|"LAISSEZ LES BONS TEMPS ROULER"
Let the Good Tomes Roll!!
Rolled into the Cajun Campground and was greeted warmly by the owner, Francis, who is one of the nicest gentlemen I have met. He went out of his way to make sure our stay there was the greatest and that we didn't miss anything.
The campground is in a rural area outside of Eunice and is sooo...quiet and peaceful after being in Walmart parking lots, and a few other places with railroads and airplanes.
We were also greeted by a former WIN, Sherry and Fred, who took us to DI's Restaurant the first night. We were then taught how to eat crayfish (you don't call them crawfish in the south). They come whole so you have to pull their heads off and the you pinch the tails and pull the meat out. Sounds a little barbaric, but it works! I proceeded to order 3 lbs and went to work. Sounds like a lot, but there is not a whole lot of meat in their little tales. When everything is said and done I can honestly say that I did it, it was an experience, the meat was great, but it was an awful lot of work. LOL
We finished off the night listening to Cajun music and dancing. What fun!!
The next night was a Cajun jam session at the campground and Arlene, my WIN friend, was taught how to play a rub board (washboard) which sounds easy, but takes a little finesse. She did great and was a huge success. I stayed away from the stage and handled the dance floor.
Sunday we had a potluck at the campground, with a band, and a "Krewe" showed up and we got the first taste of Mardi Gras. A "Krewe" is a group of people that dress up in costume with masks and come in an beg for money or food to be cooked on Fat Tuesday, some are on horseback, some on homemade floats.
To back up a bit...The country Mardi Gras....way back when...the landowners would allow the poor people to dress up and go from farm to farm begging for food that would be consumed on Fat Tuesday before lent. An overseer would go with them and approach the farm and ask permission for the Krewe to come on the property. The farmer might give them a few coins, some vegetables, and maybe a chicken. If it was a chicken, he would throw it high in the air and every one would run after it. Thus the term "chicken run" is used, and is still practiced during the Mardi Gras parade. The parade starts early in the morning and proceeds through all the rural area, stopping a the farms and houses, just like they did a hundred years ago. It gets into town about 3PM with everyone hollering and whooping, and carrying the chickens they had caught.
There are many Krewes represented in the parade some with backgrounds dating into the 1800's.
At the potluck they came parading in with two "Blackfaces" (see the pics) leading. The makeup was great. The whole time the band is playing Cajun. They began to go into the crowd and beg, and you give them a quarter. We threw coins on the dance floor and the kids would mimic the begging and put them in a basket. All of the money collected by any of the Krewes is donated to a charity in Eunice. Finally the overseers come in and round up the "beggers" and out they go. The costumes are suppose to be made from rags, and the masks are a piece of screen that has been decorated. They wear hats called capuchons, which are cone shaped and were worn with the masks to make fun of the gentry who wore that type of hat.
The middle of town is closed off and there are bands and dancing in the street from early morning till into the night till Wed morning which is the beginning of lent and the fasting is suppose to start.
The Cajun food that you hear about, Gumbo, Fricassee, Etouffee, all originate with the beggars getting the food and putting it in a pot to cook. A favorite sausage is boudin (pronounced bodaa), which is sausage, rice, and spices stuffed in a casing. Most of it is on the "warm (spicy)" side but I did find some at a store out in the middle of a rice paddy called "The Mowata Store" that was really good.
There is a bar in a town North of Eunice called Fred's Lounge. The bar is open on Sat and Sunday and broadcast a live radio program and band from there. The bar is maybe 1000 square foot, but they have speakers outside and everybody dances inside and out.
There is also a place called the Savoy (pronounced savwa)Club. It's a store that sells musical equipment, but is famous all over the world for it's handmade Cajun accordions.
Every Saturday people show up and just sit in a circle and jam. The place is packed.
The friendliness and generosity of the people of this area is unbelievable. People went out of their way to answer questions, teach you their dance,and help you.
I was very fortunate to celebrate Mardi Gras this way, not too many people experience this.