Jambalaya, crawfish pie, filé gumbo
For tonight I’m gonna see my cher · mio
Pick guitar, fill fruit jar, and be gay-o
Son-of-a-gun, we’re gonna have big fun, on the bayou!
— Hank Williams
Today Jeanne’s family celebrated our arrival Cajun-style. These folks know how to party! Starting around 2pm, family members started showing up. As I write this, there are about 132 folks (all related) filling the house and spilling out into the yard. Kids are running around playing hide-and-seek, women are laughing and discussing family issues, men are drinking and yelling, and everyone is having a great time.
This is what my family was like when my mom was alive. Looking at Queen Eileen, I can see my mom… a women full of life and fire and power who loves and cares for her clan. My mom held our family together. Since she died, there has been a lot of blame and bad feelings thrown around. It’s sad, and it shouldn’t have happened. When we’re all pulled together for family gatherings, folks no longer laugh and joke. They’re reserved. These Cajuns remind me of what we’ve lost.
The food down here is incredible. The combination of French-Canadian, Creole (black), and Native American cooking has formed one of the only truly distinctive cuisines in the U.S. We started today with oyster po-boys (fried oyster sandwiches). Come evening, folks were dishing up dirty rice with shrimp and sausage, amazing fried mahi-mahi, onion rings, spaghetti and cheese, steamed crabs, and fried shrimp. There were also several coolers filled with beer. (Folks are still working their way through them.)
My absolute favorite food, though, were boulettes. These are balls of shrimp, potato, onion and spices that are deep-fried until golden brown. They’re crunchy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. These things are incredible.
Most of the food was cooked on the back patio over two large propane burners. On and off during the afternoon it rained hard. The chefs continued cooking in the rain. During one rain storm Fritz helped me install my Hi-lift jack brackets onto my back bumper. We got soaking wet, but by that point we weren’t noticing. Shay’s uncle Rhett told me that he ‘drills holes and mounts things for a living’. I told him it was good work if you can get it. (He installs shades and draperies.)
During the rainstorm, Jeanne sat in her van dictating its contents to Sybil. She was constructing the manifest to give to border crossing guards. ‘300 aspirin, a GPS III+, 4 bungee cords…’. Sybil wrote each thing on a pad as the rain fell outside.
Around 7pm, folks started singing, badly. It was time to celebrate Shay’s birthday. Shay, of course, loved this. He got loads of cash (probably enough to let him survive for 2 months in South America.) I gave him some CDs so he wouldn’t have to listen to Jeanne’s music for the entire trip (Jimmy Buffet, Afro-Cuban All-stars, Aretha Franklin.) Jeanne’s taste in music isn’t bad, but it would probably make Shay buggy after a few months in the jungle. (Incidentally, Sybil’s devil’s food cake was amazingly good.)
According to Greg McCoy, Houma is below sea level. “This place is a bowl. If a storm comes up, it’ll just fill up.” Reassuring words when lightning and thunder and rain have been the predominant weather for the entire day. The GPS shows an altitude of 9′ above sea level, but the GPS is in the van, about 5′ over the ground.