|Cajun Country Rebounds|
Nearly one year af ter the disastrous BP oil spill, Louisiana is still trying to overcome not only the direct aftermath of the incident, but the widely-held view that the entire coastal area of the state has faced devastation. Truth be told, the coastal parishes (counties) of southwest Louisiana, which embody a good chunk of Cajun Country, were never damaged by the oil spill: no tar balls, no damage to the marshes, no fouling of the oyster beds and no of fensive odors tainting the seafood. In fact, the locals have never stopped eating the area’s seafood or drinking its water, and they want to spread the word that, despite the recent misfortunes, their culture and lifestyle is alive and well. Visitors, especially Great Lakes boaters who are looking for some outdoor activities during the of f-season, will enjoy the many activities awaiting them in Cajun Country.
TAKE A RIDE
The best way to get a feel for the area is by planning a road trip to enjoy the character of the many small towns in the area. Traveling from one to another, you will see a landscape that is mostly ﬂat, and local highways will take you past sugar cane ﬁelds, rice ﬁelds and fallow ﬁelds that have been ﬂooded and “seeded” with crawﬁsh traps.
Boaters can take powerboats, sailboats or canoes on the various lakes, streams, rivers, bayous, swamps and marshes. There are even airboat tours of marshes, such as the ones offered by Airboats & Alligators in Grand Chenier. Call (337) 274-2395 for more information.
VISIT CHARMING TOWNS
Lake Charles, located in Calcasieu Parish, which borders Texas, is the largest city in the area and offers a variety of hotels, restaurants and casinos, golf courses and two inland beaches. The city caters to many tastes with ﬂashy casinos, quiet golf courses, hunting and ﬁshing outings, and an array of festivals.
Abbeville is the home of the C.S. Steens Sugar Mill that has been in business since 1910. Stop by St. Mary Magdalen Cemetery, which was established in 1843 and contains more than 500 graves with some headstones engraved in French, and the Guarino Blacksmith Shop Museum that offers demonstrations in the art of blacksmithing.
SAVOR CAJUN FOOD
No trip to Cajun Country is complete without indulging in Cajun cuisine. The widely held notion that all Cajun fare is spicy is off the mark. While always rich in taste, the dishes have varying degrees of intensity. Many small, unassuming stores/restaurants dot the roadsides. Although these small shops might at ﬁrst seem like no more than places to purchase bait or ﬁshing licenses, stop and take a closer look. One such establishment is Suire’s Grocery & Restaurant that is located on Highway 35 in the town of Kaplan.
Run by Suire sisters Joan and Lisa, the simple dining area has tables and chairs, walls decorated with old family photos, and is a regular stop for duck hunters and ﬁshermen looking for a quick breakfast of boudin, a sausage-like item made with various amounts of ground pork, liver, rice, onions, parsley and spices of salt, red and black pepper and garlic powder.
Try the regular staples of pistolettes (a type of fried bread roll that is stuffed with seafood, meat or cheese), gumbos (spicy chicken or seafood soups that are usually thickened with okra or rice), etouffees (Cajun stew made with vegetables and seafood) and sandwiches. Don’t miss the turtle sauce picante or the homemade pecan pie that is noteworthy for not being excessively sweet. Lisa relies on family recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation.
Southeast of Kaplan is the town of Abbeville, home of Shucks! the Louisiana Seafood House restaurant. David Bertrand, ebullient co-owner, proudly describes the quality of the oysters from Cameron Parish and the ﬁner points of menu specialties.
He will also demonstrate how to “kiss” a freshly shucked oyster from its shell. Menu specialties include crab cakes, several catﬁsh and crawﬁsh delights, and oysters that are pan-broiled, fried, stuffed or served on the half shell.
Additional oyster specialties include candied oysters that are prepared with a cane sugar vinaigrette, oysters Rockefeller that are prepared with spinach, and oysters “Shuckafeller” that are topped with a special cheese sauce.