Remembrance of Meals Past

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Posted February 7, 2007 by Chow, Baby in Eats

Jubilee’s back! Jubilee’s back! Chow, Baby fondly remembers the old “Heaven on Seventh” incarnation – the crispy-crustiest chicken-fried, the nicest hey-hon waitresses, Ms. Tilly’s fresh-made pies. … It was the best comfort food in town, according to Chow, Baby’s memories.


And so Chow, Baby zoomed over to the former Chuy’s at 2006 N. Main St., now marked with a big green Jubilee Café sign that looks just like the old one. The room, clean and white, with vintage signs all about, has the same open and inviting feel. And it looks like exactly the same menu!

Of course Chow, Baby went for the chicken-fried steak ($5.95), which began as good as ever, with a super-crispy crust like that on the best fried chicken. (Restaurateurs tend to forget that that’s why it’s called chicken-fried.) But how unfair! Inside the great crust the meat was tough, and cold in the middle. A plate of chicken livers ($5.95) tasted mainly of old grease. As for sides, the mashed were great (and the gravy had that wonderful taste of pan drippings), but the okra was mushy, and even the Brits would have found the “English” peas bland. No homecooking oomph whatsoever. Even the undistinguished apple pie ($2.95) proved the old homily: You can’t go homestyle again.

Book of the Week Club

Chow, Baby isn’t so shallow as to think about food all the time. It ponders the great religious questions, too. Like, how do observant Southern Jews manage to keep kosher in the land of pulled pork, crab cakes, boiled shrimp, and fried oysters? The yummiest foods in the world are the most forbidden! This has bugged Chow, Baby for quite some time, possibly ever since it was born at Touro Infirmary in New Orleans. That’s Judah Touro, son of a cantor and one of the city’s great merchant-philanthropists in the early 1800s. But … what did he eat?

Marcie Cohen Ferris explains it all in her new book, Matzoh Ball Gumbo, which isn’t so much a cookbook as a culinary history of the Jewish South with recipes. Ferris reminisces about growing up in small-town Arkansas (her neighborhood diner was the Dixie Pig) and then takes us on a regional tour, showing that Jewish settlers in the South did what people anywhere do when cultures clash: avoid, adapt, and/or embrace. Salt herring, they found, goes great with grits. “Sister Sadie’s Rosh Hashanah Honey Cake” is sweetened with Coca-Cola, for that Southern flavor. The title recipe, “Matzoh Ball Gumbo,” uses kosher smoked-beef sausage and chicken; the matzoh-ball part calls for Chow, Baby’s favorite zing, Tony Cachere’s Creole Seasoning.

Though the gumbo recipe looks very good, it has 16 steps, whereas Chow, Baby’s cranial capacity is three. (One being, “Open a box of Zatarain’s gumbo mix.”) By a stroke of luck, a couple of weeks ago Ferris’ book tour landed her at Fort Worth’s stunning Beth-El Congregation, where, at a brunch sponsored by the Women of Reform Judaism, Chow, Baby enjoyed an autograph from the author, a fascinating talk, and some truly excellent kosher gumbo. This would be worth getting your sweetie to make at home. And the book is definitely worth picking up – if you have any interest in Southern history, Jewish tradition, or the delicious cuisine that results from mixing them, Matzoh Ball Gumbo is a fascinating read.

Contact Chow, Baby at chowbaby@fwweekly.com.

 


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