San Rafael Valley, AZ ~~ Photo by Bill Haas

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Cafes, roadhouses, community parks, Bourbon Street clubs, street corners, craft festivals, jam sessions where anyone can participate right along side the region's masters -- Cajun, Zydeco, Blues, Jazz.  I returned to Louisiana for the music.  Can't get enough of the music in this part of our country...and the dancers, the characters, the groupies, the instruments, the beats, the pure foot-tapping joyful experience.

I had heard stories about the Savoy family and had been told about Marc Savoy's exquisite accordions, made by hand in Eunice.  As he was returning it to the case, I asked this accordionist if I could see it.  Rather THEM.  The guy had one in the key of C and another in the key of G!

Although jokingly referred to as Cajun air compressors, they are magnificent pieces of art!
And here's where they're made.

I'd like you to meet Vergie.  She's 86, has her nails and hair done every Friday, wears rings on every finger and hasn't washed a dish in over 60 years.  She starts her Saturdays attending the music "demonstration" at the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center. Then she moves next door to the Liberty Theater for its live radio broadcast, and finally ends the day at Bubba Frey's joint on the highway outside Crowley.  Because my Saturday mirrored hers, I kept running into her and ended up joining her and two other women at the table for old biddies at Bubba's.

Bubba likes chickens -- they're everywhere!!
And here's Miss Claudia again.  Sheesh, that woman is busy.  And skinny!
The players at Bubba's included this master fiddler who flirted outrageously with Vergie.  Then, in the hope of passing his craft on to another generation, the master took the girl's little hand in his and held it while the bow glided across the strings so she could "feel" the music the fiddle made.  Unfortunately that sweet moment is hidden by the little girl's body because of my lousy camera angle.  It was nevertheless a touching moment, ending an already-memorable evening at Bubba's.

Breaux Bridge, on Bayou Teche, is home to Cafe des Amis.  If a strong, zesty, energetic beat gets your mojo going and your feet tapping, then Zydeco is the music for you, and Zydeco Breakfast at Cafe des Amis is the place to be on a Saturday morning. Doors open at 7:30 AM; the band plays for three hours; the dance floor is ... well, it's somewhere there between the tables and chairs!

High energy, not for wimps; notice how all the dancers are skinny?

This Cafe des Amis regular did not sit out one single dance.  Mostly he just stood in one place, shuffled his feet once in awhile and sort of swayed to the beat while his partners did the struttin' stuff!

Bayou (slow moving river) Teche (Chitimacha Indian for snake) flows through Breaux Bridge, a soothing place to stroll after watching all those sweaty dancers.  Grueling I tell you!!!


I arrived in Abbeville just in time for Crawfish know, the fresh-water Lilliputian version of the saltwater Lobster.  Locals refer to them as "mud bugs." One can have Crawfish boil (spicy, extra spicy, where's-the-fire-extinguisher-spicy), Crawfish etouffee, Crawfish jambalaya, Crawfish gumbo, Crawfish fettucine, Crawfish dip, or Crawfish-and-whatever's-in-your-refrigerator!  
As soon as the weather warms, Cajun Country rice fields are flooded, and Crawfish come out of hiding.  Rice field-farmed Crawfish have plenty of space to grow and good food to nourish them until they're ready for the table.  (By the way, crawfish can grow in the "wild" anywhere it's muddy, in Betty's back yard for example.  Their little mud cones sprouted up all over her yard after some Spring rains.  They look like mud dauber houses only on a much larger scale.)
Traps are set...
Then this home made "vessel" skims the ponds, pulls up the traps and empties those that contain marketable Crawfish.
Then the little buggers are purged of gunk and sent to market clean and mudless!
Crawfish Boil Tonight!  YEEHAW!  The choices were three pounds or five pounds, with or without corn, and no choice on the level of spiciness.  SPICY is what you get! Individual names were neatly printed on the sacks so there was no confusion as to which mouthwatering repast belonged to whom. 
Set the table -- newspapers work best -- and don't forget the paper towels!
All this for ME?!!
Out of the bag you little crustacean you -- come to mama!
After cracking, pinching, squeezing, pulling out the tail goodies, sucking and slurping three pounds of Crawfish, I probably ended up enjoying six ounces of meat!!!!
Notice that mouths are only moving to make way for mud bug morsels...
Conversation in abeyance!
Carcasses from just one paper sack!  YUM!


This egg was displayed at the National Park Service's Prairie Acadian Cultural Center in Eunice, LA.   If you have time, patience and an old silk tie lying around, here's how you can make an heirloom Easter egg for your great grandchildren to fight over!
You will need: Raw eggs (the number depends on how ambitious you are), white vinegar, an old silk tie (cut pieces of the design large enough to wrap around each egg), needle and thread, paper towels and water.

Carefully, clean the eggs with vinegar.  Sew the silk snugly around each egg, creating a nice "carreau."  Set the eggs into a pot of cold water with paper towels cushioning the eggs and separating them one from the other.  The paper towels should keep the eggs from moving about in the pot and isolate the dyes so they don't bleed one onto the other.  Boil the eggs for about 3o minutes, then carefully lift out of the water with a spoon and allow to dry.  You can cut away the fabric when it and the egg are completely dry.

If the cooked eggs are kept refrigerated and turned weekly for TWO YEARS, the egg will crystalize and can then be displayed without refrigeration.  Voila!  Heirloom Easter Egg!!