Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bland Vincent -- An Inspiration


My partner Charles comes from a long line of south Louisiana food lovers ( dating back to the 1700s.) But memories of cooking and eating with his father Bland especially resonate with him. From fish fries to homemade stocks simmering on the stove, Bland epitomized the New Orleanian who ended one meal talking about the next.

His twin sister Elizabeth remembers delicious food always being a part of their childhood home. Their grandmother did all the cooking, and they would sit down to a "real dinner" every night at 6. She raised them on New Orleans traditions -- like red beans on Mondays -- and everything was made from scratch (usually starting with a roux.)

The one exception to her grandmother's reign over the kitchen happened when their father made tartar sauce. Elizabeth remembers that he never even peeled his own banana, but he always made the tartar -- mayonnaise, grated onion and some pickle. Bland and Elizabeth kept up his legacy -- always making their own -- but Bland added his own nuances like dill and capers.

Yet, Bland never really cooked until he went off to Louisiana State University (LSU) and had his own apartment. There, he would sit and read cookbooks for hours and cook meals from scratch, just like their grandmother. "He would never just open up bag of McCormick's," says Elizabeth.

Anne Leche, mother of Charles and first wife of Bland, shares similar memories of his love for the kitchen. "He never wanted to go out," she says. "He always wanted to stay home and cook."

She remembers his passion for New Orleans staples like trout meuniere but also his penchant for simple food like his favorite snack -- a sardine and mayonnaise sandwich with just a touch of mustard. "He never met a fat gram he didn't like," she says with a laugh.

But joking aside, she firmly believes that Charles is living out Bland's dream. In his own career he found success selling pump valves to manufacturers up and down the Mississippi River. However, all who knew him remember cooking as his true passion. Like Charles, he was most happy when he found himself at the stove with a crowd waiting to be fed.

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