Friday, November 28, 2014

Raising Cane

Wow, what a busy week it has been.  More local food and music and a couple of road trips.  On Saturday it was the Cajun jam session at Touchet's and some great food.  Nanc, Betty and I went to the casino on Sunday, it was not a lucky day so no pictures of us celebrating:(  Monday the whole park went to learn how sugar cane is grown and to the woodman.  Of course, there were stops for food each day.    
Since going on the road we have discovered the joy of great raw oysters.  We have learned to only order them were the locals go and not at touristy places like NOLA.  Shuck's in Abbeville has really good ones and we will have to have them again before we hit the road.
We love the music at Touchet's Cajun jam session.  Half the crowd this week was from Betty's.  This is not to be missed if you are traveling though Acadiana.
Nanc even got into the music with the squeeze box.  Who knew?
Nan, George, George, Sue, Ginny and Ray, all from Betty's enjoying the foot tappin music.
We were the guests of Mrs. Walet and her daughter, Laney, who showed us the workings of their 1300 acre sugar cane farm.  Their farm has been in the family for over 100 years.  We have seen all the fields of cane and trucks hauling the harvest so it was great learning the whole process.
Dan explained how they plant and harvest the cane with this big combine.  About 300 of their acres are for seed cane for future plantings.  They just lay long stalks on the ground and they take root.  One planting can be harvested for three or four years before the field is burned and replanted.
The field in the foreground has been harvested and enough of the stalk is left that it will grow again next year.  They are waiting for the mill to let them know when they can harvest and deliver their crop from the other fields. 
The combine puts the cane in wagons in the field and they then load it onto big tractor trailers to ship it to a mill about 10 miles away.  The harvest has to be completed before a hard freeze destroys the crop.
Laney cut some raw cane and we all got a taste.  It is very, very sweet right out of the field.
There are several sugar cane mills in the area.  They are only open about three months during the fall harvest.  They produce brown sugar that must be sent through an extra process to turn it white.  Thanks to the Walet family for the inside look at raising cane and their hospitality.  They even baked us cookies and shared some of their pecans and satsumas.  Very nice people.
The whole group from Betty's had lunch at Victor's in New Iberia.  The sign on the wall, Dave Robicheaux eats here, refers to a character in books by local author James Lee Burke who does still eat here.
After lunch we all went to see Gerald the woodman.  We have been here several times, but it is always interesting.  Gerald goes into the swamp and picks old cedar stumps that were left behind when they were logged over a hundred years ago.  Some of the wood he works with is more than a 1000 years old.
Since the supply of old wood is limited he uses as much of it as possible.  The background is some of the old wood drying out.  He turns bowls and makes many other things from the wood.
Here he is turning a bowl for the lucky winner from Betty's.  We love going to the woodman to see his work and hear his stories about collecting wood and creating beautiful things with it.  You can tell he really loves his job.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler

We usually try to take it easy during the week while we are here because the weekends are so busy.  There are the daily happy hours and an excursion or two, but most adventures are over the weekends.  That said, it was another great week at Betty's with more people passing through, more varieties of food and, of course, more music.
This week we checked out a couple of places we have not visited before and one old favorite.  On Saturday there was no jam session at the Museum Cafe so we drove to Pop A Tops for their Cajun jam.  There were a couple of musicians we have met before and several new ones.  It was neat checking out a new place.  As long as we have been coming here we have heard rave reviews about Bon Creole (top) in New Iberia so we checked it out.  The raves were well deserved.  Nanc had gumbo and I had a shrimp po boy, both were great.  Don't be turned away by the shabby exterior, Bon Creole is a must do.  Another day we went to El Chile Verde for some real Mexican.  We have been here before and it never disappoints.  
Sunday is usually a pot luck dinner at Betty's, but this week we did breakfast instead for a change of pace.  As always there was a great variety of food.  The bar is really high here.
Bananas in Louisiana!!  Who knew?  Betty had to cut and hang them inside as we had a couple of nights with temps below freezing.  That weather has now passed and it is back to normal with highs in the 70s, much better.
Our first time at Betty's in 2008 we met Ollie (center) and always make it a priority to see her every time we are here.  We had a great visit with her and Elda at the Museum Cafe.  Ollie's 70th class reunion is this week and 8 of her 12 classmates are going to be there.  These Cajuns sure must live right.
On Monday it was back to the Museum to see Ollie and have a great seafood gumbo dinner.
No this is not a drug deal going down, it is Nanc and Betty buying homemade tamales from Helen. All kinds of food is a big deal here.
More new friends, Nan and George (left) who have been fulltiming since April and Canadians George and Sue who have been on the road since 2005.  It is great getting to share travel stories with new people.
Only in cowboy country.  Two guys riding their horses down the road in front of Betty's with a beer in a bag.  Wonder if they could get picked up for having an open container?
We decided to add a bit of Western PA food to the mix when we found pierogies at a Lafayette grocery store.  They were a big hit.  Laissez les bon temps rouler!!! (Let the good times roll!!)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Another Week of Friends, Food and Music

When, like us. you stay at Betty's for an extended period you meet many people who are just staying for a few days or a week.  Many, like us, get caught in Betty's web and extend their stay or make plans to return in the future.  It is great seeing old and making new friends here.
On Saturday we went to the Cajun jam session at Touchet's.  While we always enjoy the the regulars' music, every once in a while we get a special treat.  This Saturday it was accordionist Richard Labouef who had the place rockin.  If you ever get a chance to hear him play don't miss it.  
A few people from Betty's at the jam.  Deb, Jim, Peggy and Dan in Touchet's "horny corner".  Joyce and John are first timers to Betty's.  Sandra and Buz, who we met here a couple years ago, still have a house in Ohio not far from WashPA.
Betty's veterans Carol and Gene being real brave at Touchet's with those Alabama colors on the day they were playing LSU.  Quebec residents Robert and Francine who are first time visitors.
Sandra, Buz, Jay and Vickie, who we have met here before, enjoying a Betty's happy hour.
Betty's niece Monica and her husband Cordell.  Betty with a former co-worker Willie who just retired and his wife Julie.
Deb and Jim celebrating their last night.  Look how well Dan and Peggy are getting along after being full timers for three weeks.  I've added their blog to my list if you want to follow the adventures of a couple newbies.
One afternoon a few of us drove south into the bayou to check out Don's Boat Landing.   It was wiped out by a hurricane a few years ago and when they rebuilt they put all the coolers and other heavy equipment on wheels for easy evacuation. 
And they have great Bloody Mary's
Another day and more great food.  Suire's is a must stop for real homemade Cajun delights.  It does not look like much from the outside, but it is famous enough that it was written up in the New York Times.
This week the first SKPs we ever met, Wanda and Wallace, (left) showed up for their first Betty's visit.  We have crossed paths with them several times over the years including this past summer in Alaska.  Right are SKPs Fran and Sharon who we camped next to in Bushnell the last time we were in Florida.  We are looking forward to more fun times and more friends, old and new, as more people pass through Betty's for a taste of Acadiana.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Egg-citing Week of Food

Another reason we keep coming back to Betty's is because there are so many things to do.  In addition to the daily happy hours and regular weekly happening, there are many festivals within a miles every weekend that offer crafts, music and food.
One that we have never been here for is Abbeville's Giant Omelette Celebration the first weekend of November.  As you can see, they cook the eggs on an open fire in the middle of the street.  The tradition goes back to the time of Napoleon when, after enjoying the eggs that were served to him in the town of Bessieres, he ordered all the farmers to bring their eggs to town and prepare an omelette for his army. From this event it became an Easter tradition to feed omelettes to the poor in the village.
I don't think there are any events in LA without some music.  On Sunday there was a Zydeco band (bottom) and the Fra Tras Cajun Band.  We know the drummer, bass player and accordionist in this group. 
A few of the people from Betty's who gathered to watch the egg-stravigant event.
In 1984 three citizens of Abbeville attended the Easter Omelette Festival in France and were knighted as the town's first chevaliers.  They decided to bring this French tradition to Louisiana.  The chevaliers carrying baskets of eggs and loaves of bread.
It takes a lot of cooks to make and serve a 5000 egg omelette.
Each year one more honored egg is added so this year there were 5030.  The honored egg was dubbed "Eggward Eggbert".  The tools of the trade to cook without burning all those eggs.  The woman in the cart is the last of Abbeville's original chevaliers.
Representatives of the cities that have omelette festivals in France, New Caledonia, Canada, Belgium and Argentina bring an international flair to the Abbeville festival.
You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.
The giant skillet is moved into place with a forklift.  They use 50 lbs. of onions, 75 bell peppers, 4 gallons of onion tops, 2 gallons of parsley, 1.5 gallons of oil, 6.5 gallons of milk, 52 pounds of butter, 3 boxes of salt, 2 boxes of black pepper, crawfish tails and Tabasco Pepper Sauce to taste.
Baskets of bread ready to feed the masses.
In addition to the large skillet they have a small one for chevaliers in training.
The chevaliers keep mixing all the ingredients until the Head Gourmet gives the word that the eggs are ready to be served.
And then all the volunteers spoon out the eggs to be served to everyone in attendance.
They were so good we stayed for two servings.  If you are in Abbeville the the first weekend of November don't miss the Giant Omelette Celebration.
The next food happening this week was Linda (left) showing all who wanted to learn how to make spring rolls.  Here she is cooking the onions, carrots, celery and shrimp for Nanc's in the wok.  Others used meat rather than shrimp.
After the ingredients were cooked everyone wrapped theirs in dough.
The next step was deep frying them in oil and Dave stepped in as Linda's assistant.
Linda cut the extra dough into strips and made fried strips that were then seasoned for a crispy snack.
Nanc with the finished spring rolls and the wine she used while cooking.
Then, everyone gathered to enjoy their handy work.  We always eat well when we are at Betty's and you never know what kind of food it will be.  Thanks to Linda for the cooking class.