For five years, my husband and I considered the city of New Orleans our home. While it was very far away from our families, our neighbors in New Orleans were the definition of southern hospitality. For four consecutive years, our neighbors Carolyn and Larry opened their home and invited us to spend almost every holiday (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc) with their family.
I wish I had the words to describe what my former neighbor Carolyn meant to me. The quote, “neighbors by chance, friends by choice” defines my relationship with all of old neighborhood gals. But Carolyn was more than a friend. She was part mentor and mom (always giving me helpful advice), part shopping partner (we lived dangerously close to Hobby Lobby), part confidant (one of those people I could trust with any secret), and part grandma to my son (she threw us a baby shower, brought us food after he was born, and offered to stay up all night with him so I could sleep). She is a dog lover and has a reputation for rescuing abandoned dogs, thus how we ended up with our fur-baby named Beignet!
I spent four years consecutive years sitting at Carolyn and Larry’s Thanksgiving table with their children and grandchildren. However, we did not consider these feasts to be a “Friends-giving” event. Each holiday we spent with them was considered a Thanksgiving meal with our New Orleans family.
While we have many fabulous chefs and restaurants here in Portland, a meal in the “Crescent City” never disappoints. While I could write numerous pieces on the “uniquely NOLA” Thanksgiving foods such as tur-duck-en (a chicken, inside a duck, inside of a turkey all covered with Cajun seasoning and stuffed with rice and crawfish), oyster dressing, gumbo, etc., my favorite southern Thanksgiving memories revolve around cooking (and eating) Carolyn carrot soufflé. My first Thanksgiving at their home was the first time I’d ever had a carrot soufflé. For the next few years, I would arrive at her house with plenty of time to help her prepare it while laughing and chatting. It is true the best memories are made in the kitchen.
We moved away from New Orleans in 2018, but I will never forget her kindness and hospitality. To help relive these memories, I will likely be making Carolyn’s carrot soufflé every Thanksgiving for the rest of my life. It is not only delicious, but also serves as a symbolic tribute to her generosity and hospitality. My goal in making this delicious, simple side dish each holiday season also serves to inspire me to invite other people to my own Thanksgiving table, as Carolyn did for me during a time when I had nowhere else to go.
We all have special holiday memories associated with specific foods and recipes. By sharing this recipe with y’all, I hope to bring a little bit of “The Big Easy” to your table this Thanksgiving. But also, I hope this encourages you to invite a friend, neighbor or colleague into your home this holiday season so they can enjoy, partake and learn from your own family recipes and traditions.