As some of you already know, 2012 brought the release of a project near and dear to my heart: the cookbook, Qu’est~Ce Qu’on Va Manger? (What are we going to eat?) This deeply personal culinary journey began a few years ago, when “Dad” expressed a desire to tell his life story to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. My late husband, Joseph Phanor Metoyer, was such a storyteller, always sharing his memories of a far simpler time, growing up on a farm on Cane River and living in Natchitoches, Louisiana, a place his family had called home for more than 50 years.
Mealtime was particularly precious to Dad and me. Having raised eight children together, we greatly valued having our family all together, and each of us always had something to share around the dinner table (my kids would tell you some of us more than others). Our shared family meals were about more than food; they were a time to give thanks, and a time to share our lives, and our stories, with one another.
My mother was Florence LaCour Conant Llorens (“Mama Florence” to all of us, as my late husband was affectionately “Dad” to our children and to me) and Dad loved her cooking. I remember when we first came to California; she came with me to help us with the children. How fortunate we were for that! And then, in her later years, we were blessed to have her living with us for a time. Times have changed a lot since those days, but for us, that’s just how it was with family – they were there for you and you were there for them.
Over the years I cherished, and actively collected and prepared, the recipes that Momma Florence had made and had taught to me, many of which became favorites of Dad and our family. I’m sure that many cooks of my generation will understand perfectly when I say that, they weren’t so much recipes, as they were vague instructions given with much love (and, on occasion, a hint of protective reluctance – Ha!). It was always, “a pinch of this,” or a “bit of that.” Growing up watching my mother cook, and having always cooked myself, I in turn prepared Momma Florence’s and my dishes more from memory and by feel than by any written recipe. But, after years of urging from my children, I finally sat down and wrote them out, making them easier to share with others who might enjoy them, as we have for so many years, and for several generations.
Before his passing, Dad asked our son, Louis, to help him put his life story together on paper, and one day when some of the other children were over, we got to talking about blending two separate ideas together. How might we combine the stories of Dad’s humble life with images and recipes of the food he loved the most? After all, food was such a huge part of Dad’s story. How could you talk about him without talking about all of the meals that he so enjoyed? As we explored the idea further, we really felt that the two concepts were a natural marriage made in heaven. That is how the eventual blending of Dad’s stories, along with his favorite recipes, came about, and how they finally became this book that we have published to share with anyone who might have an interest, Qu’est~Ce Qu’on Va Manger?
My children, Louis, John, and Florence Marie began to work with me on this venture. The project took several years to complete as, sadly, we were faced with our beloved Dad’s declining health and subsequent passing. It was very important to me, and to all of us, to finish Dad’s dream of telling his life story and giving our grandchildren and great-grandchildren a tangible piece of our family traditions and of our larger cultural heritage.
This heartfelt culinary memoir combines the story of my late husband of more than 60 years with the recipes he so loved to eat for all of those blessed years. They are largely the recipes of my mother, Momma Florence, who always served as an inspiration to me in the kitchen. They are also my favorite recipes, things I came up with over the years, such as my Four-Tier Pineapple Cake and my Creole Salmon and Rice recipe. Oh, and we couldn’t forget our grandkids’ favorite, Okra Gumbo! Several of my children also contributed their own recipes to the book, and for me, that’s what makes Qu’est~Ce Qu’on Va Manger? more than just a cookbook; for our family this book is a living legacy, a true part of who we are and of what we love.
I want to thank all of you for your generous support and feedback since releasing Qu’est~Ce Qu’on Va Manger? last year. It is my hope that you all will find something to enjoy from its pages, whether it is a story that takes you back to a simpler time, or a recipe from our kitchen that makes its way into your own. Cooking for the people I love has always been so very special to me, and I thank you for allowing me to share some of my favorite dishes with all of you.
Qu’est~Ce Qu’on Va Manger?, a culinary memoir by Valma V. Conant Metoyer as told to her sons, John Ronald Metoyer, and Louis H. Metoyer, founder of the Bayou Talk Newspaper, and her daughter, Florence Marie Crumsey, is now available for purchase.