Soul Food
A Meal So Good You'll . . . Slap Ya Mama!
(Even If She Didn't Prepare It)
On an afternoon as hot as a scene in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, some friends and I recently got together for a good meal consisting of grilled chicken, corn-on-the-cob, smashed potatoes, french bread seasoned with garlic & butter, and a choice of apple or peach cobbler (or both!) topped with vanilla ice cream. I know. I know. That's a lot of carbs. And your point is? Of course, I'm hardly an Emeril Lagassi or Martha Stewart wannabe, but I had envisioned a simple meal with a bit of Cajun flare that could easily be replicated or slightly modified (if carbs are an issue!) by anyone wishing to entertain grillside this summer.

I knew from the get-go that my grilled chicken would be anything but ordinary. Just a week earlier, I had ordered directly from Walker & Sons of Ville Platte, Louisiana, a container of their signature Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning just for this occasion. Having discovered the seasoning by visiting Louisiana Rebirth (which led to my subsequent perusal of a site devoted to Made in Louisiana products), I was all too pleased to use a seasoning produced by a southern, family-run business rather than acquire one of those items lining my local supermarket's shelf that originated from some conglomerate of Wall Street renown.

While I was anxious to try the Slap Ya Mama
seasoning, I would do so, quite honestly, with a little caution. After all, there are varying degrees of spiciness. Many zesty foods merely clear your sinuses. Others put hair on your chest. Some put your butt in the creek. And a chosen few put you on your knees, praying, "Lord, come quickly!" With that in mind, I reasoned, "If I'm going down, who would I like to take with me?" Now you can understand why I insisted on inviting guests.

A product of Walker & Sons, Inc., Ville Platte, Louisiana, the family explains how the Cajun seasoning earned its name by stating, "In 1956, Wilda Marie Fontenot Walker gave birth to the creator of this award-winning blend. Every time she uses it, she receives a loving slap on the back and a kiss on the cheek, thanking her for another great-tasting Cajun dish."

The apartment of my friend and co-conspirator, Sherry Volrath, a Southern Edition contributing photographer, made for a pleasant setting for the informal dinner, and Sherry was a delightful hostess. Our good friends, Mark & Jennifer White, and their teenage son (and one of my best buds in the world!), Lucas, joined us. And a great time was had by all. Sherry provided us with much entertainment as she expounded on her love for hockey and her genuine disdain over the now defunct Greenville Grrrowl hockey team. (The truth is, she's gonna miss Colin Pepperall, Cam Ellsworth, Les Haggett, Steve Slonina and Brad Bonello. Okay, I'll admit it. I'm gonna miss the boys, too, but Sherry thinks they're hot, for crying out loud! . . . . . . Come to think of it, all of the female fans used to scream over these guys. Hmmm. Maybe I need to take up playing hockey. Yeah, whatever!). Anyway, my corny jokes and Sherry's hockey stories paled in comparison to the hilarious things Mark and Jennifer brought up . . . from real-life experiences, at that! We laughed hysterically throughout the entire evening.

Both Sherry and I had planned the meal. I opted to man the grill outside while she prepared the potatoes...excuse me, taters...and added the finishing touches inside. Other selections to be served had been cooked earlier in the day, and only required warming. A centerpiece of freshly picked flowers from my garden graced the table. All that we lacked was a CD containing Hank Williams' "Jambalaya."

With everything ready to serve, I grabbed the camera to take some pictures before we sat down to eat. First, the flowers. Then, I selected one of the "purdiest" pieces of chicken, placed it on a plate and added servings of sides. When my brief photography session was over, Lucas promptly sat down to the prepared plate and politely waited (though drooling occasionally) while we served ourselves family-style.

I was a little concerned since Mark and Luke had already sampled the seasoning outside as I grilled the chicken. Mark had said to Lucas, "Sprinkle a little bit on your arm and taste it. Don't put it on the tip of your finger or you'll burn your eyes if you rub them." Well, we all know how naive and oblivious teenage boys can be. "Sure thing, Dad," he must have thought. With a sprinkle of the seasoning on his arm, he stuck out his tongue for a taste, and immediately started coughing! I thought to myself, "Oh, Lord, what have I gotten us into?"

By the time we were seated at the table, you can understand why I had already concluded it was going to be an interesting evening. I asked Mark to return thanks for the food and, after the blessing, I joked that we should pray that we survive the evening. Joking, my foot. Who am I kidding? I was serious!

Since I was busy eating, I didn't pen down our conversation verbatim, but the following pretty well paraphrases what was said during the meal. The dining experience turned out to be considerably less traumatic than I had feared . . . for four of us, at least.

Me (rudely talking while taking my first bite):

Does this stuff live up to its name?


Oh, it's good, but it's warm.

A centerpiece of freshly cut flowers enhanced our dining experience with color and fragrance. The largest vase, one of the most unique pieces of pottery in my art collection (because of its thick drip glaze and coloration), contained white hydrangea clusters and red trumpet honeysuckles. Miniature sunflowers and lantana filled the small ceramic vase. And the tiny, decorative glass vase was adorned with contrasting Black-eyed Susans and lavender butterfly bush blooms.

Having been washed just before placing on the grill, the chicken was brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning while cooking. Servings of corn-on-the-cob (acquired fresh from a local farmer), smashed potatoes (see recipe at end of article), garlic bread and vine-ripened cherry tomatoes (seasoned and warmed on the grill using skewers) proved to be complementary to the spicy chicken.

In an era in which you're lucky to get a "Thank you, come again" from some store clerks, I thought this personally handwritten note of thanks from Jack Walker was a pleasant surprise.


You mean like "hot off the grill" warm or "spicy" warm?

Jennifer (taking a deep breath):

It's warm.


I really like it.

Luke (He's a growing boy. So, give him a break!):


Jennifer (with tiny embers floating through the air as she exhales):

It's warm.


The chicken has really good flavor.

Jennifer (red-faced , but trying hard to smile):

It's warm.

Luke (having just swallowed and actually pausing long enough to speak):

I was about to say something intelligent...

Jennifer (still red-faced, but now sweating profusely):

It's warm.


How do ya'll think it compares to other Cajun and Creole spices?

Jennifer (with bloodshot eyes indicating she might be heading for the linoleum!):
I do like this better than Zatarain's . . . but it's . . . warm!


I think the chicken could have used a couple of more shakes.


There's the cannister. Knock yourself out.

(Interestingly, Mark didn't sprinkle any more seasoning on his grilled chicken!)


I think it would be great brushed on the outside of quesadillas.


This stuff would be good with cheese fries.

Jennifer (speaking two octaves higher than normal and beginning to hyperventilate):

Whew, it's warm!

There you have it. We all agreed that Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning is quite good, and everyone except Jennifer concurred that my grilled chicken could have stood a little more of the seasoning. And, in case you didn't get the point earlier, Jennifer thinks "it's warm." My only problem with the product is that it does, in fact, live up to its name, and I learned a long, long time ago that if you slap my Mama, you can bet she'll slap you back!

Author:  Greg  Freeman.  Published August 7, 2006.

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