Norma's Kitchen




Spicing up the menu, and the conversation

By Angie Chuang

The Oregonian

 Thursday, December 7, 2006
 Edition: Sunrise, Section: Metro Portland Neighbors: In Portland, Page 30, 31
 Norma's Kitchen , Bruce and Norma Broussard

On land, many Portlanders know Bruce Broussard as a political rabble-rouser. The African American Republican activist and commentator has made everyone from U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer to the Portland Rose Festival Association sweat. Broussard doesn't invite middle-of-the-road responses --and rarely has them himself. Love him or hate him, one thing's for certain: On the congressional campaign trail or his public-access television talk show, Broussard gets noticed. But travel a few miles north of Portland 's political centers, to Hayden Island 's world of floating homes, moorages and life on the Columbia , and
things are a bit different.

On water, Hayden Islanders know Broussard as "Norma's husband." Friday morning, as Norma Broussard oversees a simmering pot of gumbo at Norma's Kitchen at Jantzen Beach , Bruce tapes up copies of the Creole-Cajun cafe's new menu on the windows.

"It's her thing. I'm just a worker here," he says with a wink. "Out there, I'm in the mix of it all. Here, they don't recognize me."

Norma has run a catering business and written food articles in the community newspaper for years. Now, she and Bruce have the café overlooking the water, right next to Columbia Crossings moorage, which owns the little hutlike building. Inside, they've decorated with Mardi Gras beads and masks, and tongue-in-cheek wall art by Norma's Uncle Warren --cans of light beer attached to strings are labeled "Cajun Wind Chimes." Around the corner and out of sight, on the way to the restrooms, a "Bruce Broussard for Congress" poster decorates the refrigerator.

The Broussards took over the cafe, which had been up for lease after a coffee shop left, in October. Bruce likes to joke that he lost his campaign manager (Norma) a month before the election. Broussard, challenging the firmly entrenched Blumenauer, a Democrat, garnered nearly 20 percent of the vote with a $500 campaign. And that was after he was bounced from a City Council race for filing for the House seat. Norma says her husband's showing sends a message about the system.
"More and more," she says, "people are wanting politics by the people."

Nevertheless, Norma, more into jambalaya than controversy, says she's been trying to cajole her husband out of the political life. "But I can't take him completely away from it. It's his passion."

Bruce and Norma are both from Lafayette , La. , in the heart of Cajun country. Norma says she learned to cook from her mother. There were no recipes, she says.

"You asked questions, you watched, and you tried it. And then you were corrected," she says.

Norma has also been trained at Oregon Health & Science University as a food and nutrition adviser, and has an affinity for healthy Cajun cuisine, which she says is not an oxymoron.

The couple moved to Oregon after Bruce, a former U.S. Marine, served two tours in Vietnam . Their first home was in Northeast Portland, then in Sandy . They bought a houseboat at Jantzen Beach 30 years ago, as a weekend home. In the early 1990s, they moved there full time.

"There are not many folks like us here," Broussard says. "It's a very conservative bunch and definitely not a diverse bunch."

But Broussard says he's always been about getting people to see past race and stereotypes --whether of African Americans, boaters, whites or Republicans --and becoming part of the Hayden Island community was no exception. Brad Howton, general manager of Columbia Crossings, is a regular at the cafe. Hayden Islanders see themselves as a world apart from Portland 's
landlubbers, he says, and their pride in the close-knit community on the water overrides politics and race.

" Hayden Island in general is pretty invisible to people," Howton says.

Word is already getting out about the food at Norma's Kitchen, he says. Boaters appreciate being able to get a meal right off the docks, and everyone's grateful to have a different culinary option. "It adds a little spice to the place."

Inspired by the campaign, Bruce says he'd like to focus on shifting the Republican Party's focus and demographics --and he sees Hayden Island as a staging ground.

"I'd like to let Republicans know that they were leaders for the abolition of slavery, the citizenship of African Americans and the Voting Rights Act during Lincoln 's time," he says. "Now, you go to the Oregon Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner, and it's all white."

Bruce says he's been snubbed by Portland 's African American community for being out of step with its left-leaning politics. None of the local African American newspapers or radio stations granted him an interview during the campaign, he notes. He'd like to organize a Lincoln Day Lunch event that focuses on African American contributions to the military, particularly black World War II veterans. He'd like to have it at the Hayden Island Yacht Club. And Norma will cater.

Veterans' issues are particularly close to his heart. In 2005, Bruce fought to keep the African American veterans' group, the Buffalo Soldiers, in the Grand Floral Parade after the Rose Festival Association denied their entry on technical and alleged safety-related grounds. The very public battle raised African Americans' and veterans' ire against the Rose Festival, and gave the association's PR people a week of heartburn before they let the group in the parade. Yet Bruce shirks off the idea that he's more a gadfly and thorn in the side than a serious political contender.

"I am not leaving by any means," he says. The support he rallied in the congressional race will allow him to be a watchdog and critic of Blumenauer.

"I won by losing. I'm gonna be on his butt like white on rice."

Speaking of rice, Norma checks on a batch, with red beans, and gives her husband a look that says, "That's enough of that political talk." He heeds her unspoken request. The subject shifts to life on the river.

"We are having fun. It's comfortable in here," Norma says, scanning the cozy cafe. "It's like being at home."

Bruce says Hayden Island has been his escape for the past three decades.

"I'm so busy out there in politics. I like to come out here and be on the water and fish. It gets me away from it all," he says. "It's how I think."




Cheap Eats

Friday, December 29, 2006


Norma's Kitchen

North Portland's Hayden Island , with its big-box retailers, has never been a big food destination. Now there's reason to linger, with the arrival in October of this down-home temple to New Orleans cooking. Norma Broussard tends the stove, whipping up terrific gumbo and pulled pork, while her husband, Bruce, makes sure customers get a dose of Southern charm.

The chow: The dishes here are Bayou classics -- which means they're rich, filling and loaded with vibrant Creole and Cajun flavors. The gumbo is thick and loaded with bits of spicy sausage, chicken and shrimp. The barbecued ribs have a tangy sauce that will make you pucker up.

Real deals: The hot sausage dogs ($5.50) include a side of either cole slaw or corn salad. And you can get that gumbo to go and serve the brood back home; $19.95 per quart.

Hangout factor: The space is bright and overlooks the Columbia Crossings moorage, so there's a steady stream of boaters coming through the door. The vibe is "let the good times roll," with Mardi Gras beads and masks adorning the walls.

Liquids: Limited to coffee, soda pop and water, though a liquor license is pending.

What's half-baked? The cole slaw could use some additional zip.

Inside tips: Check out the daily specials board, where the temptations might include hearty red beans and rice and muffuletta sandwiches. The counter seats by the big picture windows are ideal for bird watching while you're enjoying a bite.

The numbers: 12010 N. Jantzen Drive ; 503-240-3447


Going Whole Hog for Pulled Pork

The Oregonian's A&E section
Friday MArch 9th, by Grant Butler

Norma's Kitchen (2.5 pig heads)

The sandwich at this terrific new addition to the Hayden Island food scene is one of the most generous around. The pulled pork has been so worked over that's it's mostly thin threads of meat, and while that gives the sandwich great tenderness, a few more substantial bits of meat would improve the overall mouth feel. Add some creamy cole slaw and a bag of potato chips for a great take-out lunch on the run. (12010 N. Jantzen Drive; 503-240-3447)



12010 N. Jantzen Drive, Portland;

Friday June 15th, 2007
Down-home New Orleans cooking

Hayden Island has never been a food destination, but this new down-home temple to New Orleans cooking is reason to linger. Norma Broussard tends the stove, whipping up terrific gumbo and pulled pork, while her husband, Bruce, gives customers a dose of Southern charm.



Exit Lines Cheap Eats Pulled Pork Diner 2007