She grew up in Texas on the Gulf Coast, in a small shrimping town called Port O'Connor. There, I learned to love seafood.
Her father was a shrimp boat captain. So, while we couldn't afford steak, we had all the fresh caught seafood Big Daddy would skim off the top of the catch. Shrimp season was short, but crab and oyster season soon followed.
Mom had movie star looks (like a young Elizabeth Taylor) and smarts, and a scholarship to college if she wanted it, but had no extra help from her parents.
So after high school graduation, she was soon married and I arrived on the scene, followed by my brother and sister.
Billy, Berry and Brenda
My Dad was in the military so we moved around. Mom and us kids eventually settled back in Port O'Connor, after a divorce. Dad was quite the character and the life of the party, but he was also a little too profligate in the alcohol consumption department.
Mom went back to work as a waitress, so I leaned how to literally pinch pennies when she poured handfuls of customer tips on the kitchen table for us kids to separate and count.
Mom got back on her feet and found love again with this shuffleboard-playing fellow below, Ken.
After a couple years, Mom remarried and a final sister was born (catch up with youngest sister Denise's Eggplant Recipe, video here.) We moved to neighboring Louisiana the year I enrolled in Junior High School. There she picked up a whole other way of cooking, Cajun-style.
My high school daze were spent in Gonzales, Louisiana, the self-professed Jambalaya Capital of the World. So you know this town is serious about chow. Click here to see a culinary video tour of some local Cajun cuisine at the weekend Flea Market, including: Crawfish Pie, Boudin Balls and, of course, Jambalaya.
And here's our first video we made together in my Los Angeles kitchen - and my late wife, Amy, even makes an appearance at the very end of the video. You'll get a kick out of Mom rockin' the cast iron kettle. I make her Cajun Jambalaya more than any other recipe - it's simply delicious.
Here is a link to her Jambalaya recipe with text and yummy photos.
Mom was always popular with my high school buddies...especially during lunch or dinner time. She brought her Tex-Mex Enchiladas to Cajun Country, and my Louisiana friend Marvin ate them up!
During my last visit to Louisiana, I had him over when I filmed Mom making Tex-Mex Enchilidas. Marvin liked the Enchiladas so much, he had a flashback to our high school daze.
Make sure to watch my wacky recipe video to the end, that's when our flashback hijinx really get to smoking (wink, nudge.)
Mom takes a star turn with her next video recipe, her popular Chicken and Sausage Gumbo.
It's a traditional Southern dish and its cheap, too. Just chicken, sausage and the Cajun veggie trinity of bell pepper, celery and onion. What gives Gumbo it's unique taste is a dark brown roux, which is flour cooked in oil until chocolate brown.
Just check out the video below - Mom will take you through the steps. And, as an added bonus, my oldest sister Brenda makes a nagging appearance a few minutes in.
Click here to read all about making Mom's homemade Gumbo, from roux to rice!
My Mom's Cajun Potato Salad is the perfect side to her Gumbo and Jambalaya. When she visited me in Los Angeles I got her to do it on camera. I couldn't help but give her a hard time about the recipe. I called it Cajun Mashed Potatoes and she called it Cajun Potato Salad - well, I guess you'll have to watch the video below to see who wins that argument!
I satiate my sweet tooth during visits with Mom. And the best of her pastry delights are Mini-Pecan Pies. If I couldn't make it for the Christmas holiday, then she would send a shoe-boxed size package with a dozen of these tasty pies.
Mom attracts a kitchen-full of hungry relatives, when these pies come hot out of the oven. And it's a miracle they were done right, because this Chef de Shutterbug was shoving a camera in her face (and a hot oven) during the whole procedure. We butted heads a few times, but fortunately, it all turned out fine.
I even came up with a way to dodge the high prices for pecans - so check out the video below to learn my budget secrets.
And click here to see Mom's Mini-Pecan Pies recipe with text and tasty photos.
The recipe is a traditional one made with simple ingredients. The pumpkin came from a can, but the crust was handmade with wheat flour.
All the easy to follow steps are written out here, and with delish photos, too.
Happy Mother's Day to all you lovely ladies, and especially to my Mom - I love you!