What a year 2020 has been.
I’m sure we are all over it, but I think 2021 will continue to be the same – at least the first few months. The more I think back on 2020, the more it feels like it lasted five years – don’t you think? I try to remember back how it was before the COVID hit really hit the US. Remember in January when Kobe Bryant died in the helicopter crash. Doesn’t that seem like forever ago? It became worse in February when the wave of uncertainty over the virus started to spread closer to home and the Tiger King craze swept the nation. That nervous feeling. That unknown. Did Carol Baskin kill her husband? And will the virus be as bad as they were saying?
I remember, my wife and kids (the first three), and I was sitting at the dinner table playing a travel version of Clue when she started to get messaged about how bad it was getting. There was this strange hush at the table as we were trying to comprehend it all.
As a part-time job, I was working at a local major sports arena. One night, I was working on the floor at the Detroit Pistons game (not playing. I guess I can’t dribble good enough to their standards) when the Utah Jazz was in town and I was working closely behind the Utah bench. It came out the next day that one of the Jazz players tested positive for COVID and it was the beginning of the end for the NBA season. Days later, one of the top people for the arena called to check in on me to see how I was and feeling. I was fine. She said that a team of doctors and management reviewed the footage of me working to see if I came close enough to the player and if I should be tested. Luckily, I was over six feet away from him. Initially, I was excited to tell everyone that a team of professional basketball doctors watched me work, but then quickly started to question myself about a team of doctors and management watching me… work… did I do my job, ok? I hope so!
We missed a lot of events and fun activities we normally do throughout the year. My work was shut down as was my wife’s once summer hit. I began 2020 working on writing a novel and not dealing with the website too much. But as the year went on, I switched focus. I should have tried harder to come up with recipes during that first wave of the shutdown, but, it was a crazy time with the kids home from school, the fear of going out, and we were just trying to survive.
Sometime in spring, we found out that my wife was pregnant. We did eventually tell the kids, and they were sworn to keep it a secret. As the weeks went on, I kept having this reoccurring dream that we better hurry and tell everyone. In the dream, we started to show up at events and we just had another kid. No one knew she was ever pregnant. I kept telling her that we should probably inform our family. In July, we announced that kid four was coming and that he would be a December baby. Soon after, my wife started to have complications. The doctor told her not to return to teaching in the fall, to stay at home and rest. She made it to October, but her health was getting worse, along with the baby.
She went in for a routine weekly checkup and they decided that she needed to stay in the hospital under their care and supervision. She lasted only a couple of days because the baby’s health was causing her levels to drop and the doctor said that they had no choice but to deliver the baby. He came out on a Saturday night after a rush filled and stressful day of getting the other kids in place and grandparents in spots to help. Henrik was 10-weeks early. 2 pounds. And needed surgery on day three of his life.
The past few months have been a major adjustment. It’s difficult to have a preemie at any time, but to have one during a pandemic is just too much. We were not allowed to bring the kids – or anyone else to the hospital for that matter – to see the baby. My father-in-law flew in to help with the three kids while my wife and I went to the hospital every day to be with Henrik. Then, when he had to fly back home, my brother-in-law flew in to help. He extended his stay with us, as the baby required more care with different setbacks and health concerns. Eventually, he had to get back home to Georgia.
For a few weeks, I’d drive up to the hospital, spend a couple of hours there, then take the 45-minute drive back home. We’d have lunch, then, my wife would drive up there. We rotated this schedule for a few weeks, then the talk started about him finally coming home. In the middle of December, around the time of his actual due date, he was discharged from the NICU still hooked up to feeding tubes, oxygen tanks, monitors, and a strict schedule. But he was home for Christmas and his siblings could finally meet him. What can be better than that?
We are set up for numerous doctor appointments, and he has another surgery slated for March 2021 to keep us busy – along with the pandemic, virtual school, at-home nurse visits, and my wife having to go back to work. But through it all, working on the website has kept me going. The readership and followers have grown. 2020 brought the official news that in the lifetime of Red Beans & Eric, there have been over 1 million views! Unbelievable! Thank you all so much for visiting and sharing. The next goal is to get over 1 million visitors. It’s getting close.
I have some fun new recipes to share, more red beans and rice talk and interviews, and more to come for 2021. Plus, I now own a nice new camera! I would hope that it would be a surprise to you if I told you what type of camera I had been using – but then again, you might say well that explains it! And no, it’s not an iPhone. I haven’t had one of those in years.
2020 brought about a lot of discovery, tons of emotions, and a newfound love of writing and cooking. I discovered the power of pickled pork, focused on the flavors of red beans, and found the focus for this website.
I generally lose followers when I say this, but I’m not in or from New Orleans. Remember a few years back, everyone was saying, “I’m so New Orleans…”? I went on and shared that I am so New Orleans that people think that I’m from New Orleans. You’d be surprised by that amount of flake I received after that. I may not be physically in NOLA, but I’m there spiritually, trust me. I love the city and the people and food and music and culture and will do what I can to share in that love. It’s a let down to me each year that I can’t get back there. The way things are going pandemic wise and with another infant – who has high-risk health issues – I don’t see going to New Orleans in the coming year. It’s disappointing. But it got me thinking.
I can bring NOLA to me. And to you. What I decided to do, is to pick a restaurant somewhere in New Orleans, find something off of the menu – may be something that I would order – and try to create it at home along with sharing information about the restaurant. I know it’s not the same. To experience anything in New Orleans or southern Louisiana, you HAVE to be there. Go there if you can. But this has been fun getting to know about some restaurants around the city as I virtually toured the neighborhoods. For January, I picked Liuzza’s Restaurant in Mid-City. It was random, but they have been in the news because the restaurant is up for sale. They have a ‘blue plate’ house special that I picked to recreate at home. I’ll share that recipe in January.
I also have the very talented singer Erica Falls lined up for a conversation about red beans and rice. Plus, more beans, beans, beans, and beans. I do have an amazing red bean recipe I’ve bean working on to share. It has been a labor of love playing with the flavors, and I think I found the combination that works for me. There’ll be more non-red bean recipes coming soon too like this new Butter Beans with Pickled Pork I have to share.
There’s other exciting news involving a famous New Orleans company that I can’t officially share yet, but once it’s official, I’ll let you know. And, I just might start on that cookbook I’ve been toying around within the upcoming year.
2020 was a crappy year. There’s been a lot of ups and downs but it was good for the website. 2021 will be about building upon that and growing bigger and better. So please, stick around and I encourage you to participate and share along with me.
As for 2020 and the website stats, there were over 140k views from all over the world. Here are the Top 10 Countries that have visited Red Beans & Eric this year:
1- United States
3- United Kingdom
9- South Africa
And one person in each of the following countries visited me: Belarus, Luxembourg, Congo, Rwanda, Algeria, Mongolia, French Guiana, Haiti, Zimbabwe, and Kazakhstan. Thank you!
Top 10 Recipes of 2020:
1- Chili Cheese Burrito
2- Forgotten Once Slow Cooker Jambalaya
3- Blue Runner Red Beans and Rice
4- Homemade Red Beans and Rice
5- Red Beans and Rice with NOLA Soul
6- Chef John Besh’s Red Beans and Rice
7- New Orleans Yakamein
8- New Orleans Style Stewed Chicken
9- Underberg Sour Cocktail
10- Chicken and Sausage with Okra Gumbo
Top 10 How Do You Red Bean? Interviews:
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Keep the red beans cookin’!
Eric Olsson is the food blogger of RedBeansAndEric.com. He publishes new recipes and interviews weekly. He has developed recipes and written articles for the famous Camellia brand in New Orleans, Louisiana. He has been mentioned in Louisiana Cookin‘ magazine and has had recipes featured in Taste of Home magazine – with his Creole Turkey recipe being runner up in their annual Thanksgiving recipe contest. He lives outside of Detroit, Michigan, with his wife and four children.