On Wednesday morning, we struck camp and headed west on I-10. In a couple of hours we were texting with our good friends and neighbors Bob and Jan Blythe, who were driving their new Thor motor coach from Florida to New Mexico and Arizona. They were on I-12 about 30 miles from us, and on a converging course. We met up in a campground in Scott, Louisiana, just outside Lafayette in the heart of Cajun country, traditionally called Acadiana. We had been invited to visit Claudette Prejean LeBlanc, a “ya-ya” friend of another Villages neighbor, Reve’ Norman. While visiting Florida, Claudette had prepared an amazing dinner of grillades and grits, a famous Creole dish that we had enjoyed immensely. She promised more Cajun dishes if we visited her in her home town of Scott. That meal was scheduled for Thursday night, so when we arrived in Scott the day before, we invited Claudette over for a campfire dinner, and got to use our grill and picnic table.
We learned over dinner that Claudette’s father-in-law was Dudley LeBlanc, four-term state senator and inventor of Hadacol, a 1940s/50s patent medicine and vitamin supplement that by happenstance contained 12% alcohol, not that the addition of that substance made it more desirable in the dry counties and parishes of the South in that era. The name came from Senator Leblanc’s former company, Happy Day Headache Powder. Many readers may recall the Hadacol Caravan, the last of the big time “medicine shows”, which toured the US and had Bob Hope, Mickey Rooney, Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, Carmen Miranda, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Judy Garland, Jack Dempsey, Hank Williams and James Cagney among its performers. The only way you could get into the show was with a Hadacol boxtop, and they usually played to 10,000 people a night. I don’t think Geritol ever had the impact as Hadacol.
The next morning provided an opportunity to visit one of my old stomping grounds, Avery Island, where Tabasco sauce is produced. (Some readers may recall my meeting a 15 foot long alligator “up close and personal” on that visit.) Bob and Jan had never been there, so we took the tour and learned that Tabasco sauce is shipped to 160 countries around the world, and its labels are printed in 22 languages.
After lunch of crawfish etouffe’, boudin, and red beans and rice, we continued our tour with a brief stop at Jefferson Island, with its landmark Rip van Winkle Gardens (where pirate Jean Lafitte’s treasure is said to have been buried) and the Joseph Jefferson mansion, built by the world-famous actor in the 1870s (after the War of Northern Aggression).
The gardens are also famous for peafowl (Pavo cristatus); this beauty displayed his plumage as soon as we approached within 50 feet. The male displays and quivers his fan-like crest of feathers during courtship, but the less colorful females were keeping their distance, at least while we were there. (Asserting their modesty, I am sure.)
The peafowl turned to show off his tail feathers; I suggested that he might be mooning Bob, but this was not well-received by my travel mates…
Our touring completed, we arrived at Claudette’s family home in Scott and met her daughter Stephanie with her new foster daughter Riley, who is only five months old but already a beautiful and charming young lady.
Claudette was serving an amazing selection of Cajun cuisine; this plate of appetizers included two types of boudin and cracklins, which the Yankee contingent of our group had never before sampled. They were truly yummy, and we could have made a meal of the appetizers alone, but Claudette had more surprises to come…
… the main course was a delicious Cajun crab dish with onion-y potatoes, green beans and salad, followed by a very nice sorbet. It was a fun evening, made extra special by Claudette’s gracious hospitality and Stephanie’s vivacious company. We also learned of an Acadian Good Friday tradition, which we decided to experience the next morning…
… PIE DAY!!! One of Claudette’s dear friends and neighbors, Paul Begnaud, is 93, and continues the Jour de Tarte that began in France in the mid-12th Century. With work being prohibited on Good Friday, Holy Thursday was used to prepare the meals for the following day. Fruit pies were very popular since there was no refrigeration to ensure safe meals. Paul’s grandmother began the tradition in Scott over 100 years ago, which was continued by his mother and sister. Everyone in town is invited to partake, from 0730-1500 on Good Friday; we got there early just in case!
Paul’s home (formerly a bank building) is now the site of a day-long process of assembling and baking over 100 pies, including blackberry, fig, chocolate, custard, and coconut. Here Suzanne, Claudette and Claudette’s sister-in-law Marlene admire many of the pies awaiting their consumption; I briefly considered stuffing a chocolate pie under my shirt and ducking out a back door, but knew I could never get away with such a dirty deed on Good Friday…
Paul also loves art, and his eclectic collection covers the walls of his unique home, whose kitchen is located in the former bank vault.
On the way out, we met Scott’s Mayor, Purvis Morrison, and his wife Mary, two delightful people who were on their way to host a crawfish feast at their home.
Our visit to the friendly town of Scott had been brief, but it was made especially memorable by Claudette’s warm Southern (and especially Acadian) hospitality and fantastic cooking. We hope to see her and Stephanie again when they visit our mutual friend Reve’ in The Villages. Until then, we will have to try some Cajun recipes from a Junior League Cajun cookbook Claudette gave Suzanne; and yes, I did get some frozen crawfish at Early’s Cajun Supermarket on the way out of town!
Oh, one last note… while touring the area, we listened to a CD from Cajun comedian Dave Petitjean. He related a study that proved that bald men were 80% more virile than men with hair. This news elated Bob, until the comic mentioned “Part 2″… that bald men also had 80% fewer opportunities to prove their virility. Ohhh noooo…… sorry, Bob! Dave also noted that bald men should never wear a white turtleneck shirt. Why? Because they may be mistaken for a roll-on deodorant.