I know you were all waiting with bated breath to know how my gumbo-making issue resolved. As it turned out, it was not a problem at all, and here’s why: I had a massive Southern hostess anxiety attack the day before the party and became convinced that I wasn’t making enough food. Consequently, I decided to make red beans, too, which I started the night before the party along with my chicken stock for the gumbo.

Early Sunday morning, I woke up and, still wearing pajamas and drinking coffee, started reheating the beans and chopping up the vegetables for the gumbo. Ruby wandered in in the middle of all of this preparatory work and demanded red beans for breakfast. Because I am firmly of the mind that whatever sounds appealing first thing in the morning is acceptable as breakfast food (full disclosure: I ate a can of Campbell’s soup for breakfast every morning until college), I dished Ruby up a big bowl of red beans, and she sat at the counter contentedly eating red beans and swinging her feet until the roux was done.

All of the food turned out great, if I do say so myself, and of course, I made way too much of it, but I would always rather have too much than not enough. My friends appreciated the leftovers anyway, some of which they froze, and it makes me happy to think of them defrosting some gumbo sometime in February and remembering Ruby and my visit.

The rest of the visit was wonderful, with the sole exception of the fact that I am totally a delicate Southern flower who does not do well outside of the humid greenhouse that is South Louisiana. Now granted, I am kind of a compulsive hand-washer, but still, my hands and face got red and chapped almost the second I stepped off the plane. When I lived in Missouri, I had a humidifier running round the clock and I bought a million expensive hand creams, and still my hands looked so bad that once an old farmer came up to me at a diner, completely unsolicited, and told me that my hands looked as bad as his and that I should consider using Super Glue to hold the bleeding cracks across my knuckles together.

I wasn’t in Chicago for long enough for that to happen, but my hands were still pretty sore by the time I boarded the plane home. When the flight crew announced that the current temperature in New Or-LEENS was approximately 80 degrees and sunny, I sighed with relief and delight.

Going to Chicago and seeing my friends was fantastic. But coming home was even better.