Cross Cultural Feasting

This weekend Ben and I went down in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana for a research field trip for one of his classes. We were there to study the culture, and in Louisiana, food is just part of the culture. So we did a lot of research. And these Cajuns have some crazy, frenchy food.

Ben started the trip off with an alligator sausage po-boy, with tiger sauce. The alligator sausage was actually pretty good, very tender. And apparently tiger sauce is a staple of the area – a horseradish-y sauce, also very good on pretty much anything.

I started off with shrimp and crab étouffée, where étouffée translates as “smothered.” And just to clarify, it’s a bed of rice that’s being smothered. I wasn’t a fan – the best word to describe this étouffée was gooey. That is never an appetizing word. I’ve actually had better étouffée before, so I know the dish itself is good. It must’ve just been an off day for this place.

We went to a place called Tartine that sells…tartines. These are French open-faced sandwiches on super good bread with fancy spreads. The Ratliffs both got regular American-type sandwiches – though they were fancy as well. This café was in a house, and a teeny tiny house at that. But it was fun.

You can’t go to New Orleans without going to Café Du Monde in the French Quarter. It’s just a crime if you do. So we went with some others that had never been before. It’s pretty easy to decide what to get there – all they offer are beignets and coffee. If you haven’t had the pleasure yet, beignets are square French-style doughnuts covered in a mountain (not an exaggeration) of powered sugar. And you have to get café au lait – which is New Orleans-style coffee with chicory, mixed half and half with hot milk. And in true NOLA style, Café Du Monde is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s only closed for Christmas day and when those pesky hurricanes pop up.

And I finished out the trip with steak Labouchere. Our waitress described Labouchere sauce as a mushroom based sauce. It was steak served over angel hair pasta with the sauce. It was pretty good. And then I had “killer chocolate cheesecake.” Perhaps not authentic to the area, but it definitely lived up to its name – I think part of my heart died.

The food was good, but the best part was that we got to experience the food-loving, easy-going culture of Louisiana that puts a real face to “eat, drink and be merry” by having lots of food with good conversation and fellowship without worrying about the clock. This is definitely culture I would love to encounter more often.


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