The Gravy: In the Kitchen with Dr. John

“We [musicians] all kind of got stuck in this thing, in cooking, because we like certain things. I used to sit on the back of the band bus and we’d be talking about how we liked this and that cooked this and that way. We used to sit on the back of the bus and talk about food forever. But that’s what a lot of musicians do. We’re going to have to cook certain things the way we like them. Ain’t nobody going to cook it the way I’ve got to cook something today.

I learned to cook from hanging around my Aunt Gueneri. But also I watched my pa. My mama would never cook squirrels. But my pa would say, “I’ve got squabs tonight!” And she’d cook them because she didn’t know they was pigeons. He’d take my BB gun and shoot pigeons off the roof of his shop, and have a bunch of pigeons and call them squab, and that was food, and it was good. But she would not cook them squirrels, so my pa would cook them. And I watched him cook. My Aunt Gueneri also cooked a great Sicilian dish with rabbit. It was so hip. Wild rabbits. We used to always take them over to my Uncle Junior who was squatting in the west of the Bonnet Carre Spillway. He’d just fatten them up a little bit with all that stuff that was around his pad. Back then, there was no tons of water there. It was just where people squatted. He’d never worn shoes since World War II.

Dr. John, The Gravy, Elsa Hahne, photo, Jazz Fest

Dr. John doesn't mess around in the kitchen. (photo: Elsa Hahne)

Squirrel sauce piquant is delicious. But see, I can’t eat that now. I had to shift all my gears. If I eat something that’s fried, I eat it with buckwheat flour. I can’t eat just regulation flour. But a lot of people don’t want to cook with that. I can deal with it, but some other people don’t want to deal with that—they’d rather have corn meal, but I can’t have corn. A lot of stuff, I can’t have today. I didn’t know how bad all this stuff was, like shellfish and dairy products, for your liver. I didn’t know how bad ’til I had cirrhosis of the liver number four and it looked like multi-colored Jello. The biopsy, when they take a chunk of liver out, it looked like purple, yellow, and red Jello. Didn’t even look like a liver! But that’s when you’re in bad stages of cirrhosis. I got past it by dealing with other ways of hooking up. If I cook a squirrel or something today, I try to stuff him up with a sweet potato, just little bits of somethings, because they’re small critters. But I love to eat. My favorite thing with squirrels is eating squirrel brains. I like to crack them heads open and just chew on the brains. It’s like a delicacy to me. But there’s a million ways to cook that. […] Everybody got their own way of hooking everything and anything up. But that’s Louisiana for you, south Louisiana.”


Dr. John’s Fried Frog Legs

  • 12 frog legs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons Tony Chachere’s Lite Creole Seasoning
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne


  • Soak frog legs in 1 cup of milk.
  • Make egg wash by mixing the rest of the milk, eggs, Tony’s, and lemon juice.
  • Mix cayenne into flour in a separate bowl.
  • Dip frog legs into flour mixture, then egg wash, then flour again.
  • Fry in olive oil (about 1/2-inch deep) over medium heat, for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden.