable.), run them through the food processor along with all the seasonings, and stuff the heads. The heads, which used to be cleaned by my grandparents by hand, are now processed by inmates at the prison where my husband works. You can also buy cleaned heads at some south Louisiana seafood stores. At any rate, the job is minuscule compared to what it used to be. What used to take three days can now be done in three hours, and it is just as delicious.

Saturday morning everyone arrives, and we do all of the things that all families do on Easter: we sit around and laugh and talk and catch up, the children hide and look for eggs, and then lunch is served. At this time of year, I think of my grandparents daily, and Easter is my favorite holiday because of them. People outside of south Louisiana may not understand our peculiar eating habits, but anyone who has ever tasted the dark rich goodness of a bowl of crawfish bisque knows that we have what others can only dream about. I think my Grandma and Grandpa look down from Heaven every Easter weekend and smile. I know they would be proud that we carried on their tradition. And I hope that when I’m gone, someone in the family will say, “Let’s keep the tradition going. We can do that.”

24 thoughts on “Another Voice: Bisque, Baskets and Blogs

  1. Sure, Sha! You mix 10 cups of ground crawfish tails, two medium onions, 1-8 oz. can of unseasoned bread crumbs, 6 eggs, 2 bunches of chopped green onions, 1 bunch of parsley, 1 head of garlic, and seasoning to taste. You stuff that into about 200 cleaned crawfish heads. Spray the stuffed heads with Pam, and sprinkle with flour. Bake at 350 degrees until the opening is sealed.

    For the gravy, you make a roux, then mix two sticks of butter, 4 large onions, chopped, 2 bell peppers, chopped, 4 ribs celery, chopped, 1 head of garlic chopped. Saute the vegetables until soft, then add them to the roux. Then you add a 6 oz. can of tomato paste, 2 gallons of seafood stock (made ahead of time), crawfish fat, seasoning mix of choice, and cook for at least an hour (The longer, the better. We usually cook it overnight.) When your gravy is about 30 minutes from being eaten, add the crawfish heads. A few minutes later, add 3 cups of crawfish tails and a bunch of green onions. Serve over rice.

    It’s a little time consuming, but well worth the trouble.

  2. It’s pure love when someone makes this, the most grand dish in Cajun and Creole culture, for you. Looks fantastic! Thanks for sharing 😄😄😄

  3. Susan, thanks so much for writing about this. It brought back a lot of great memories… And you have a better memory than me apparently. I always enjoyed your little packets of bisque that you made the effort to bring me! Thanks for taking the time to share this story with others. You have a great talent in writing. Wonder where that came from?? 😉

  4. Susan –

    Awesome blog. My mommas family also celebrated Easter big time. My grandmother lived in North Louisiana. Because it was so cold, and there were so many of us, it was much easier to get together at Easter. My mom was one of 10 children born to sharecroppers in North Louisiana. Up there they taught the 4 R’s. Reading, writing, ‘rithmatic and the road to Baton Rouge.
    I loved the way you talked about your family’s traditions and your husbands desire to carry on the tradition. My most precious memories are Easter egg hunts with my 20 plus cousins, a great big three or four table long meal which included ham, roast, cornbread dressing, chicken and dumplings and everything else imaginable. Of course the special treats was Grandmas pink pudding and her peanut butter icing cake. I am sitting here drooling just thinking about it.
    Anyway … Thank you for bringing those memories to my mind and for sharing your traditions. Love to you and yours.

  5. Jo, pink pudding? I must hear more about that. I love the Easter traditions, too. I think it is my favorite holiday because it is usually reasonably warm, and so fun to be outside visiting with everyone. I love your 4 R’s. I can totally relate to that; we taught Hannah the same thing. I wish we could still get together with all the cousins, even though that would be a huge undertaking. It would be fun. I remember going to Grandma’s house and hunting eggs under huge live oak trees and among the day lilies. Good times.

    • Debbie, I wish we could get the whole extended family together again for a bisque celebrating all of those family members we’ve lost. Also, Uncle Bumpy once told Grandma, “Nobody makes potato salad like you.” I think he was right. I miss those days.

  6. This really brought back memories for me. My mother, who was from Texas, learned how to cook from my Cajun grandmother. One of my favorite things she cooked was Crawfish Bisque. I remember it took her two days, but it was so worth it. Unfortunately, she never taught me how to make it. I have not had “real” Crawfish Bisque since I was a child. Can I come to your house next Easter? 🙂

  7. Susan, Thanks for bringing back those great memories of spending Easter at MawMaw and PawPaw’s. I too remember looking for the Easter eggs in the lilies that lined their driveway and among the roots of the many oak trees. I also remember playing touch football in the front yard. Do you remember that? I would love to start the tradition of the crawfish bisque with my family. Thanks for sharing the recipe…I was also going to ask for it. I’m glad that the recipe was passed on. Love ya cuz!

  8. What a great story of keeping family traditions alive! Makes me wonder what some are in my family that I take for granted….I know there’s a chocolate sheet cake recipe I need to get my hands on 🙂 Lovely writing!

    • Thank you, Jessica! I think it is so important to keep the traditions alive. When we make bisque, I feel that my grandparents are nearby. We continue to honor them by continuing their traditions.

  9. Pingback: Sunday Night Check-In: Strawberries, WildFlowers and Friends | Midlife Moments

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