What a fun night we had here. Our cousins Daniel and Amy came to dinner. I baked chicken breasts with preserved lemons (see above) and fresh tarragon, something Julie and I came up with ourselves with what we had around the kitchen. One fun thing about having been poking around trying to be a cook for these 14 years is I’m finally starting to cook by instinct. There was the chicken, and there was the saute I made of fresh vegetables we had from my dad’s garden and the CSA: thin-sliced yellow squash, zucchini, garlic, tomatoes, onion, and bell pepper, in olive oil and sea salt. I also made a preserved lemon risotto. While I stirred the risotto, we snacked on ripe Celeste figs I picked off the tree in my backyard late this afternoon, and wrapped in prosciutto. Daniel and Amy made peach ice cream and a peach tart for dessert.

It was a good evening.

Daniel talked about “Gumbo Ya-Ya,” a collection of Louisiana folk tales (gathered under the WPA and first published in 1945) that people used to have around back in the day. I had forgotten about it, but ran to a bookshelf in the back of the house to get my copy — which Daniel’s grandparents, my Aunt Patsy and Uncle Murphy, had given me for Christmas back in 1980, when I was 13. The last section of the book is a list of old-fashioned Louisiana folk remedies for various conditions. Did you know cockroach tea will cure lockjaw? I do not doubt it. There’s also in that section a part in which the folklorists collect white and black magic customs. Daniel read aloud a so-called “Prostitute’s Lure”:

What on earth do you think “follow-me-boy water” is? Some kind of voodoo thing, no doubt. But here’s what I think: Follow Me Boy Water is a great name for a summer cocktail. I propose a contest: somebody invent a drink befitting the name Follow Me Boy Water. Something I could serve on my front porch on a hot summer day, and surprise and delight my friends. Help me out here, people. I’m talking to you, James Poulos. Recipes for Follow Me Boy Water accepted in the comments thread. Me, I have an idea that I’ll test out in the kitchen before daring to post it…