Last, but certainly not least in my guest post lineup, is Yam, or as she’s known to some of us, “Justice.” We met back in law school days and she always had such a “judicial” presence about her, throwing down ole’ Louisiana grandma wisdom and phrases in Judge Judy fashion that a nickname that was unflappable as she was seem apropos. However, once we really got to know her, we realized she’s just as much of a mess as the rest of us, but the nickname stuck. Though I only lived in the same town as her for 1 ½ years (which, I can’t even believe), she was part of the epic European backpacking trip of 2005, one of my fellow Katrina refugees, and is a necessary voice in my daily email thread with Lettuce. She’s always up for a relaxing spa vacation and a good hearty meal, and can out-eat any man, woman or child. Actually, a match-up between her stomach and Tomato’s would be one that, I think, people would pay to see. Without further ado, here’s Yam lesson on some Louisiana culture and an ode to her favorite shrimp po’boy.
Lassiez les bon temps rouler, HB fans, its me, Yam! I met HB in law school and quickly became one of her friends with an *ahem* healthy appetite. My love for food is literally in my blood. You see, I grew up in the heart of Acadiana – Lafayette, Louisiana, where Cajun and Creole culture reigns. Acadiana consists of several parishes along south Louisiana where French Canadians from Acadia settled in the late 1700s. These people, and the culture became known as Cajun, a derivation of the word Acadian. Creole people, on the other hand, are those that are descendant of French, Spanish and African heritage. Acadiana boast some of the richest culture in the country and beautiful bayou scenery. On any given weekend, you can find a festival, whether it be the crawfish festival in Breaux Bridge, the Frog Leg festival in Rayne, or my personal favorite, Festival International de Louisiane, in Lafayette, the country’s largest free Francophone festival in the country. The culture is rich, but most people know us for our food (and accents).
While most people think of Creole and Cajun food styles as interchangeable, there are many differences – the major one being that Creole food is typically tomato- based, and Cajun food is not. Despite the differences, most of our authentic dishes start out with what we refer to as the “holy trinity,” which consists of onion, bell pepper and celery. I grew up eating jambalaya, gumbo, ettouffe, boiled crawfish and shrimp, catfish, meat pies, red beans and rice, and boudin. A good meal in Lafayette is never far away and some of my favorite local dishes have even come from gas stations- shout out to the Texaco in Opelousas for some of the best boudin I’ve had. One of our lunchtime favorites is the po’boy.
To some, a po’boy is simply a sandwich, but calling it such does not do it justice. My favorite place for po’boys is Old Thyme Grocery. Old Thyme, located blocks away from our local college, University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL) has been a Lafayette staple since 1982.
I’ve never had a po’boy from Old Thyme that I didn’t love, but my favorite, by far, is the shrimp. It’s made with fresh French bread and I prefer mine with simply the plump, juicy fried shrimp, lettuce tomato and hot sauce. I recently went home to visit family and stopped at Old Thyme before I even made it home. As soon as I walked into my family home, I hugged everyone, washed my hands and ate standing up. The shrimp is always perfectly seasoned and fried and definitely piled high! I ate it with a bag of our local potato chip, Zapps. As you all know, I am the friend that never wants to split, always eats the entire bowl from Chipotle in one sitting, believes that tapas meals are a tease and enjoys real Southern portion sizes. In short, I have a healthy Louisiana gal appetite. It may not look like too large, but it is. In fact, I could only eat half (I finished the other half about 2 hours later).
Growing up, I would typically have a snow cone from the Old Tyme stand out back, but these days it’s a frozen beverage of a different sort. It’s not pictured, but I guzzled the po’boy down with a strawberry daiquiri from one of our local drive thru daiquiri spots. Surprisingly, it was not until I left the state for college that I realized how strange this concept is. Yes, in south Louisiana you can get a daiquiri (with extra shots even) from a drive thru. I won’t try to justify it, but they are delicious. Depending on your fancy, you can get a Gin and Sin, Hurricane or a regular Strawberry daiquiri. Of course, I had to end my meal with a praline. Pralines, also known by some as pecan candy, are made from melting butter and sugar together, stirring in cream and adding a heap of pecans. The result? Pure, unadulterated deliciousness.
I am the first to admit that Louisiana is riddled with issues, but I loved growing up in Lafayette. I love our culture, the accents and even the humidity. Last year, Lafayette was even voted the happiest city in the country. In Lafayette, you’ll be guaranteed to experience a rich culture, make new friends, and learn a few new phrases. So, if ever in Louisiana, know that we are more than just New Orleans and make it a point to travel to Lafayette!
The food in Lafayette is much better anyway, but that’s a conversation for a different post.
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