I loved that slogan – it was on our license plates for a few years. Far more apt than Sportsman’s Paradise, I suppose. Living in such a diverse state, which some have likened to a banana republic, takes a certain kind of mental state, for sure.
When I think of Louisiana, I think of home, even though I now live in Texas and have since 1989. My heart is still there, along with friends and family. Even though my dad passed, I still find reasons to return to New Orleans, my home town. As if I needed a reason.
I can always claim it was for research for my next book. I’ve got quite a few books set in Louisiana and in New Orleans, in particular. My Hearts of New Orleans series of novellas is set before, during and after Hurricane Katrina, a defining moment for the city, forever etched in its physical and emotional memory. Those first few years of struggling back from the brink of annihilation, the next few of getting on its feet, people returning, businesses reopening, and the Saints winning the Super Bowl. My Rougaroux Social Club series, about a pack of Cajun werewolves, is set in south Louisiana bayou country.
Nowadays, New Orleans is a city with its legs firmly under it and standing tall again. Sure, there are still problems, but the Crescent City will get over them and survive. It always has and always will.
Now anyone who has ever been to New Orleans knows it is not like any place else on earth and its people are what make it so special. And along with its people, its food is the shining star. Not just in New Orleans, but all over the state.
My aunt lives up north, in Monroe, La. That’s the redneck part of the state. It’s not Cajun and Catholic there, it’s country and southern Baptist. I remember going there as a kid, and being shown Bossier City (they had gambling!!!) and wondering what the big deal was – after all we had Bourbon Street. Been there – done that. But I never had better chicken and dumplings and greens.
And one of my favorite parts of the state is the middle. Okay, don’t laugh, but it’s truly beautiful, if you love tall pine trees, small towns, antiquing, and haunted plantations. Give me St. Francisville any day, and I can wander its roads and tour its grand houses until my heart’s content. Have finger sandwiches and tea in a cozy shop and fried catfish for dinner.
As a kid, I remember driving with my dad down the river to the very end of the road. Literally. The blacktop ended at Shell Beach and a restaurant on stilts where we’d eat fresh from the Gulf oyster and shrimp po’boys.
On Friday afternoons, my family would sit on the front porch steps and shuck fresh oysters and eat boiled crabs, crawfish and shrimp. I learned how to mix cocktail sauce by about six years old and could pinch the tails and suck the heads too.
So if you read my books, and I hope you’ll give them a try, you’ll find deliberate and mouth watering descriptions of food in each of them. What’s a book about Louisiana without talking about the food? Hell, I’m not sure you can talk about the state and not mention food. Try it. I dare you.
And when you’ve failed, don’t be sad. I’ve given up on it. I don’t have that much energy – I need it for eating. See I just got back from New Orleans and brought home two muffalettas, (four mini muffs), six pralines, and a couple bags of Zaps (sweet potato and Cajun and dill pickle). All I need to wash it down is a Barqs and I’m golden.
My Mom’s Shrimp Creole recipe --- not sure where she got it, but we ate it at least twice a month. (we had a rotating schedule – red beans were always on Monday and cooked with ham, spaghetti on Wednesday, pot roast or ham on Sundays, and in between, she experimented on us with recipes she’d find in the Times Picayune, or shared with friends.)
3 tbs oil
2 lg onions, chopped
4 lbs shrimp
2 green peppers
1 can tomato paste
1 can tomatoes (1lb)
1 cup each shallots, parsley, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups water
Heat oil, add onions and cook on low flame until light brown. Stir in flour and add shrimp and peppers. Cook a few minutes.
Add tomato paste, tomatoes, and garlic, stirring. Cook til tomatoes turn deep red (about 10 minutes)
Add water (enough to cover shrimp), parsley, shallots, bay leaf and cayenne.
Salt and pepper.
Cook 30 minutes.
Serve with white rice.
Lynn Lorenz is having a blast writing about romance and giving her characters a hard time before they get their happily ever after. She believes everyone deserves a HEA and that if you open your heart you’ll open your mind. You can reach her at her website www.lynnlorenz.com
Curiosity forced me to look up what Zapps were and here’s a link to Cajun and Dill Zapps. They sound pretty awesome (Added by Annette):
(Pictures provided by Louisiana Tourism Bureau and Author)