Thursday, July 24, 2008

Speakin' and eatin' Cajun

I knew a self-described 'Cajun. I spent two years with him 45 years ago on board FDR. Louis was a really smart, tough Ensign. He spoke three languages...none of which I understood very well. He was handy to have around in Spanish speaking ports (he learned that in college), he got by in French speaking ports (his brand of French was learned at home and was of the 'Cajun, read that Arcadian, variety) and English which we only could understand if we knew what he was talking about. He had a deep accent.

Well, this week I went into the heart of 'Cajun country...Lafayette, Louisiana. I have only been to LA a few times...mostly just passing through. This time I stayed for 24 hours and ate and talked seriously to some real practitioners. Ensign LG would be proud of the way the 2008 variety of Arcadian/English speakers represented themselves and their culture to me.

Two of the young men took me to dinner at a former (old) 'Cajun house in the heart of downtown. It was two stories with big wraparound balconies and a rambling downstairs which has been turned into a restaurant. The eating portion is the library which is quite ample. It opens into a bricked courtyard with giant trees, but was closed off Tuesday evening due to the hot weather. "When the weather is cool, they open the big doors and you can eat outside," they explained. My thought was that on a hot night in July the doors should be open to take advantage of the almost sub-tropical weather. But no, they had the AC on and I was chilly.

"You can eat at Outback anytime, " my host continued. "Since you are only here one day, this is the best place for you to eat."

Ok, fine, they were picking up the tab so I did not wince at the menu that had few items under $35. I begged them to order so I could sense where they were going with this evening. Well, they went the Full to speak.

We had the special, which Tuesday was a huge cut of rib eye steak covered with shrimp and crab along with lobster potatoes. This was all done, of course, in the 'Cajun tradition including lots of cayenne pepper, garlic and appropriately blackened. It was delightful.

The steak was huge and extremely tender, there were six large shrimp, an ample amount of blue-crab meet and the potatoes were mashed with chunks of lobster in them. Salads were extra and I played it safe with a garden salad, which was rather unremarkable, but my host ordered Caesar salad, which was remarkable. When it came out it looked nothing like what I expected. It consisted of a quarter stalk of romaine (or bunch or whatever romaine grows as...certainly not a head) with shaved Parmesan cheese on it...grilled. Yep, it was hot. I should have tried it. It looked different, but good.

Enough about food. I got my seafood from the Gulf and ate perhaps the most delicious steak I have tasted in many years, and someone else picked up the tab. You can't beat that.

All this was happening while down the coast a hurricane was headed ashore. To make a long story shorter, I did my thing, got back on the planes (through Houston) and made it home right on schedule.

Seven down and one to go. In mid-August, I head to my old stomping grounds outside of Philly (North Wales) where I spent a large portion of 1999. The downside of that trip is I have to fly cross country on US Airways :-( and through PHL :=((

I can do it...I flew through Newark and survived.

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