Tuesday, June 28, 2011

C'est Si Bon On di' Bayou

Don’t get me wrong, once we finally arrived, it really really was c'est si bon (translated as “It’s So good” in Creole. We made the 10 hour trip from Nashville to New Iberia, Louisiana to visit Jason’s best friend from high school and incidentally the one who introduced Jason and I. We attribute our marriage to him and figured the least we could do was drive 10 hours to visit. We hit Memphis and headed south on I-55 through the great state of Mississippi. Doing my part of the driving, I drove…for 200 miles. In that 200 miles, we saw nothing. I mean NOTHING, no cities, billboards, advertisements, and only the same 3 other vehicles. I mean that place is truly the middle of nowhere. I’m going to be honest, I don’t recommend it. It defines boring. Long, straight and BORING!
We arrived in New Iberia at 1am to their charming 1940’s plantation home situated right on the bayou. The yard sits on 4 acres and included in that is a Live Oak tree named “blue”. Sure, most people don’t name their trees but if YOU had an Oak tree that was nearly 300 years old and 23 feet around the base, well, you’d probably name it too. Besides, it’s on the Live Oak registry in the US where they document all the largest Live Oaks.

We began our culinary vacation at a short order place made of cinderblocks with a VERY large crawfish airbrushed on the side. It was the kind of shack you just knew would be good and it didn’t disappoint. I had a shrimp salad that I couldn’t even finish! That’s where the real fun began. It was drive through daiquiri time! In LA, they have drive through bars where you can get your daiquiri’s to-go. Apparently, they are under some kind of Napolenionic law that makes several things different from anywhere I’ve ever lived. For example, at the grocery store you can stock up on all the hard liquor you would need for a college frat party or at the service station, you don’t have to limit your beer run to just beer. Oh, no, they have pre-mixed margaritas and wine. Not wine in a bottle either, wine, in a little plastic vino glass with a foil top on it. No corkscrew necessary. I’m going to be honest, I kinda wanted to try one. Nobody said the passenger couldn’t drink! They also have the dead buried ABOVE ground. Yes, you read that right. All over LA you'll see eerie tombstones with giant concrete caskets above the ground. Apparently, if you were to bury them, they would come right back up, something about being below sea level I'm thinking. Let's be honest, nobody wants to see that.
Ok, back to Louisiana.
After we filled every cup holder in Jack’s truck with some flavorful concoction of daiquiri we did what every responsible adult does. We went to the shooting range! Jack’s friend is a professional marksman and has an elaborate shooting range in the middle of the sugar cane fields. Jason scored an armadillo right away and also found quite frankly the largest grasshopper I have ever laid my eyes on. We were welcomed to the range by a host of chameleons that rapidly changed from a bright green to the exact color of the wood where they hid. It was pretty neat to witness. We all did a little shooting, I even shot Jason’s prized pistol in full gear. Hearing protection and red rhinestone earrings. Let’s be honest, did any of you think for a second that I would disgrace myself in a new city by being caught without earrings on? As if!
Even with our frosty refreshments in hand, it was hard to help from MELTING. I’ve done hot, NC is hot, I’ve done humid, both TN and AL are humid but NEVER have I ever experienced the oxygen depravation found when the humidity rises to 200%. I felt like I needed a mask just to breath outdoors. I mean, I managed to survive it but my hair suffered the consequences greatly.

On Friday, we continued our culinary vacation with a Lunch of homemade crawfish etouffee by Jack’s wife, Ashley. I was lucky enough to help in the preparation thus receiving the recipe to one of Jason’s favorite dishes. After lunch was my time to shine. The only thing I asked to do while in LA was ride an airboat. I wanted to ride an airboat LONG before the show swamp people came on, but that didn’t make it any less appealing to me and YES we watch the show. Jackson and Jason are big fans, I just come along casually and see their alligator antics and hear the guy shouting "shoot em". The four of us set sail with our tour guide on THIS airboat.

Tucker (our guide) took us deep into the swampland and immediately took a right turn into the thickest, most un-navigable marshy land I’ve ever seen. It was hard to believe that any “boat” could get us through the thick of this. After half an hour or so, he started trying to call out “his” alligators. I was thrilled, because who wouldn’t want to go on a swamp tour AND see alligators. He banged his stick on the bottom of the boat. He made a kissy sound for them, he even called them something elaborate in French. No luck. Another 15 minutes passed and we pulled up to the end of another swampland as he points forward at “Big Mack” coming right towards us.

Big Mack is named appropriately. He is around 12 feet and weighs in at about 700lbs. He swam near right up to our airboat as he knew our guide was going to feed him. What do you “feed” an alligator? Marshmallows! Ha, we were just as surprised. As we gawked at Mack, our guide was telling us of his favorite alligator that had been missing for several weeks. With his thick Cajun accent, he told us, “I know she still be around there somewhere.” Just when we turn around, we see her. He called her “baby” because she was a mere 7 ft 300lbs and he’s been feeding her for her whole life, around 9 years.

You could tell he was happy to see her but it was apparent her reasons for hiding lately. She’d been in a serious fight and had the scars to prove it. After we bid adieu to “baby”, we make our way back to the marina. The marina was sometime to see. It had a boardwalk that connected around 15 houseboats that were little “floating cabins”. Some were in better shape than others but they were mostly charming with large front and back porches.

On the way home, it was only right that we make another daiquiri stop. I mean, when we get back to TN, the only drive through’s we have serve tea, sweet tea. We just have to make the most of our experience, and that we did!

We had most likely the best food I have ever tasted for a late dinner. It was a mouth watering local New Iberia place called Clementine’s. We sat streetside and each shared appetizers of crab cakes and arrancini (mushroom risotto with prosciutto, mozzarella) and fried green tomatoes topped with crab and hollandaise sauce. The entrée’s were no different. I savored every mouth watering piece of Seared Tuna au Poivre and left for home in a fully food induced coma!
And don’t think for a minute that we left Louisiana empty handed! We drove away with a plethora of hot sauces, Tabasco products, boudin sausage, 7lbs of FRESH head-on jumbo shrimp and 38lbs (yes, 38#’s) of LIVE crawfish! We are going to keep on eating good, tonight…and tomorrow night…and the night after that!
Les Bon Temp Rouller`! or Let the Good Times Roll!

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful trip! Love all the critters!!!! LOL And you look like one bad mama with the gun! :-)