June 23-25, 2011
From New Orleans to Eunice, Louisiana
In June’s heat, the SFA drove the prairies of Cajun Country with SFA app-loaded smart phones in hand. Down blacktop back roads. Through dog-in-the-road towns. To meat markets that sell liver-flecked boudin. And crawfish boiling points where the tables are draped in newspaper.
We began in New Orleans, above Cochon, at Calcasieu. That night, Stephen Stryjewski dished catfish courtbouillion and rice. And Paul Prudhomme and Donald Link will held forth. We ended on Sunday morning, when, bellies full of boudin and crawfish, arteries pumping Tabasco, we drove home, again using smart phones to find breakfast boudin for the ride.
Along the way, we heard from experts and raconteurs, including: Marcelle Bienvenu, author of the classic Who’s Your Mama, Are You Catholic, and Can You Make a Roux?, who dished gumbo gossip; Jim Gossen, founder of Louisiana Foods, who shared how crawfish came to be farmed rather than fished; Pableaux Johnson, a writer and photographer who grew up in New Iberia, is, in the words of SFA board vice-president Sara Roahen, a “master smotherer” of all God’s creation; and Gerald Patout, director of the Arnold LeDoux Library at Louisiana State University, Eunice, who talked of rice dressings and other delights.
With SFA Oral Historians Amy Evans Streeter, Sara Roahen, Rien Fertel, and Mary Beth Lasseter leading, we experienced the Mowata Store where Bubba Frey stuffs boudin links and crawfish rice-larded chickens; an okra supper at Ruby’s Cafe, open since 1959, in Eunice, where Dot Vidrine presides; Falcon Rice Mill, doing business in Crowley since 1942, and one of the last family-owned rice mills in the state; boudin biscuits, glazed with Steen’s Cane Syrup, from Justin Girouard of The French Press in Lafayette; beer, boudin, and fiddles at the Savoy Music Center in Eunice and Fred’s Lounge in Mamou; the debut of the SFA Boudin Trail Traveling Exhibit; Joe York’s new film, on the cochon du lait tradition; a smothered lunch featuring cooks from the SFA’s Plate Lunch Oral History Project; the live Rendezvous des Cajuns radio show at the Liberty Theater in Eunice; a morning romp through the crawfish fields with Craig West and Troy West, who run one of the oldest commercial crawfish operations in the state; crawfish at Hawk’s, which “you could easily drive past while mistaking it for a tractor garage or chicken coop.” That would be a shame, wrote SFA board member Brett Anderson, “because in actuality it’s among the best boiling pots on the planet.” And we ended the weekend with zydeco at Slim’s Y-Ki-Ki, a dance hall, in business since 1947, famous for staging some of the best live music in the state.