GONZALES — When Edward Braud III talks about his love of heavy metal, he’s not talking about music.
To Braud, heavy metal refers to cast iron Dutch oven pots. With a collection of more than 60, Braud has a pot to cook just about anything he can imagine.
Braud outlines many of his recipes and techniques in a new book, “Black Iron and Cajun Spice.”
The book came out of Braud’s desire to pass along the Cajun traditions that he learned as a young boy. In addition to recipes and cooking tips, the book contains poems written by Braud over the years.
Braud’s foray into cooking started when, at the age of 12, he asked his mother if he could cook jambalaya outdoors over an open fire. She agreed to let him try his hand, but he had to kill and clean his own chicken to get the meat.
“Naturally, the first few weren’t very good, but we ate it anyway,” he said.
Those first jambalaya cooking attempts were made using a black, 10-inch indoor cast iron Dutch oven. Braud placed three metal rods into the ground to provide clearance for the wood fire.
He was hooked. And thus started a lifelong addiction to outdoor Dutch oven cooking, Braud said.
Braud continued his outdoor cooking as a Boy Scout, Explorer Scout and later as a Scoutmaster. As an adult, Braud moved up in size to larger pots, eventually taking on the 20-gallon pots used back in 1968 at the Jambalaya Festival World Champion Cooking Contest. He won the title at the fourth-ever festival in 1971.
At 33, Braud was one of the youngest cooks when he competed and tried to pick up as many cooking traditions as he could.
Braud, 76, who still attends the festival to watch the cooks compete, works to pass along those Cajun traditions he has picked up over the years.
An early influence in Braud’s cooking life was his uncle Charles Gautreau, who served as the custodian at Gonzales High School for many years.
A jambalaya cooking traditionalist, Braud said he tries to follow the same techniques his uncle and other relatives and friends taught him over the years.
These days, Braud is passing on his heritage by taking his 10 grandchildren and four great grandchildren on outdoor cooking excursions — often in his backyard. Braud hopes cooks will use his book as a guide to continue those traditions in their families.
Braud’s book outlines the tradition of outdoor tailgating cooking using outdoor Dutch ovens. Braud prefers using Lodge outdoor cookware because of its durability and quality, he said.
Braud and his wife Audrey even got to tour the Lodge plant several years ago while taking part in a national cooking contest.
A Dutch oven is the perfect cooking vessel to use at stadiums where rules prevent open flames, he said.
The book provides step by step instructions on cooking anything from biscuits to barbecue and photos illustrating the procedures used in outdoor cooking.
While most of Braud’s friends are familiar with his cooking expertise, some may be surprised with his poetry skills.
Braud said he was inspired by cowboy poets who documented their early travels through their rhyming verses.
The poems tell the stories of his life and observations he’s made as a Cajun boy growing up in south Louisiana.
Calling himself a cowboy at heart, Braud said he grew up with horses and cattle and always had a vegetable garden.
Braud uses his poetry to document the history of the area and his Cajun traditions. His love of the outdoors also shines through in his rhymes.
While working as an process equipment inspector at a local industrial facility, Braud would write small poems and phrases commenting on local antics and events and anonymously post them at work.
Many of his recipes and poems were born at the hunting camp, he said.
Braud worked on the cookbook for 13 years, mostly because he didn’t have any of his recipes committed to paper.
“I had to come up the recipes,” he said. I didn’t really have anything written down.”
Braud said he cooked “by feel” and used cookbooks as guides for his own creations.
Inexperienced cooks will find not only ingredients lists, but suggestions on what tools are needed for his recipes.
Braud hopes young cooks will pick up more than just recipes. He’s hoping they will learn and pass on Cajun traditions.
On the Internet: http://www.blackironandcajunspice.com