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.
Big Daddy & Big Mama
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 a character and the life of the party, but he was also a little too profligate in the alcohol consumption department.
Billy Doyle Robinson
Mom went back to work as a waitress, so I learned 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.
Click on any photo to see larger.
After a couple years, Mom remarried and a final sister, Denise, was born (catch up with my youngest sister Denise's Eggplant Recipe, video here.)
Denise & Radish
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!
Me, Marvin & Dennis
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!
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.
In the video below, 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.
Mom has lived half her life in Gonzales, Louisiana. One vacation visit fell on Christmas, and she pulled out all the stops with a huge holiday spread, that included Pumpkin Pie. I got her on video making it, and it turned out perfect, as you will see below. And watch to the end to see a taste-testing Cajun cast of characters including Rosetta, Chef Tony, Candyse (niece,) Bobby, Jason (nephew,) Joe, Lacee, and cute Adalyn!
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.
Now, Mom is no angel -- hey, who is? Recently my brother from another daddy, the Swamp Chef, made an appearance with his Spanish moss and all.
When I asked Mom: "Who's the Swamp Chef's daddy?" Her reply was: "That's a very good question!" I guess Mom will spill the beans one day, until then, check out the video below for a dessert good enough to cajole the Swamp Chef out of the bayou!
Cherry Pie - Recipe Video
In Louisiana, there are fast food drive-thru's serving slushy Daiquiris. I don't know how the heck they get away with it. Every time I go back to visit my Mom and Sis, I am reminded about this quirky Cajun roadside icy, thirst-quenching, to-go cup.
Now, there are rules to this. Louisiana has an open container liquor law. So, when you get your Daiquiri, as both Mom and Sis reminded me several times: "Do not put the straw in!" That is a DUI violation if you are stopped. However parched you are, resist plunging the straw through the drink top -- until you get home. Fortunately, Mom's house was less than 5 minutes away.
Check out my last video below, and ride along with my sister Brenda and Mom for a cool beverage on a hot Louisiana summer day.
Happy Birthday Mom -- I love you !