Sketches of my Cajun Life: Entrepreneur writes about childhood in Sabine Pass, shares family seafood recipes
After a career of contracting and business consulting, Jim LaBove is recalling his childhood memories of working on a shrimp boat and hunting alligators with his family, who lived on Keith Lake near Sabine Pass in the 1950s and ’60s, and putting it down on paper.
“Sketches of my Cajun Life,” the latest in LaBove’s book series, released Nov. 20.
“I’ve been self-employed my whole life,” LaBove said. LaBove, who is a certified master electrician, worked in commercial contracting, finishing interiors, in the ’70s and ’80s after college and ran his own consulting company, LaBove Lambert Group, helping local small businesses with administrative consultation and regulatory compliance for the last 20 years before retirement.
“I’ve talked about writing this book off and on my whole life,” he said. “I think my wife and kids got tired of me talking about it.”
LaBove wrote “Sketches of My Cajun Life” as a companion book to his first, “Cotton’s Seafood: A Cajun Autobiographical Cookbook,” released on Sept. 13.
LaBove said he hasn’t heard of many other autobiographical cookbooks, but he couldn’t think of another way to capture his unique upbringing.
“My family, they were Bayou Cajuns, it’s a term [I used] in the book ‘Cotton’s Seafood.’ I tried to distinguish the difference in Cajuns, and their foods are regional,” LaBove explained. “The southwest Louisiana and east Texas Bayou Cajuns like dark roux. East of Lafayette, the Creole Cajuns make their gumbo light colored, almost tan, and use tomatoes.
“My wife is a Creole Cajun; she grew up in New Orleans.”
“Cotton’s Seafood” covers a 14-year span of his life, from 1950 to 1964, when he was cooking in his mother’s kitchen and fishing with his father and uncle on the lake and first learned these recipes.
The book’s title comes from the name of his father’s seafood business, “a locally renowned fishing and shrimping company founded in the early 20th century,” according to the book’s description. The shop sold shrimp and bait.
LaBove started compiling stories and recipes for “Cotton’s Seafood” in 2010. Several chapters that were cut so that the first book would be under 300 pages will be included in another book scheduled to be released this summer, “My Life on Keith Lake.”
He describes Keith Lake as a “saltwater freshwater brackish estuary teeming with crab and alligators.”
His third book will have “stories about hunting and fishing and crabbing and shrimping on Keith Lake specifically” and “more wild animal recipes.”
“Sketches of My Cajun Life” is full of LaBove’s drawings of wildlife near the Texas-Louisiana border.
“I’ve been drawing my entire life, but only drew for me,” LaBove said. His sons helped him compile the pen and ink sketches, most of them originally on vellum, into the second book.
“It’s a sketchbook of unusual critters. There’s drawings of alligators, snakes, crabs, fish, duck and geese: things that I encountered growing up in the marsh, in the salt marshes,” LaBove said.
He drew the rougher sketches in the earlier part of his life, but some of the later sketches are from after he took drafting during his college engineering program at Lamar in the ’60s.
His older son, a graphic designer, formatted the books for sale on Amazon through CreateSpace. His younger son, who has a PhD in electrical engineering, edited the books.
LaBove said his sons have also asked him to write several e-books to be sold on Amazon. The e-books will cover the history of gumbo, boiling seafood and frying seafood.
More information about the books is available at www.cottons-seafood.com, and the two published books are available on Amazon.