Although I now tout myself as a Southern Californian I sometimes forget that I was born and raised in the South - the Capital of the Confederacy, the Old Dominion - Richmond, Virginia.
I was raised by two culinary talents, both with their distinct (and very disparate) kitchen super powers. While Dad embraced the 80's haute cuisine scene with meals like seared swordfish steaks over broken rice and schezwan string beans , Mom went the way of the almost Asian macrobiotic. Honestly I don't even know what was in some of those dishes of hers - I know we jokingly referred to some item as "babydoll" as it seemed similar in texture to the rubber from which dolls are made, and "wet dog" - bulgar. But don't get me wrong, there were excellent things too. She is a fantastic cook and baker (and it is near impossible to be both).
All of their fads aside they both had their Southern staples passed down from generations - people who turned cooking from hard work to creative work. It's also interesting to note that the South created the only cuisine in this country.
Sometimes I miss the comfort of home and my family - eating fresh mint on the front stoop with Dad while he waters the yard and chats with the neighbors in the Spring, the most perfect Falls with all the trees turning to bright oranges, reds and yellows in symphonic unison, Winters waking up to a pink sky in the middle of the night and knowing I will awaken to snow in the morning (no school!), late-Summer afternoon thunderstorms and cicadas singing for the sunset, tubing down the James River, Hanover tomatoes, real barbecue (Los Angeles just can't seem to get it right)... Wow.
This is when I can call either of them for recipes for cheese grits, tomato aspic, oyster stew, pimiento cheese, deviled eggs, fried chicken livers, creamed chipped beef on toast, sausage biscuits, Brunswick stew, Aunt Babe's mashed potatoes, crab cakes, spoon bread, apple crisp, etc., all of which they are able to tell me right off the top of their heads. I imagine it gives them as much pleasure sharing these recipes, their history and pride as it does for me to prepare and eat them.
A couple of weeks ago I called both Mom and Dad within an hour of each other for this recipe. As expected they were each prepared to relay it to me, and of course they differed ever so slightly. Mom kept it pretty simple and succinct while Dad had to throw brie and worcestershire sauce in. This is the version I prepared with a few of my own ideas. It turned out to be fantastic.
Serve with crusty bread and a smooth, hearty red wine, perhaps a Margaux or a Bordeaux.
4 tablespoons butter
2 pints shucked oysters including their liquor
1 teaspoon grated onion (I used a zester to almost liquify the onion)
1/4 cup of brie (with the rind removed)
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup cream
1 tablespoon of cream or medium-dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon salt
a dash of worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley (or chives)
In a heavy pot over medium-low heat saute onion in butter.
Add oysters with their liquor, milk, cream, sherry, worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.
Add brie in small pieces and stir until it dissolves.
When the oysters float, the butter has melted and the milk and cream are hot.
Garnish with parsley or chives and serve immediately.
"What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?" ~Lin Yutang