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Friday, March 21, 2014

French Bread, Cane Fields, Etouffee and Oysters

Friday March 21, 2014 Room 208 Clarion Inn Lafayette, Louisiana 3:28 PM CST

Happy Spring, officially!  Sunny, 77 degrees and the John Deere machines are dusted off and working!

We don’t often go farther southeast than New Iberia when we spend time in Acadiana but I’ve known about a very old bakery in Jeanerette for many years and have often wanted to go back down there to find it. I’d read about it in the visitors’ guide for this part of Louisiana and saw it the only time we passed through town on our way to Morgan City several trips back. As long as we were staying here for a week I thought it would be a nice idea to head down and pick up some fresh French bread, baked by Acadians using a 19th century recipe.  We pulled into the driveway as two young thirtyish guys came out of the bakery carrying a loaf of bread and taking off in their dusty pick-up truck. Looks as though local Acadians still eat it, too. A good sign, I think. There was a  recipe using rather large amounts of ingredients posted on a clipboard on the customer side of the baking room. I asked the baker how many loaves a recipe starting with 100 pounds of flour would make and he answered 360! There were some tarts in a basket as well as pralines but we don’t care for pralines as a rule but both like tarts—Bill chose a lemon and I chose a pineapple. There was coconut, too, but that isn’t a form in which I like coconut. Though Bill doesn’t like ginger I could not resist the Ginger Cake—I love Ginger bread but never make it because he doesn’t like it. I don’t know if Betsy does—she and I both love ginger snaps. I’ll have to check with her.

The next town is Franklin which is really more beautiful than Jeanerette the downtown of which is really pretty caput. There is a grassy median with lovely streetlamps bordering a wide thoroughfare but we wanted to explore the deeper Cajun country along the coast so we turned south toward the Intracoastal Waterway. The turn came after the lovely residences of Jeanerette and at the sight of a very large cane treatment plant.The hilled rows in the fields are covered with the early fingers of this year’s cane crop.

Sugar cane is a perennial grass and so it is already sprouting. The cane growers are out spraying it, watering it and rehilling the plants. There will be some replanting because the crop begins to peter out after three or four harvests. There will also be fertilizing of the repeat crops.

We had planned on taking in the view from a State Park on a Point out in the Bay. When I saw the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway I told Bill I was content with the State Parks we’ve already toured on this trip, Eventually, we had to go over bayous emptying into the Waterway as well as the Waterway itself. More humane engineers constructed draw bridges over these. We stopped at a boat launch where several fisherman were returning from early morning fishing, There were several broad sweeping curves along the coast dotted with several small villages, including Lydia, which is no longer on the map-No PO, no map Dot.

We crossed the Waterway once more and entered Abbeville, which I also love. An adorable doll house on the Government List of Historic Places is for sale and has a lowered price. Still don’t think we can afford it.Meandering through town we came upon our intended destination—Shucks!  Ordered crayfish etouffee and oysters on the half shell. The Oysters were huge and since I swallow them whole, it was necessary for me to cut them—especially that one in the middle—into THREE sections. As a result, by the time I finished ten I felt as though I’d eaten two dozen rather than one dozen. Gave Bill my last two. Dave came over to greet us once more and I asked him about cane growing. Much of what I mentioned above came from him. He did add that Steens no longer crushes and processes the cane. His reason is that the old men who used to do the work died off and none of the younger men took over. That is probably true to some extent but reading about sugar cane harvest and processing I see that the modernization requires very fast treatment because, like corn, the sugar starts to break down as soon as the canes are broken up—the sugar being at the joints in the stem. As a result they are rushed to a processing plant—huge one like that which I photographed out near the fields—to salvage as much sugar as possible. So now Steen goes out to the plant with a tanker and brings the syrup back to be boiled in enclosed boilers. Dave misses the sweet smell that used to permeate the air in Abbeville from Oct to Jan while Steen boiled in open kettles. 

Stuffed and content with a lovely day we headed back to Lafayette Parish from Vermilion Parish by way of Johnston St—past LSU and the Cajundome—onto Jefferson with the Mardi Gras float still sitting in front of the hardware building—quick left onto Pinhook and a quick right onto Evangeline another quick left across Evangeline and into the motel lot and home.

Now, somebody on the other side of the pool is blasting music with a very heavy bass-line. Ah, Summer in the City.  Tomorrow I think we’ll find the Bayou Teche Brewing Company in Arnaudville. Don’t you love the names of these towns?  And every place in this country except Vt talks in terms of counties and parishes. No one would be from Post Mills they’d be from Orange County!  It is crazy.  For now, I’m off with my cold milk and ginger cake to enjoy the remainder of this heavenly day!  Hope you are enjoying yours—it is,--- weather or not—misspelling intentional—the week-end. Later, KandB PS--More info on the history of Sugar Cane: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugarcane Also, I'm looking forward to reading a new novel called Queen Sugar. I think the title is clever considering we all know about King Cotton!

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