Friday, January 6, 2012

How's Bayou?

Thought for the day:  Let the good times roll!

This week, we visit the only state with parishes instead of counties. It is also the only state with a thriving population of Cajuns, who are descendants of the Acadians driven from Canada in the 1700s because they pretty much said, "Kiss my derriere" when ordered to pledge allegiance to the king of England.

Boys and girls, we're gonna laissez les bons temps rouler in Louisiana.

What can I tell you about this fine state? In 1803, the United States paid France the paltry sum of fifteen million dollars for the Louisiana Purchase, which encompassed an area 828,000 square miles, and nearly doubled the size of the country. What a deal, huh? However, Louisiana didn't become a state until 1812, and since then, it's had eleven constitutions and five different capital cities. Guess lawmakers wanted to get it right, huh? In a nod to the state's French roots, Louisiana is the only state whose laws make reference to the Napoleonic Code.

There's more than 6084 miles of water surface throughout the state, including more than a whopping 41% of the entire country's coastal marshlands. Marshes, bayous, rivers, and the gulf ... it's no wonder the state claims to be crawfish, frog, and oyster capital of the world. Fish, shrimp, and crabs are plentiful, too, so fresh seafood fills the menus in just about every restaurant.

And speaking for every restaurant we sampled in New Orleans, it is all GOOD, too. No, better than good. Excellent.

Whenever my hubby told me about an especially good dish he'd had on his business travels, I'd attempt to replicate it for us at home. Like the blackened red fish he raved about when he came home from Louisiana. I found what sounded like a great recipe, bought the fish, mixed the spices, and gave it a whirl. Ran into a major problem. The fish is dipped in melted butter and coated with the spice mixture ... no problem. Big iron skillet ... no problem. Skillet super-heated ... again, no problem. But when the fish is added to the super hot skillet ... big problem. I'm talking mind-boggling billowing clouds of thick smoke. So thick, you can hardly breathe. So much of it, the entire house filled with it. The smoke alarms screamed bloody murder, and I'm telling ya, if we would've had a sprinkler system, it would've immediately whammed into overdrive.

But the fish tasted awesome.

Lesson learned, though. All subsequent blackening was done outside.

If you're interested in some excellent recipes for genuine Cajun cooking, provided by a genuine Cajun gal, check out Marguerite's terrific blog. Her recipe for bread pudding with a caramel rum sauce is a killer. Best I've ever tasted.

As mentioned a couple months ago, New Orleans has a Voodoo Museum, but the state also has a host of other museums, too, like the National D-Day Museum, honoring WWII vets and their service, and the Confederate Museum.

Jackson Square is located in the heart of New Orleans, and is usually a hub of activity, with artists painting and displaying their works, and street musicians, jugglers, and dancers providing entertainment. We encountered a little boy there who said to my husband, "I betchoo five dollars I can tell you where you got dem shoes." Now, my hubby is a brilliant man, and not one to be easily hoodwinked by anyone, so with deep skepticism, he replied, "You're going to tell me exactly where I got these shoes?" "Yes, suh," the boy said. "EXACTLY where." "Okay, you're on," my husband said. The little boy grinned and said, "Easy! You got dem on your FEET, mistah!" What can I say? We laughed, and my hubby forked over the five bucks.

Jackson Square is named after Andrew Jackson, who led the successful defense of the city in the 1812 Battle of New Orleans. You've probably heard about this battle, but did you know it occurred two weeks after the War of 1812 had officially ended? And it was another month after that battle before news of the war's end actually reached Louisiana. (No Internet back then.)

There are two kinds of music readily associated with Louisiana:

First, there's my personal favorite ... jazz. Preservation Hall, pictured at the left,  was founded in 1961 to protect and honor New Orleans jazz, and though it may not be much to look at, the sounds emanating from this place truly stir the soul.


                                               Don't believe me? Take a listen for yourself:

The other distinctive music of Louisiana is, of course, Cajun music, which is my husband's favorite. Mamou is the Cajun Music Capital of the World, and musicians who've played at the inauspicious Fred's Lounge have successfully expanded the audience for Cajun music far beyond Louisiana's borders.


                                                    Wanta hear a snippet of Cajun music?

The house considered to be America's most haunted is found in Louisiana. At least ten murders have occurred at the Myrtles Plantation since it was built on Tunica Indian burial grounds in 1796.  The plantation is now a B&B, so if you want to test your mettle against the supernatural, this place may be a natural choice for you. Youtube has a mess of videos taken by some of the people who've attempted to spend the night here. Some succeeded, while others headed for the hills in the middle of the night.

This video gives a little background information about this most-haunted location:

Finally, before going on to pick on the laws, we've gotta say something about Mardi Gras, right?

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the last day of revelry before the next day's start of Lenten season. (Ash Wednesday) But did you know Carnival begins on the sixth of January? Beginning on that date, dozens of parades are held, until the celebration enjoys its last hoorah on the day of Mardi Gras itself. A multitude of different krewes host parades and/or balls throughout carnival season, and each krewe selects its own theme, costumes, and throws. Parade participants throw all kinds of things like beads, cups, doubloons, and stuffed animals. Since I'd never been there for Mardi Gras, I had the misconception that it was a bawdy, drunken party where questionable activities go on in exchange for a string of pretty beads. Not so. None of the parades even go down Bourbon Street, which is usually the center for those questionable activities and behaviors. The official parades and celebrations are actually family-oriented. And essentially, a Christian celebration.

Here's one last video, in case you'd like to take a peek at some highlights from the 150th anniversary of Mardi Gras, held in 2006. By the way, since 1875, Mardi Gras has been a legal holiday in Louisiana, so many high school marching bands participate in the day's parades.

Okay, time to take a look at some of the laws still languishing on the books in the fine state of Louisiana.

  • "Fake" wrestling matches are prohibited. (No smackdowns there, huh?)
  • Spectators at a boxing match may not mock one of the boxers. (Better pick on both of 'em, baby!)
  • Stealing an alligator is punishable by up to up to ten years in jail. (But he matches my SHOES...!)
  • Mourners at a wake can't eat more than three sandwiches. (Guess the hog jaws better grab a bite before attending.)
  • Snoring is prohibited unless all bedroom windows are closed and locked. (Does the snorer have to be IN the bedroom, or do you suppose it'd be okay to lock him OUT?)
  • There's a five hundred dollar fine for having a pizza delivered to your friend's house without him knowing about it.
  • It's illegal to rob a bank and then shoot at the teller with a water pistol. (Really? The water pistol's the problem here?)
  • Biting someone with your natural teeth is considered "simple assault." With false teeth, it's upgraded to "aggravated assault." (Sounds like blatant ageism to me.)
  • It's illegal to gargle in public places. (But sometimes those crawdaddy heads leave such a nasty taste in your mouth ...)
  • One can go to jail for up to a year for making a false promise. (Yipes! This one oughta fill the jail cells.)
  • Prisoners who hurt themselves could serve an additional two years. (That'll teach 'em to fall out of bed.)
  • In Jefferson parish, no one may pour a drink onto the ground at any drive-in movie. (Even if it's non-alcoholic?)
  • And all garbage must be cooked before it can be fed to any hogs. (Those prissy pigs.)
  • In New Orleans, no "Look, ma, no hands!" Every rider of a bicycle, tricycle, or other vehicle propelled by hand or foot must keep at least one hand on the handlebars of his machine while riding it.
  • Tying your horse to a tree on the public highway is a no-no. (Guess you better stick with a fire hydrant.)
  • You can't host a game of marbles on Lafayette Square without a written permit from the Parkway and Park Commission.
  • Chasing fish in a city park is against the law. (Must be talking about those pesky walking catfish, I reckon.)
  • Mardi Gras beads may not be thrown from a third story window. (Better go up a floor.)
  • City commissioners drinking booze during a public meeting risk a fifty dollar fine. (However, boozing may be AOK for the spectators. Might even be recommended.)
  • It's illegal to practice voodoo within city limits.
  • Snakes aren't allowed within two hundred yards of a Mardi Gras parade route. (Does somebody provide them with maps?)
  • It's illegal to toss condoms from a Mardi Gras float. (I'm not touching this one.)
  • Sorry, but you can't tie your alligator to a fire hydrant. (Oh, rats. No trees. No fire hydrants. Better leave Allie at home.)
  • And the last one for New Orleans, it's illegal for a woman to drive a car unless her husband is waving a flag in front of it. 
  • In Port Allen, only two people may picket on a sidewalk at a time, and they must stay at least five feet apart at all times. 

Okay,  it is finally time for (ta-DA!)

The Weirdest News Stories of the Week

***  No question about it, some bare bottoms deserve to be in a museum. Others? Not so much. I dunno. Maybe this "lady" thought she was an art critic. Maybe she's not a fan of abstract expressionism. This gal, 36-year-old Carmen Tisch, didn't merely express her opinion about Clifford Still's thirty plus million (that's MILLION) dollar painting, found in a Denver, Colorado gallery. Oh no. She punched it. Scratched it. And that was just for starters. Then the tattooed miss dropped her pants and rubbed her bare backside all over the canvas. (I guess she reeeeeeally didn't like it!) Needless to say, after doing an estimated ten thousand dollars worth of damage to the painting, she is now cooling her heels in the local hoosegow. And yes, an overabundance of imbibed adult beverages was indeed a factor in her bizarre behavior. Perhaps she should consider changing her name from Tisch to ... Tush?

*** I don't reckon the preacher better give any fire and brimstone sermons in THIS church. He may save some wandering souls, but he might also bring down the house ... er, the church. You see, it's built entirely out of ice and snow. More than one hundred years ago, town authorities denied the formal request made by villagers of  Mitterfirmiansreat, Germany, who wanted permission to build a traditional house of worship. So, as an act of protest, the miffed villagers opted to go UN-traditional. Snow and ice fit the bill, and villagers have continued with this tradition every year since. This year's structure, dubbed God's  igloo, cost more than two hundred thousand dollars to build, is sixty-five feet long, and contains forty-nine thousand cubic feet of snow. (And you thought it was nippy in YOUR church last week ...)

                                     Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.


  1. loved the clip on the haunted plantation....
    As to the husband walking ahead of his woman driver waving a flag...well...a few of us would like a chance at a set up like that.

  2. I'll take a few buckets-full of that Cajan music, but would you ask them to look as if they're enjoying themselves first!

  3. And the woman did what to a painting? Where were the guards who are supposed to be guarding a 30 million dollar painting.

    Another great post Susan. Thanks.

  4. I love Cajun food and music. And who's gonna tell them they can't practice voodoo within city limits? Not me.. Thanks Susan!

  5. I so want to go to New Orleans! And the Myrtles... need I say more? I have a ghost of my own. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  6. Those Indian burial grounds will get you every time!

    Great tour of Louisiana -- thanks for sharing it with us. Oh, and I believe I'll not try to make blackened red fish myself, no matter how tasty. ;)

  7. Now I feel hungry... and glad I'm not the only one who causes reactions in the kitchen! Very interesting place. You sold me! I feel much better about Mardi Gras (phewf).

    Do they spend that sort of money on the igloo church EVERY year? Holy donations!

  8. Delores- As usual, you made me laugh. he wouldn't even have to be waving a RED flag, huh?

    Cro- Maybe they were hungover?

    Anne- Yeah, I wondered the same thing about the guards. Also about the logistics of rubbing her behind on the canvas. Guess it wasn't hung very high, huh?

    Austan- Me, neither. Not that I (ahem) believe in that stuff ... but why mess with your mojo?

    Jules- It is truly a magical place to visit. You'll have to fill us in on that ghost of yours.

    Linda- Yeah, I guess those builders never read Stephen King. Oh, but that fish is sooooo worth it!

    Carrie- I was glad to hear Mardi Gras is more than a bunch of drunken debauchery, too. As for that church, I dunno. It does seem a bit extreme, doesn't it? Guess they get a lot of cold hard cash in their collection plates to pay for it.

  9. You have to put that story of the little boy and his shoe prediction in a novel. Too funny.

  10. LG- Life really is funnier than fiction. Take care.

  11. Oh, wow. What a post! I had the chance to attend a conference a few years ago (less than 2 years after Katrina), and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Especially the tour of the bayou.

  12. Hey, girl, just read your comment on my blog about the short story sale!! WooHoo! Make sure you celebrate!!!!

  13. Hi, Donna. We haven't been back since Katrina, but I definitely want to return there someday.

    Connie- Thanks, but it's old news. It was published early last year, and I used the money to buy a new laptop. (My kinda celebrating!) Might be time to have another fling, huh?

    Take care.

  14. Had the same problem with the blackening thing too... a long time ago. Made gumbo for New wasn't nearly as challenging as I expected...and it tasted yummy. I'd like to go to New Orleans just for the food...but thanks for all the other neat info!

  15. Had a great time on your travels! Loved the shoe thing and all the New Orleans info - always wanted to go there :-)
    The laws are brill too - at least, your comments on them are, as ever!
    Thanks for the read and the laughs.

  16. OMG! What a fantastic, glorious post!!! Thank you, thank you! We've just returned but you had me right back there, feeling the beat only New Orleans has! Sorry about your blackened fish. That pepper stuff really burns the eyes! Loved your comments about the weirdo laws. At one time, LA was the only state that outlawed gambling then taxed it - off to the hoosegow either way, LOL! But I'm sooooo happy you enjoyed your trip. We're proud of our unconventional state and want everyone to feel the love!

  17. Lovely pics and cool post...and the last sad, hilarious bit about that woman...

  18. Liza- Yeah, indoor stove top blackening isn't exactly a mistake anyone makes twice, is it? (But it sure tastes good!) Gumbo's yummy, too, especially if there's lots of fresh seafood in there. Now I'm thinking we need to have some gumbo this weekend...

    Karla- Glad you enjoyed your virtual visit. I hope you get to see it in person someday. There's no place quite like it.

    Kittie- Glad you enjoyed it. I LOVE New Orleans. And except for the thick smoke all over the house, the blackened fish turned out just great!

    Damyanti- Thanks for stopping by, dear lady. Looking forward to getting to know you better during the big A-Z challenge.

    Take care. I hope y'all have a wonderful weekend.

  19. What sort of hideous homemaker doesn't cook garbage before feeding it to the hogs? My blog is now private. If you'll send me your email address, I'll send you an invitation.

    Janie, who used to be "Lola"

  20. I can't figure out this cooking food for hogs thing. In my house, the hogs do the cooking!

    About the $30 million butt rub. Some years ago while in the National Museum of Art in D.C. I walked into a room and was surrounded by Van Gogh and Matisse. The beauty was so overwhelming it nearly brought me to tears. Then I became curious as I was standing in a room full of priceless works of art and no guards. I approached a painting and got deliberately within inches of it to see if an alarm, or guard, or anything would happen. Nothing did. It made me wonder if all of the art was fake. I would never know the difference. I chose to believe it was real because I didn't want to take back the tears.

  21. I would love to visit New Orleans! Some day. That and Savannah, GA. They just both seem so rich in culture.

    I'm a bit disappointed that I can't tie my alligator up to a fire hydrant. Does that mean I can tie it up to a bike holder or tree (it only said no horses to a tree, right?)

  22. Louisiana has always sounded like a really fun, music-filled place to visit but that video was gruesome. I loved the Louisiana laws though but I'm not sure how they can police them all. How do you stop people eating that fourth sandwich at a funeral?

  23. Janie, who used to be Lola- So glad to hear from you. I sent you an email.

    Mr. C- Your story about the National Art Gallery is scary, because I just know those works are the real thing. They are, indeed, breathtaking. It's horrifying to even consider someone doing damage to any of them. Interesting story: both my husband and I visited the gallery years before we were married, and we each bought the same exact Salvadore Dali print from the museum shop. Kismet, huh?

    Shannon- Welcome aboard. Thank you so much for signing on as a follower. I hope you make it to New Orleans and/or Savannah someday. Both are steeped in history and magic. As for your alligator? Sure, go ahead and tie it to the bike rack.

    Rosalind- Most of the laws I've been putting on my posts haven't actually been policed for many many years. Lawmakers are so busy making new laws, they don't usually pay any attention to the outdated, archaic laws that are still on the books, so they let them languish there, just so I can make fun of them.

  24. GREAT post Susan - thanks for sharing! I've been contemplating visting LA and now am primed to go!

  25. Lynn- You go, girl! You won't be disappointed.

  26. lol. I did the same thing trying to replicate some blackened cajun shrimp. Next time - I'm setting the skillet on the bbq!

  27. Wow, that's one of the best posts on Louisiana that I've ever read! Had to laugh at the laws. lol Merci beaucoup for the great tour and the kind mention! Cheers, cher!

  28. Kara- Oh, so you know what I'm talking about with that SMOKE... unbelievable, right? (I hope your shrimp were still good!) I blacken them in the broiler, and no real problem with smoke there.

    Marguerite- I'm so glad you stopped by, and glad you enjoyed my salute to your state.

    Take care.

  29. OMG, so much great stuff in this post. Where do I begin? First, I've never been to New Orleans, but it's on my bucket list. Those laws? Hilarious! So much fun...thanks

  30. I have the giggles about the black smoke billowing up from the something that would happen to me! I love N'awlins and Preservation Hall. We couldn't get in when we were there but watched and listened through the windows. Keep on rolling!

  31. Julie- Hope you make it there someday. Truly worth the visit. Thanks for stopping by.

    Tracy Jo- Laughing at my misfortune, eh? (It really WAS funny!) That's one recipe that should've come with a disclaimer "not to try this at home." We couldn't squeeze into the Hall either, but the music spilling out into the street was good enough for me!

  32. Such an interesting and fun post! This is my first visit to your blog but I sincerely hope I'm able to stop by again in the near future.

  33. Hi Susan, I linked over here from Kittie Howard's post. Your voice is wonderful and so distinct! As for your capacity as a travel agent, I think Louisiana should send you a check! (Or an alligator... or some beads or something...)

  34. Emma- Welcome. Glad you enjoyed it, and like they say around these part, "Come on back now, y'heah?"

    Katie- Thanks you, ma'am. And welcome aboard. Thank you for signing on as a follower. As for LA, they can keep their gators, but some beads might be nice ...