Food: Following the adventures of a television family
It’s been a long time since I’ve rearranged my schedule to watch a particular television program, but the show Duck Dynasty has caught my attention. It’s about the Robertson family, who lives in West Monroe, La., and have built a fortune “through faith and family” on manufacturing, of all things, duck calls.
The Duck Commander business was the mastermind of Phil Robertson, who is the patriarch of this family. He started his enterprise, Duck Commander, back in the 1970s, when he couldn’t find a decent duck call on the market.
Phil didn’t build this business alone, though. His wife, Ms. Kay, is a woman I truly admire and she worked side-by-side with Phil in addition to mothering four boisterous sons, Alan, Jase, Willie and Jep. Willie is now the CEO of Duck Commander (Phil spends most of his time in the swamp hunting), and Jase and Jep work in the Duck Commander warehouse, inventing and manufacturing this company’s world-renowned duck calls. And then…there’s Uncle Si.
Uncle Si is Phil’s brother. He proudly served in Vietnam and his trademark is a Tupperware glass his mother sent him while he was in “Nam.” It is always filled with sweet tea, which he drinks constantly. Si is a superb story teller; a man with a unique way of thinking and he isn’t at all afraid to speak what is on his mind. (“I sting like a butterfly and punch like a flea.”) He has a striking way with words that always makes me laugh out loud and yet, most of what he says rings true.
For some reason, I can identify with this family. All the boys have married and Phil and Ms. Kay have a passel of grandkids who are frequent visitors to their homestead near the Ouachita River. This is where they raised their family who learned at a young age, through the skill of Phil, to hunt everything from ducks, frogs, fish and crawfish to squirrels. Let’s just say if there was a country-wide food shortage, this bunch would survive just fine.
And while the entire family is pretty entertaining to follow, it is Ms. Kay who has captured my heart. She reminds me in a lot of ways of several women in my life who now have passed, but my own mom, my grandmothers and many aunts remind me of Ms. Kay. These are the kind of women who are dedicated to their husbands and families, and making sure everyone is happy and well-fed. In fact, Ms. Kay spends a lot of time in her kitchen and the dishes she prepares have me spellbound. Take, for instance, her squirrel stew. Aside of the entrails, the fur and the tail, the entire animal is used to make this dish. Ms. Kay is particularly fond of squirrel brains. “Squirrel brains make you smart,” she says with a smile as she stirs a pot of the stew.
Ms. Kay frequently welcomes her daughters-in-law and grandchildren into her kitchen to learn her techniques and recipes, just like my mom and grandmas used to do. She’s always in an apron, which in itself is a comfort to see these days, and her good nature and sweet, yet firm, way of dealing with her rollicking brood is beyond admirable. All four boys and their wives have the deepest respect for this loving matriarch and one of Phil’s philosophies is keeping Ms. Kay “happy, happy, happy.” It’s a solid tenet for a happy marriage and one that is obviously working for this loving and entertaining couple.
A few weeks ago, I got my hands on the book about this interesting family, whose menfolk all sport impressive beards. It’s called The Duck Commander Family and it details the life of the Robertsons from Willie and his wife Korie’s perspective. This family started out with little in the way of material goods and yet, as Willie says, “we never knew we were poor.” That also reminds me of my own upbringing and in my opinion, it is a good way to be raised.
Also included in the book are many recipes the family has enjoyed throughout the years. They pique my curiosity because while the Robertson family reminds me so much of my own (I admit I’m a redneck from way back) these dishes are decidedly from a different culture, one for which I have a great curiosity. This week I’ve included a recipe similar to one in the book that really caught my eye. I’m looking forward to trying these Armadillo Eggs.
They say the genre of this show is “unscripted reality” and it truly is all of that, but the best part of watching Duck Dynasty is at the end of every episode when this loving brood gathers, thanks God for all their blessings and digs into Ms. Kay’s delicious bounty. When I see a family do this, like my own does on so many occasions, it brings a tear to my eye and the feeling that deep down, families gathered around a table filled with good food is a lot of what America is really all about.
- 6 to 8 whole jalape’os, washed and dried
- 1 pkg. cream cheese, softened
- 2 lbs. of breakfast sausage
- 1 lb. of thinly sliced bacon
- 1 stick of butter, melted
Cut the jalape’os in half lengthwise. Scoop out the insides, and fill with cream cheese. Form the breakfast sausage into patties, wrapping a filled jalape’o half with each patty. Cover the entire pepper with the sausage. Wrap each with a slice of bacon. Cook on a grill for 10 to 15 minutes or until the bacon is crisp and sausage is cooked through. Drizzle with butter before serving.
(Duck Dynasty is featured on A&E on Wednesday nights.)