Why I Call It Famous
On The Shoulders Of Giants With Andrew Curtis
Andrew Curtis | March 29, 2023
It all started with an interest. I was searching for someone to teach me how to make an antler knife. Through a serendipitous conversation with a client of mine, I was given the name and phone number of the mentor I sought. That someone happened to be an 81-year-old man from Carnegie named Edwin H. Andrews, or Mr. Andrews as I would call him. A retired well driller by trade, he had for years as a hobby made knives, specifically antler handled. I never dreamed, though, that my most important lessons from him would not be about knife making.
By our second visit together, I had begun to realize that there was much more to my time with Mr. Andrews than the craft of knife making. The setting in rural southwest Georgia offered a peaceful place for me to unwind and undistractedly connect with my soon-to-be friend by disconnecting with the rest of the hectic world, aided by the fact that my cell phone service was poor way out there! Mr. Andrews kept his life simple and balanced but so enriched with love and family. Envying no one, he was content with what he had. On more than one occasion he told me that he had no regrets in his life. I watched how he lived and witnessed his unwavering kindness, generosity, humility, faith, wisdom and love.
On our first visit, aside from making a beautiful slab handle knife, Mr. Andrews took me fishing in his small pond by his house. After catching a mess of catfish, I observed, spellbound, as this 81-year-old man cleaned them all (despite my persistent requests to help) with one of his handmade knives, which brought more life to my newfound hobby. This was the first time he referenced that he had a “good recipe” for catfish. It seemed each visit he would allude to his favorite recipe until one day he told me about his “Almost Famous Catfish Stew.” With a laugh, he would exclaim, “It’s so good, it’s almost famous!” There was, however, one important rule associated with cooking this tasty dish: it had to be on a special occasion.
So, three years into our friendship on his 84th birthday, he finally cooked his “Almost Famous Catfish Stew” for me. It had been a lesson in patience! I discovered that it was the process as much as the meal itself that Mr. Andrews enjoyed so much.
First, you must go fishing, preferably with a friend, to catch the catfish (which by itself is a wonderful task!). Next, clean these fish in preparation for grilling. Using a handmade knife will enhance the overall experience (especially if you made the knife!). Then comes the grilling outside on charcoal per Mr. Andrews’ instructions… yes, charcoal is key. Finally, putting all the ingredients of the stew together for that special occasion presents the much-anticipated moment.
The flavor is incredible, but it is really about the process, the journey. That’s why Mr. Andrews loved it so much. That’s why I love it so much. He taught me to appreciate the moments around us. To “slow down” time. It is nearly a day-long commitment to do the whole operation correctly of fishing, cleaning, cooking and eating; hurrying only degrades the magic of it all. The last time I spoke to Mr. Andrews, he asked if I had found a special occasion to make his “Almost Famous Catfish Stew.” Then he said, “Who knows, Dr. Curtis, maybe one day you will make it famous.” My response: “It’s good enough to be famous now.”
Mr. Andrews is gone, but he left me with the recipe. He even gave me his blessings to “tweak it,” but I haven’t, and I won’t. What I have done is modify the name— Famous Catfish Stew.
Because it’s more than a fish recipe. It’s a lifestyle, a lifestyle of a man who knew how to live right. Mr. Andrews’ influence will reach far and wide. He was that kind of man. A giver. A true example to follow. A “giant” with sturdy shoulders.
And one worthy of fame…
Editor’s Note: Andrew Curtis has a book about his friendship with Mr. Andrews. Famous Catfish Stew is available on Amazon.
FAMOUS CATFISH STEW RECIPE
4 bacon strips, chopped
2 tablespoons oil, for cooking
2 large onions, diced
3 1/2 pounds red potatoes, diced
4 tablespoons butter
2 quarts tomato juice
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons seasoning salt
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 pounds catfish fillets, smoked (preferably on a charcoal grill)
Cook chopped bacon in oil in a skillet for a few minutes. Add onions to the bacon and cook until tender, stirring frequently. Transfer bacon and onions to a large pot and add potatoes, butter, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, about 30 minutes. Break catfish (already grilled) into chunks and stir in the pieces, then simmer, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The stew is ready to serve when the potatoes are tender. Serves 8-10.
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