Suppers in South Louisiana
I grew up in Krotz Springs, LA, on the
banks of the Atchafalaya River. Krotz Springs is in the middle of
the Atchafalaya basin of south Louisiana. Going to camp suppers was
a way of life. Camp suppers where usually held at hunting/fishing
camps. The cook was almost always male and the menu was almost always
something from the woods or the river. The flavor was rich, bold
and spicy because the food had to match the "bull" that was shot and the
"drink" that was drunk. It was the best and most authentic cajun
food one could have, with dishes such at turtle sauce piquante, crawfish
bisque, fish courtbouillon, gumbo, smothered duck, woodcock, squirrel or
rabbit. Actually, we smothered (which means slow cooking in a brown
gravy) just about anything you could get in the pot. Anybody might
show up to eat. The word would spread that so and so was cooking
a supper, and any of your relatives or friends might show up for a taste,
a drink and a good time.
The men folk also did a fair amount
of cooking at home, and it was almost always outside. Regardless
of the meal or the holiday, if the food was cooked inside it was cooked
by my mama, sister or aunt. But, if it was food that had to be cooked
outside, the cooking almost always was done by the men in the family.
This included fish frys or crawfish boils many Friday nights (in those
days Catholics couldn't eat meat on Fridays), barbecue chicken, big pots
of gumbo, and in modern times fried turkey. For really big gatherings
we would roast a suckling pig in a cochon de lait. I have fond memories
of staying up all night with my late brother-in-law Ronnie roasting a pig
in the open end of a tin building by reflected heat from a fire at the
one of the Cooks
As one ages in this type of culture,
you gradually become one of the "camp" or "outdoor" cooks. And over
time you develop your own recipes and dishes for which you are known.
I have a cousin who is known for his jambalaya, and when the family gets
together he is expected to cook and bring a big pot of jambalaya - in fact
no one else dare bring any. Similarly, another family friend is the
main turkey fryer because he has the secret marinade.
So over the years I've developed a few
recipes, and will share them with you. Of course, they are not meant
to be followed exactly, they are just a starting point. Everyone
has to add their own style.
©David Wm. Reed