Friday, September 29, 2006

Wishing Leaves

I know what you're wishing. You're wishing you had some of this shrimp creole. It wasn't half bad actually, even though I whipped it up after a long day at work and kind of rushed it.

This post isn't really about the creole, it's about the bay leaf.

We use bay leaves a lot in our subtropical cooking. I don't crush them as some recipes instruct, but that may be because I don't follow intstructions well.

(I also don't taste what I'm cooking during the process. That's confidence I suppose.)

So, at our house, you might dig into my chicken noodle soup, gumbo, shrimp creole, beef burgundy, scampi, cuban black beans, etc and come up with a whole bay leaf on your spoon.

The leaf on the spoon always got my kids attention when they were little and one of them would get it.
"Daddy, there's a tree leaf in my soup ...yuck"

One day, long ago, tired of explaining why it was there and that you shouldn't eat it, I just said,

"Hey Lucky You!! You got the WISHING LEAF in your bowl!"

"The what?"

"The wishing leaf! Whoever gets the wishing leaf gets to make a wish ... like on your birthday when you blow out the candles."

Three sets of big brown eyes grew wide.

A tradition and a family legend was born at that moment.

After that, the discovery of the wishing leaf in a bowl was announced with excited squeals and delight. If a particular child was feeling down or just needed a lift, a sly parent could make sure the wishing leaf landed in their bowl.

It may seem silly, but it was fun and we still announce,
"Hey, I got the wishing leaf !"

In my forest, red bay grows profusely. The bay leaves I buy at the store come from the Mediterranean region, but when you crush red bay and smell it,the smell is essentially the same.

See for yourself. Go ahead, smell the picture.

Then make a wish.Posted by Picasa


Anonymous said...

You have bay leaves growing in your forest that smell essentially the same, so you go to the store and buy the other kind because . . . ?

Floridacracker said...

Because I'm waiting for someone to announce loudly and with authority, "Why yes, you can cook with these without growing three arms or dying"
They are not the same species.

I guess that's it.

threecollie said...

I am ready to wish now....I wish we had bay leaves growing in our yard. You dinner looks terrific!

LauraO said...

The creole looks yummy. I love the wishing leaf story. That's how traditions are born..

Cathy S. said...

Nothing else to wish for on this absolutely gorgeous fall Florida morning where there is a hint of cooler weather to come. And it's Friday to boot so a weekend stretches ahead of me! Oh, yes, perhaps I will wish for a bowl of your shrimp creole. But, not for breakfast, you can deliver it in time for dinner?

rick said...

good looking dinner,are you going to make it tp racy point this weekend? I plan on going saturday morning.

Wayne said...

Yes, I'd like some of that shrimp creole, but do feel free to make sure the bay leaf gets in someone else's bowl.

Not that I don't like bay - far from it. But *our* tradition is that the person who gets the bay leaf has to wash the dishes.

BTW - I sense that thingfish23 is a scant 70 miles away, visiting folks in Atlanta.

Hal at Ranch Ramblins said...

There was a favorite seafood joint in California that Retta and I used to frequent which had the most delicious clam chowder. Besides an abundance of clams, the chowder contained an equal abundance of bay leafs, which would accumulate beside the bowls as we ate. At the end of the meal, we would compare quantities - somehow, I always seemed to end up with the most bay leafs. My reward? I got to pick up the tab!

robin andrea said...

You make me want to cook with bay leaf more often. I don't know why we don't toss in a leaf when we've got something simmering on the stove. Just never think of it. I think I'll be turning over a new leaf. The creole looks delicious.

Rurality said...

OK well maybe it's not about the creole, but it probably wouldn't hurt to include the recipe... pretty please?

Raised by Wolves said...

Weak argument as I know you have more than once wished for that third arm (all home remodelers have - don't even try to deny it). And not to disillusion you or any of your followers, but, um. . . one thing that we all have in common is that we are going to die. I'm guessing you just don't want to have a leaf in the "when" part of that. I'm also guessing if Wayne didn't jump in and tell you to go ahead, that your own advice is sage in this matter. Oh no! It's bay. (Still anonymously baying into the abyss, sincerely in delight.)

Deb said...

I wish...that shrimp creole was on the menu tonight! I do have a bag of frozen uncooked shrimp in the freezer, however, so I second Rurality's request for a recipe! And thanks for reminding me, I'm getting low on bay leaves.

Wayne said...


You have an intrinsic knowledge that you'll have to wash the dishes if you get the bay leaf. That's why you don't cook with it.

(Plus, and I know it totally usurps the posts, but still - if you unwittingly bite into that cooked, slimy bay leaf, it will completely spoil your appetite.)


SophieMae said...

Now you done made me hungry! Not to worry. If there isn't enough creole to go around, I'll be more than happy to have the black beans. 8-] Now I'm definitely going to have to find an excuse to go to Tampa.

Re the bay leaves, try your extension agent.

Mrs. S said...

I think that is an awesome family tradition type thing, and I think it's wonderful. Your post got me to thinking about what (if any) little family traditions will crop up at our house once we're a full-blown family.

Debbie said...

Here in the Florida panhandle we're also having shrimp for dinner, Five-spice Shrimp w/chinese noodles. I use bay leaves a lot. When the kids were young we began the tradition that the finder of the bay leaf was the dish washer for the evening (like Wayne above). Sometimes they tried to hide it, claiming that it must still be in the soup, sauce, etc.

Wayne said...

Heh - like Debbie says. Oddly, we might have picked up that tradition, and responses too, while living in Tallahassee.

vicki said...

Again with the shrimp! That settles it- I'm going to fix shrimp for dinner. And if you find out it's edible I'll add red bay to my list of possibilities as I get ready to start on the Florida yard. So keep us posted on that.

You could start a little sub-blog on Pure Florida cooking, FC.

vicki said...

Going back a few- what ARE those bugs? A kind of fly? We have Mayflies that get all hitched together and then coat everything in sight- windshields, houses, people- but it's a brief once-a-year happening- basically a nymph hatch. Wait- I don't live in Michigan anymore. I guess I don't know yet what we have. Oh, yes, sparrows.

The dogs look as happy as pigs in mud. Are you doing pigs again?

And although it is no longer on this page, I thought your daughter was lovelier than a sunset in the homecoming post!

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

That's how family traditions get started and yours sounds like a great one. It worked for you and soothed the kids when needed. Great tradition.

Now for my wish:

Like a birthday wish it has to remain silent to come true...right?

Floridacracker said...

It was good, not terrific. I would have liked to let it sit a little, but we were hungry. I can tell you none was wasted.

Hey welcome to Pure Florida! Thanks, it is neat about these family traditions...I assume it will travel with my kids as they make their way.

Cathy S.,
Yes, never seafood for breakfast. Fall was here today too and I can feel the Jeep top folding up as I type. Looks like a topless weekend.

Gotta go home Sunday for Dad's belated birthday celebration. I may try to shrimp the next weekend.

The bay leaf traditions in the comments are cracking me up. Who knew?
70 miles is dangerously close for Thingfish ;)

They must use alot more bay than I do... one or two seems to do it.
Funny tradition.

"Turning over a new leaf"
heehee :)

It really wasn't a recipe. I got home from work and just created something creole-like.
Okay, I sauteed the shrimp quick and took em off the heat to rest. Into the shrimpy olive oil went bay, oregano, sweet basil, tabasco, Tony Cachere's cajun spice, thyme, black pepper, and some canned crushed tomatoes. ( I was out of cheap wine or I would have splashed a little in too.) I let the tomatoes reduce and thicken, then added the shrimp back in. A little more simmering and it was ready to go.

Wolf cub,
LOL. Love those puns. Something fishy here ...

That home brew you're working on would go good with this!

You are right. I just need to research the red bays herbability.
My black beans are Cuban ecstasy.

Mrs. S,
Half of me envies the adventure ahead and half of me is glad it's you and not me. Your traditions will be grand.

Dinner sounds good!
I would have given my leaf to the dog.

Maybe it's a Floragabama tradition.

Enjoy your shrimp!
Catching up:
Oh you poor thing, just wait till your Florida visit coincides with love bug swarming...

Pigs: well, this year there will just be one as Katie is out of high school and Emma never got into the FFA farmy thing. So JR will be getting a fair pig around November.
Thank you for that sweet comment about Emma. I agree whole heartedly.

Funny how a moment's quick made up answer morphed into a tradition.
As for your wish details ...shhhhhhh. If you say it out loud the bay leaf fairy will not come.

Laura said...

I use bay leaves quite often in cooking but I've never thought about the wish come true aspect of it. I like the "it's your turn to do the dishes" part better! LOL!

Sara, on my blog, asked if you would be near the Cathedral Basilica of St.Augustine this weekend, and if so, would a picture be out of the question?
thought I'd pass it on, just in case.

Wayne said...

FC - TF23 called me yesterday and we had a convivial chat. Alas, his schedule is very tight, and he flew, and has no car. And, while he comes very very close, his charm doesn't quite overcome my repulsion in driving toward Atlanta.

He was quite understanding of this, and we spoke of my neuroses. Funny - we never talked of his!

Hurricane Teen said...

I never really understood what good a "wishing leaf" did in a pot of soup. Just one of those things you're supposed to do, I suppose. Great story! I'll keep that in mind for when my nephew gets older.

Floridacracker said...

I think in the age of dishwashers, the leaf might loose some of it's sting... now take out the garbage if you get the leaf...that might work. I'm in on your meme and will try to get that shot for Sara.

Cool! Too bad it didn't work out, but at least you made contact. Did he rant? :)

It adds a subtle flavor ... just part of the melange.

Crafty Green Poet said...

My Mum often put a bay leaf in her cooking but we never had any tradition associated with it. The Wishing Leaf idea is a lovely one!

Cinnamonbite said...

Why don't you grow the real thing? I'm in Orlando and I grow bay. I had to special order it at a nursery but it's nothing to take care of, I don't even cover it for frosts.

Ericka said...

how funny - we did the same thing with the bay leaf at my house when i was growing up. mom's vegetable beef soup always had at least 1 whole bay leaf. whomever got it (usually dad) got to make a wish, even though we never called it the wish leaf.

Leslie said...

If it's the "you have to do dishes" leaf, folks just become adept at scooping food while avoiding the bay leaf. A wishing leaf is tons mo' bettah.

Floridacracker said...

Crafty Green,
Welcome to Pure Florida!
Glad you like our little tradition!

Exactly! Why don't I? You have inspired me to do just that. Thanks and welcome to Pure Florida!

THAT is funny because this really was a moment of inspiration (desperation?) and not a previous tradition in our extended families. Cool serendipity!

I would have become very adept at scooping :)

David Harmon said...

Same deal with my Mom's soups (chicken, mushroom-barley, split-pea) -- we didn't call it a "wishing leaf", but the "make a wish" idea was certainly there...

Floridacracker said...

Too funny. I'm really enjoying the comments on this post. It's neat to hear all the traditions.