Recipe for a Marriage
by Joanna ES Campbell
First, a good roux* is fundamental. Stir often until the mixture is the color of a dirty copper penny.
*If possible, find an old mechanic named Flash LeBlanc who devotes morning, noon, and night to heating the flour and milk slowly in a cast iron skillet for the desired nutty flavor.
NOTE: If you’re not cooking and eating gumbo with your beloved, then you don’t know what it’s like to wiggle against each other while the pot is simmering, and you shake the wooden spoon in the air and lick the drops from the steamy mess.
TIP: When you’re not eating gumbo, you should have a spicy pot of beans: pinto, black, or white will do, and serve them with crusty cornbread and a heap of collard greens. A dash of Panola hot sauce is nice or Sriracha if you want to be sophisticated. Sophisticated – that’s the word Dennis used when I told him about the open relationship* I was in long ago. “I’m just not sophisticated enough for that,” he said in his east Arkansas drawl. The accent comes out strong when he’s feeling vulnerable, excited, or on the phone with his brother who still lives in Trumann.
*There was nothing open about that relationship. It was all secrets and mystery, and not the sacred, recipe-handed-down-through-generations kind.
Second, swim naked in the ocean at least once with your spouse. Nearly getting caught by strangers who look as though they would never consider skinny-dipping also adds a special zing.
If you’re within a day’s drive of New Orleans, hop in the car and take the winding country roads through fishing villages until you reach the arterial highways that cut through salt marsh where egrets, herons and gators make their home in a swampy stew.
Try to resist the packaged pecan roll at the gas station.
REMINDER: Before merging onto the interstate highway, pull to the side of the road if you see a man wearing weathered overalls who is standing next to a pickup truck and a cardboard sign that reads: Boiled Peanuts. Peel the shells, let them fall to the floorboard, hold the shiny legumes in your palm, and toss them in your mouth.
Upon arriving at your destination, seek the nearest boudin in the French Quarter. Then, dust your cheeks and nose with powdered sugar from Cafe du Monde. Do not worry if constellations of sugar dot your clothes as you bite into hot beignets. Rinse with Community Coffee. It’s okay to take photographs inside the Catholic Church, but please refrain from doing so in the Voodoo shops. If you snap a few pics before reading the handwritten sign taped next to worry dolls, say, “Oops.”
Third, go to the movies at 10:30 a.m. on a Monday morning, or to a theater that plays cult classics like The Wild Bunch at night, or to a theater that serves grass-fed burgers and French press herbal tea at your booth. In any case, go to the movies as often as possible.
Last, walk in the mornings with your beloved along 31st Avenue and peruse books at a Little Free Library and watch new construction progressing throughout your neighborhood. Take in the view of Lake Washington, the Cascades, and maybe even glimpse Mt. Rainier. Pick curbside blackberries and figs in the late summer. Breathe in the scents of rogue lavender and gin*.
*If you live in a climate where juniper trees grow, on certain warm days, the resin will waft boozy up and down your block, and for a moment, you may be convinced you’ve passed a bar, but then you will turn to see the uninhibited conifers leaning into each other by the sidewalk.
ONE FINAL NOTE: Cook anything at least once a week with your spouse. And I mean anything. As long as you are in the kitchen together, chopping, mixing, sautéing - listening to music (any kind will do, but if you have Blues or Cajun, that’s especially good). Enjoy the windows fogging and dishes piling up in the sink. It helps if your kitchen is small or narrow because then you will bump into one another as you search for smoked salt or cayenne. When your love says, “Bring me some herbs from the garden,” say, “You got it.” Walk barefoot in the thick grass, shake the dew, and gather rosemary and oregano from the raised bed the two of you planted in your first spring together. Mix a cocktail or squeeze lemon over sparkling water while your meal simmers. When you can’t resist the aroma anymore, you will eat what you’ve created together, and you will say, “Mm, you do me so right with your cookin.”
In the morning, the dishes you scrub will feel like a lagniappe.