Thursday, October 18, 2012

Crawfish and Cracklins

Louisiana is lovely in October. On the country roads, fields of sugarcane stretch to the horizon, their long stalks swaying in the warm breeze. Autumn has softened the searing heat. Sun and clouds rumble in the sky, never letting the other take over for too long. After spending a week there, for Mallory's debut with her extended southern family, I am once again struck by the beauty and uniqueness of my home state, which is celebrating its 200th birthday this year.

 Thanks to my mom, who is quite effortlessly the most devoted and doting grandmother ever, M and I got to go on three dates. We drove back roads with the windows down, smelling the sweet burning sugarcane, chatting about the future, chuckling at the persistent (and creative) Cajun spellings.

We even made it to the alligator swamp at the university, the nation's only college campus to have one, which I used to visit as a child. I have memories of feeding bread to the gators with my brother and of once losing my Jelly sandal in the murky water.

In New Orleans, we rode a ferry across the Mississippi and delighted in the elaborate Halloween decorations adorning the high balconies and wide porches.We rode the the St Charles streetcar (the oldest continuously running streetcar in the entire world!) to levee park, where, together with our friends Triel and Chris, we lounged in the thick grass and sipped frozen pina coladas. Kai, their 3 year-old son, rolled down the hill and jumped in his dad's lap. Mallory crawled around and pulled out tufts of greenery. The river hosted huge barges and lapped at the land.

On our last day, we headed to the tiny hamlet of Breax Bridge, where we strolled the high sidewalks and, finding everything closed on a slow Monday, headed to the local grocery store for lunch. We bought two pre-made tuna sandwiches, an iced tea, and a small bag of cracklins (fried pork skins). As we moved through the check-out line, the cashier smiled and asked, "Where y'all from?"

And even though M responded, "California," he was quick to point out that I'd grown up in nearby Lafayette. Sure, you can take the girl out of Louisiana, but as my week of eating crawfish etouffee and shrimp po'boys proves, there's still plenty of Louisiana left in me.