In the right hands they can be among the best things you ever put in your mouth. Can you imagine the grillades Creole cooking legend Marcelle Bienvenu brings to table?
Traditionally grillades are served as a main course, perhaps on a bed of grits, polenta or mashed potatoes but out in Gheens, Louisiana the brain-trust behind the Bon Mange Festival had the idea of tucking them into a fat loaf of bread and garnishing them with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.
We’re always looking for an excuse to venture out into Acadiana where plenty men still wear hats festooned with coon dick bones and the fixation on good eating borders on the criminal. Outlaws have been made over kettles of gumbo in Cajun country.Lafourche Parish dates to 1807 and is one of the original 19 parishes formed after the Louisiana Purchase. Rolling across the swampy farmland we take note of plenty handmade signs beckoning travelers down dirt driveways with promises of ‘farm eggs’ ‘sorghum’ and ‘wild catfish’
Gheens, Louisiana is the creation of John R. Gheens a ‘fine old Kentucky gentleman,’ who had put down stakes in the Louisiana of the 19th century. Gheens was a sugar and cattle baron and a mover and shaker of the highest order. His 1918 obituary mentions that “his hobby was the purchase of wetlands and their reclamation for agricultural purposes.”Walking into the Gheens Community center it’s clear that the good citizens have come to party. A cover band is rocking Louis Jordan and the average age on the dance floor is upper 70s. A battery of crockpots lines one wall with a door separating yet another battery of slow cookers. It’s time.
We work our way through a salvo of excellent, rural-church-lady food before we polish things off with the aforementioned grillades po boy. This sandwich is a beast, filled to bursting with succulent grillades of heavily salted and peppered pork and slathered with plenty good mayonnaise. At $8 this is one of the best values of the entire series.A quartet of beauty queens walks by drawing our attention to a table laden with homemade pralines and cracklins. We load up a sack of sweets and fried out hog fat and make our way outside into swampy, humid Lafourche Parish.
A supermodel is leaned up against a Mercury smoking a cigarette while a man maneuvers a massive Dodge pickup truck out of the parking lot. Talk turns to Mosca’s Chicken a la Grande and whether we’ll be hungry for a fistful of garlic by the time we get to Westwego.