I spent a good many years hiding in books—whether writing them or reading them. Basically, I hid. Like a little coward. I recognize how afraid of everything and everyone I have been. I’m still working on some of that. Yet. Now I see the need to explore and experience, for I know discovery will improve my writing, and my life.
Though I was born in the mountains, I spent a good many years in South Louisiana. My Virginia Kate Sagas hold South Louisiana (and West Virginia—where I was born) at the heart of them.
I recently visited South Louisiana and was reminded of the unique nature of Place, and how important a role it plays in our work. How the sensory details we add to our work enrich it in so many important ways. A reader will feel and see and taste. I have my own need to feel and see and taste.
If you go to South Louisiana you will be fed, and you will be fed often, and you will be fed cheerfully. Residents of South Louisiana think that if you are not living in South Louisiana, well then, you are starving! You are lacking in what is known as “good eatin’!” Go to South Louisiana and be prepared for the onslaught of sights and sounds and aromas (and odors) assaulting your senses. Taste the spice, which is not just pepper and cayenne and Tabasco as some restaurants outside of South Louisiana seem to think, but the eclectic mix of seasoning.
I’ve enjoyed quite a bit of Louisiana food, though some of the food I mention here is not for me, no matter how well prepared and seasoned; there are some things I just will not no way no how put in my mouth—nope.
The gulf shrimp, the oysters, the catfish, the boudin, the boiling frying grilling blackening, couchon de lait, fried raccoon leg (with the lower leg fur and foot still attached—I saw this at a street fair, ugh), powder-sugar-dusted beignets, jambalaya, turtle soup, frog’s legs, gumbo, etouffee, cracklins, crawfish, community coffee, bread pudding, George’s under the interstate, Diguilio’s, Gino’s, Don’s, Hymel’s—which is part grocery, part bar, part gas station—the bait stores that are also groceries with cheeses and wines and Stage Plank gingerbread, French bread, King’s Cake, unidentified stuff on a stick. At Roux 61 where I forced myself to taste a tiny bite of fried alligator (it’s weirdly stereotypical-chickeny but also chewy and it freaks me out) they offer hamburger poboys loaded up with batter-fried bacon of which I absolutely did not eat no matter how much my friends cajoled and urged and laughed at my look of horrified wonder.
You can’t throw a tiny bitty rock a block without hitting a place that offers food. Even the smallest most awkward looking eatery knows how to cook with those spices, and knows how to fry up anything you hand them. Anything. Oh, and your friends or their friends or someone somewhere will cook for you too.
Gary Carden, a local favorite Storyteller here in our mountains, wrote some really great things about my Tender Graces book, and in that review he said the novel had so much food in it, he had a bit of heartburn by time he finished reading it. Made me laugh so much, even now I’m laughing as I type this. Food is such a huge part of all of our cultures, and in South Louisiana—well, I don’t know, it is just somehow different and just so much … more. You have to be there. Go see for yourself. [Read more…]