Mary Lois Michot Elliot was born in Mamou, (pop. 3,000) Louisiana in 1929, the 6th of 7 children. When she was four, her family moved to Lafayette, a somewhat larger city of 30,000. Born during the depression, she still remembers hobos coming to the door to beg for food, but thanks to her father’s job as an assistant principal of a high school, she and her family never went hungry. She remembers her mother planning dinner at 10:00 in the morning – “dinner” was served at 12:00 everyday and always included rice, gravy and a vegetable. “Supper” was lighter – served at 6:00, it typically included preserved figs (they had fig trees in their yard), apple butter, cane syrup, bread and milk.
When she was fifteen she fell in love with the man who was to be her husband and they got married when Mary Lois was 18 years old. They moved to Brownsville, Texas for his job, but Mary Lois wasn’t happy. All her family was in Louisiana and she was far away with two children. Eventually they returned to Louisiana when Mary Lois’ husband’s job took him there.
Although Mary Lois studied home economics in college, she spent her working career as a supervisor for the phone company and in real estate. She uses the skills learned in college when cooking for her family, who love it when she’s in the kitchen. Mary Lois moved to Portland to help take care of her only granddaughter, Gillian (now 9 years old), when her daughter Victoria went back to work.
Mary Lois says she loves Portland, and won’t mind it if she never returns to New Orleans! (We won’t mind either, as long as she continues to cook the food of her home state.)
Fried Catfish Po’ Boy
on a french roll with house made tartar sauce & cole slaw, served with french fries
Herb-Roasted Carlton Farms Pork Tenderloin
with sweet potato soufflé & “dirty” rice (rice “dressing”) (truth is, the main reason for this entrée is to serve you the two sides that go with it. Victoria, Mary Lois’ daughter, says these are her mother’s specialties and she lives for Thanksgiving, just so she can eat these traditional side dishes)
slow-cooked “smothered” chicken legs & thighs with onions, celery, garlic & green peppers, served with dirty rice
with hush puppies (cornmeal fritters), house made tartar sauce & cole slaw
Heavenly Hash Cake
Mary Lois’ favorite treat was “Heavenly Hash” – a yummy candy sold in New Orleans department stores. This is a cake version of the candy – a rich chocolate cake with marshmallows & pecans