On the outskirts of Lafayette, Louisiana—nestled among the Popeyes and Canes—are a bounty of restaurants named after gods and goddesses, and seemingly inspired by ancient civilizations. On this episode of Gravy, we visit Zeus Café and Cedar Deli and visit with the Reggie family to learn more about how Lebanese food became Lafayette foodways.
In 1983, a Lafayette housewife named Bootsie John Landry self-published a cookbook called The Best of South Louisiana Cooking. Sprinkled among the expected Cajun staples were less familiar recipes like fattoush and something called Sittee’s Lentil Salad. Bootsie was part of a large Lebanese family and a greater community that began emigrating from Lebanon to Louisiana as early as the 1880s. Her cousins are the Reggie family, who for the past century have been cooking up traditional Lebanese comfort food from their home in Lafayette. Fred Reggie and his daughter, Simone, share how they’ve peppered traditional Lebanese recipes with Cajun lagniappe to create “LebaCajun” food.
The episode was reported and produced by Sarah Holtz. Sarah is an independent radio producer and documentary artist based in New Orleans.
This is the fifth of five podcast episodes that are part of our virtual Cajun Country Summer Field Trip. We thank McIlhenny Company, maker of TABASCO Brand pepper sauces, for their support in producing this batch of Gravy, and underwriting soon-to-be-shared oral histories and a new mobile app.
Roots of the Cedar