Tupelo transplant can’t shake love of New Orleans
TUPELO – While at Louisiana State University’s nursing school in New Orleans, Yvette Slocum met her future husband, Wayne, who was at LSU’s medical school there.
“We met in New Orleans, we dated in New Orleans, we were married in New Orleans,” said Slocum, 56. “Never in my wildest dream did I think I’d ever live anywhere but New Orleans.”
But her world was turned upside down when her new doctor-husband accepted a position at an obstetrics and gynecology clinic in Tupelo in 1987.
“I cried all the way here,” she said. “I told him the only way I was moving to Tupelo was if he’d build me a house that looked like New Orleans, complete with a courtyard. And he did.”
In her kitchen, which overlooks that courtyard, Slocum whips up all sorts of south Louisiana dishes, such as shrimp, crawfish, jambalaya, étouffée, pralines, bread puddings and cheesecake.
“In New Orleans, the sun rises and sets around food,” she said. “It’s part of every life situation, every social situation. Weddings, first communion, graduation from high school – the first question is, ‘What are we going to eat?’”
Slocum learned to cook from her mother, Joyce Andries, who now lives in Baton Rouge, and her father-in-law, the late P.V. Slocum.
“My mother is a beautiful Cajun woman who grew up in Ventress, Louisiana,” Slocum said. “She and her family were true farm-to-table people. I spent time in the kitchen with her as a girl and learned to make sweet rolls from her. When I go to her house now, we go into the kitchen together. I still learn things from my mother to this day. I rarely make gumbo because I can’t make it like hers.”
From her father-in-law, she learned about the holy trinity in cooking – onions, bell peppers and celery.
“We’d sit around the kitchen table and chop vegetables for the holy trinity and he’d put them in cardboard milk cartons and put them in the freezer so he’d always have it when he cooked,” she said. “He taught me there was no more important tool than a sharp knife.”
When the Slocums travel to New Orleans now, they always bring back fresh seafood and sausage. And they try new restaurants each time they go, as well as their old favorites – Irene’s, Tommy’s, The Pelican Club, The Bombay Club, Pascal’s Manale, Clancy’s and La Petite Grocery.
“I cook three or four times a week,” said Slocum, who has three grown children – Adam, Scott and Emily. “I like to try new recipes, especially after we’ve been to New Orleans and I’ve gotten inspired.”
But even as much as she loves her beloved Crescent City – her family will travel there next week to be part of the Mardi Gras festivities – she has grown quite fond of Tupelo.
“When Wayne retires, we won’t move to New Orleans,” she said. “We have good friends here. We’re committed to this community.”