Monday, March 02, 2009

Gumbo Friday

Nancy, Mrs. Phillip and Louis on the front porch of 1914 Law St.

Friday morning Nancy and Louis packed the van and headed home to Marietta, GA. N & L's grandson Sean had his pinewood derby race at church on Friday night. Louis and Sean have always built and raced their cars together, so even NOLA could not keep N & L from missing this very important event.

As I loaded tools in my truck I had my day planned. I would go to Pauger St and install the vent tubes for the three van/vent/light kits in Mrs. Holloway's three bathrooms and then drive to her apartment and help here transport gumbo and all the fixins to feed the volunteer team that was working at her home. As I was walking toward the truck to leave my phone rang.

Mrs. Holloway had been up since 4am and was busy prepping the ingredients for the gumbo. She had forgotten a few items and needed me to run to the closest natural food store and purchase the things needed and then take them to her apartment. In one phone call, my plans of working for the morning evaporated and I became the official grocery deliverymen for Operation Pauger St. Gumbo Feed. I drove across St. Bernard Parish and into NOLA, from there through the Garden District. With the short list purchased I made my way down Magazine St. to Mrs. Holloway's apartment.

Once there preparations were underway. Shrimp/Chicken stock was warming with a few tomatoes and salt. A large skillet was heating to make the rue. Onion and celery had been chopped, shrimp cleaned, crab broken and boiled, crawfish and lump crab meat thawed and tons of garlic ready to be crushed.
Virgie Holloway telling stories and cooking gumbo.

Mrs. Holloway talks constantly. In her presence it is hard too have your voice or opinions heard, as she is always saying something. By 10am I saw the morning had changed, so I sat down to spend the day with Mrs. Holloway. As she cooked she talked about her life, her children, her neighborhood, how she found her church, etc... She chopped and talked, she stirred and talked, she simmered and talked, she cleaned dishes and talked. During this time I listened and learned much. The horrors of her life and the neighborhood on Pauger St poured out in the hours I sat at her table. Only by God's grace and mercy has she survived to be in the place she is in at this moment. Mrs. Holloway has had a very tough life, yet she possesses a very simple faith and trust in God. She has not become bitter, but has become a person of generosity.
Seafood File' Gumbo cooked by Virgie Holloway.

Watching her cook the gumbo was amazing, she used great care in each step she took and she was always praying over each thing she did. She truly wanted all who ate her pot of gumbo to experience the presence of God as they ate her food. She also made a fruit punch from scratch using only the best organic juices. Her preparation took more time than expected, but by 1:15pm we were headed for her house on Pauger St.

The team of Mennonites were working diligently when we arrived. We quickly took to small scaffold benches and sat a sheet of plywood across them. With a table cloth Mrs. Holloway had brought along and large picnic table was created.
Virgie Holloway setting the table for the feast.

The food Mrs. Holloway prepared for us was delicious. The gumbo was full of flavor and there were generous amounts of chicken, shrimp, crab in the shell, crab meat, crawfish, oysters and okra. It was filling and healing all in one bowl. She invited her neighbors and other members of volunteer teams that showed up ate well.

After the feast we loaded the things into the bed of the truck and headed back toward Mrs. Holloway's apartment. She was tired from her log day of cooking for and loving on the volunteers that were working on her house. Her selfless act on Friday shows how grateful she is to God for bringing folks to NOLA to help her and thousands of her neighbors. May the volunteers and the rebuilding continue and may many folks like Mrs. Holloway heat up their gumbo pots.
Virgie telling her Katrina story to two Mennonite volunteers.
Martin the Mennonite resting after a long day and belly full of gumbo.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like Jesus' message about feeding His sheep was taken to Mrs. Holloway's heart.

    You know, changing your plans so that you could listen to and help Mrs. Holloway sounds like something Jesus would ask us to do too. I believe you'll remember Mrs. Holloway a lot longer than you'll remember what you built for her.

    Be safe, be blessed. We love you.