One of the things John J. Ramp III misses most about New Orleans is walking the city's neighborhoods and enjoying the aromas wafting through the evening air from simmering pots of everything from jambalaya to Cajun gumbo.
He says you can even tell the day of the week by identifying the dish. For instance: "I have no idea where or why it started, but Monday is red beans and rice day. You can't walk anywhere in that city on Monday and not smell the beans."
Ramp, 32, who now lives and practices law in Costa Mesa, says beans are still one of his favorite side dishes, so he makes them often--"regardless of the day."
A graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in communications, Ramp spent several years as a journalist before moving to the county four years ago to study law.
He says he returns often to New Orleans "just to pick up some new recipes--and about 5 pounds per visit."
As is the case with many good male cooks, Ramp's interest in the kitchen began when he moved away from home and discovered the vast difference between his mother's cooking and restaurant fare. "My mom is a great cook, and the stuff I was getting at fast-food places didn't really compare--for one thing, it wasn't spicy enough--so I started cooking myself. I discovered that I enjoyed it and that I was good at it."
He and his live-in companion, Cathi Caliovette, entertain friends and neighbors and trade off kitchen chores. "Cathi is a good traditional cook," Ramp says, "while I lean toward the more exotic, so our moods dictate who's doing the cooking more than anything else."
It was Caliovette who brought Ramp to the attention of Guys & Galleys several months ago with a letter that began, "Have I got a guy for you. . . ." When she wrote the letter, he was in the Soviet Union to act as best man at a wedding of an American friend to a Soviet woman.
The only untoward experience he had there was when his friend was briefly detained for driving after having too much to drink. "I explained the Miranda decision (which dictates that suspects be read their rights) to the police, and they just waved me off with a shocked ' nyet ! nyet !' "
That was the same reply he got when he went in a poster shop where political stars outsell anyone else--to ask for a poster of Leon Trotsky, who has been the Soviet Union's best-known "non-person" for half a century.
JOHN RAMP'S RED BEANS AND RICE Ingredients
1 pound small kidney beans
1 1/2 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
1/2 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1 pound ham
1/2 pound smoked sausage
1 pound rice Preparation
Wash beans and place in large pot with enough water to cover by a good 2 inches. Add salt, garlic powder, celery salt, Cajun seasoning and parsley. Bring to boil, cover and reduce heat. After about 1/2 hour, cut ham and sausage into chunks and add to pot. Continue simmering, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender (about 90 minutes). Cook rice and serve on the side with shrimp or crawfish and French bread.