Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 21, 1999

DONNA KEATING / L’Observateur / November 21, 1999

LAPLACE – Suzanne Ladner of LaPlace first started cooking when she was 9 or 10 years old. She said she began cooking as soon as her grandmother,Gertrude Keating, allowed her to go near the stove. When her grandmotherfirst taught her how to cook, Suzanne began making dishes like gumbo and chicken stew.

Cooking is Suzanne’s favorite thing to do, and she never takes a day off from it. She feels cooking is an art and is concerned all of the old recipesand cooking techniques of the past will be lost. She is hoping to preserveher cooking heritage through a cookbook she is working on, filled with all of her grandmother’s recipes.

Suzanne is also making sure to pass her grandmother’s recipes on to her daughter, Jaime.

Suzanne remembers when she was a young child and requested something special like fried chicken. She said her grandmother would kill a chicken,pluck it, clean it, cut it up and have it prepared within the hour.

Like her grandmother, Suzanne is very serious about cooking. She oncedrove 130 miles from Poplarville, Miss., to LaPlace in order to getoysters, mirlington, andouille, shrimp, crawfish and a few other foods which were not available there. She said she didn’t know what people atethere – all of the food was bland – and thought they must be dying of famine. She said she simply could not prepare her traditional ThanksgivingDay feast without these basic Cajun ingredients and said it was worth the trip back home to retrieve them. Thanksgiving Day just would not be thesame without oyster dressing and mirlington with shrimp, she said.

Suzanne is married to James Ladner of Mississippi. When they were firstmarried he did not eat Cajun food, but after years of eating his wife’s cooking, he refuses to eat anything bland.

She cooks for her family, including her mother and grandmother, and also her daughter’s friends who stop by.

Suzanne is a teacher of disabled children at East St. John ElementarySchool. She prepares Thanksgiving dinner for her students, their parentsand the specialists who deal with the disabled children. She says it’s agreat opportunity for everyone to get together, and she enjoys eating with the children at the children’s table.

Her most requested recipes are potato salad, shrimp and corn soup and pork and oyster dressing.

POTATO SALAD 5 lbs. red potatoes1 large onion, chopped fresh parsley 8 eggs, boiled and chopped fine A few tsps. vinegarSalt and pepper, to taste 3 tbsps. vegetable oilMayonnaise (at least 1 cup) Chopped sweet pickles (optional)

Boil potatoes. Cool, peel and cut into small cubes. Place in a large bowl.Saute onion in a few spoons of oil and when nearly finished add parsley to saute mixture. Add onions, parsley and oil to potatoes. Add eggs topotatoes and onions. Mash yellows of eggs with vinegar until it is soft andcrumbly. Add eggs to potatoes. Gently mix with at least 1 cup ofmayonnaise – do not mash potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste andgarnish with fresh chopped parsley.

PORK AND OYSTER DRESSING 2 lbs. ground pork2 pints seasoning mix, chopped 2 to 4 quarts oysters, chopped 1 stale French bread, broken into crumbs 1 pkg. stuffing mixSalt and pepper, to taste Paprika, to taste 2 to 4 cans chicken broth liver and turkey giblets, boiled and chopped fine

Brown ground pork in a large pot along with chopped giblets and liver. Addseasoning mix and saute. Cook until vegetables are tender. Add oysters andoyster water. Cook for a few more minutes, until oysters are done. Addbroth (mixture will be soupy). cook for another 15 minutes to allowoysters, pork and seasonings to blend flavors.

Add red or black pepper to taste. Stir in bread crumbs. Add stuffing mix.Stir frequently and reduce heat to a low temperature. Add salt to taste.Add paprika for a beautiful color.

Note: Increase or decrease the amount of broth used in this recipe according to the consistency you prefer.

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