While the weather was warmer in Louisiana it was the warmth of the people that impressed me most – friendly and unfailingly polite. The importance of good manners is often overlooked today. From the culinary students to people in the street, there was an acknowledgment that you existed – a smile, and greeting often followed by a conversation. That’s something I miss in Toronto. In Paris I will get a bonjour from strangers in the street and often find myself at the bus stop talking to someone I’ve just met. When I return to the Toronto, I have to adjust, my hellos to strangers in the street as they are usually met with a start and then discomfort.
My host, chef John Folse, is recognized everywhere in Louisiana, people want to chat and have their photo taken with him, and he always obliges. He has a vast network of friends and suppliers and I was lucky to meet three of them. Perhaps the most colourful is pictured above Bubba Frey. You can hear him describe the history behind the name of the town Mowata. I met Bubba on his farm where he raises many birds including guinea hen, turkeys, chicken, geese and ducks. He catches crawfish and grows peas. He told us that his wife offered him a choice betweens a plucker or a shucker for Christmas. He chose the shucker because he much rather pluck a bird than shuck peas.
We visited the Eunice Superette managed by the charming Andy Thibodaux. Despite it’s name this is a butcher store attached to an abattoirs. Andy has been butchering all his life, you can see him here. He was having a boucherie the following weekend, the traditional butchering of a pig. This happens in winter and the community helps with the task of killing and butchering the animal. Alas I wasn’t staying long enough to attend, but I hope to time my trip better next year.
The flat terrain and abundant rainfall make Louisiana an ideal place to grow rice and the rice paddies are the perfect habitat for crawfish. For my Aussie friends a crawfish is very similar to a yabbie. You can see the red tops of the crawfish traps sitting just above the water line everywhere you look. Until the middle of the 20th century crawfish was a poor man’s food, now it an important industry. I met Dexter Guillroy at Riceland Crawfish who explained that the cooler weather this spring has meant a slow start to the crawfish season. Riceland processes crawfish and swamp chicken – yes alligator. I didn’t eat any alligator this time, I’m guessing it is close to crocodile in taste, but I did eat a crawfish boudin and crawfish étouffée.
I’m planning my next trip south, not only for the warmer weather, but to spend more time with these warm and friendly folks.