Sharing a Taste of American Pie

Forecasters in the north still are posting occasional frost warnings and it’s not yet time for Alaska to be awash in wildflowers, but the thawing’s nearly complete. Winter’s gone. Folks are out and about and, in the South, we’ve arrived at the very heart of festival season.

In Texas, Bluegrass and Bluebonnets already has taken place. In Louisiana, the Acadian Festival in St. Martinsville, the Bayou Teche Bear Festival and the Balfa Cajun/Creole Heritage Week are pleasant memories. Still to come are assorted strawberry festivals, New Orleans’ Creole Tomato Festival, the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles in Lafayette, Church Point’s Buggy Fest and one of the best combinations of food and music in the world, the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival.

Events like last weekend’s Mullet Toss at the Flora-Bama Lounge, a well-known establishment on the Alabama-Florida state line, play to a slightly different crowd. While there’s just as much music and food, there’s often a good bit more liquor and a good bit less clothing.  Crowds are friendly at the Flora-Bama, but they’re not necessarily family-friendly, if you get my drift.

On the other hand, the Flora-Bama Mullet Toss shares some qualities common to other festivals. All tend to be historically-rooted and marked by a high level of community involvement. They support community causes, raise money for local organizations and provide inexpensive fun. Like State Fairs and the Fourth of July, they’re as American as apple pie. (more…)

Rising and Shining ~ An Atchafalaya Tale

Bidding us adieu at the doorway of Café Des Amis on the Friday before Christmas, Mary Lynn was emphatic. “Remember,” she said, “you’re going to have to rise and shine if you want to get a table for tomorrow’s Zydeco breakfast.”

No innkeeper could be more attentive, more determined than Mary Lynn to help her guests savor their experience in her world, but her words evoked memories even sweeter than the Gâteau de Sirop we enjoyed our first night in Breaux Bridge.  “Rise and shine!” my mother would say, drawing back the morning curtains. “Rise and shine!” my dad would echo, coaxing me into the day, tempting me with the promise of adventure.

Cheerful and comfortable, “rise and shine” became a childhood staple, an assurance that the challenges, trials and delights of the day ahead would be well worth the effort of throwing back the covers. With passing years, the phrase took on added weight, becoming a cautionary reminder that just getting up isn’t enough. It’s not enough to plod into the day, slogging through it as though life itself is a burden and an imposition. Being called to get up is one thing. Being willing to shine is another. (more…)

Published in: on January 6, 2012 at 7:29 pm  Comments (69)  
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Over the Bayou and Through the Swamp

My friend Sabine, French and unflappable, introduced me to the phrase.  “Plus ça change,she’d murmur with a wave of her hand, “plus c’est la même chose.”  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Sometimes that’s true. My great-aunt Fannie, who just happened to be in the Louisiana State Capitol the day Carl Weiss put a bullet into Huey Long, never tired of telling the story. He wasn’t the first or the worst of the politicians she’d known, she liked to say, but he certainly set a standard of some sort for those who followed. Rolling her eyes heavenward as she ticked off the names of politicians who’d ticked her off, she’d heave a great sigh and remind us:  “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

More recently, several of us were sitting in a restaurant when another friend began fussing at the sight of some scantily-clad young lovelies lounging at the bar. “Who let them out of the house looking like that?” she said. “I don’t know,” said another. “Who let us out of the house with our skirt waistbands rolled up and our bobby sox rolled down?”  We grinned at one another, and it occurred to me to think again, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”. (more…)

Published in: on December 31, 2011 at 11:09 pm  Comments (56)  
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Dam Atchafalaya

So. The engineers have calculated, the scientists have pondered, the advisors have advised and the decision-makers have decided. The Bird’s Point levee has been blown apart, the river is being allowed to run free through the Bonnet Carre Spillway and the Morganza Spillway gates are being raised, one by one.

I have no real quarrel with any of this. I’ve followed the decision-making process as best I can, and I understand the rationale. But like so many who claim even the slightest connection to the Atchafalaya, to Cajun country and to the area’s warm, friendly and often downright quirky people, I was immensely saddened to see the waters begin to pour into the Atchafalaya Basin, scattering wildlife and sending its people fleeing to higher ground.

If I’m cheered at all, it’s by the knowledge that a goodly portion of the folks in Louisiana are what my grandfather used to call “britches hitchers”. Faced with a challenge, with adversity or grief, they “hitch up their britches” and get on with it. Jim Delahoussaye, a resident of Butte La Rose, recently mentioned a friend, a catfisherman who’d pulled a rib trying to run lines that were too tight. You can’t always fight, said Jim, reflecting on his friend’s experience. There comes a time when it’s “best to let it go, and start over when this statement by the river has been made.” (more…)

Published in: on May 15, 2011 at 3:01 pm  Comments (48)  
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