It seems like we’re out there every weekend feasting off the fat of the land, soaking in Cajun hospitality, and gorging on pork routee, grillades, cracklins and boudin.
Do they have 9th Ward-style second lines on Sunday?The Louisiana Gumbo Festival at Chackbay started 47 years ago as a Lafourche Parish food party put on by the fire department and Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic Church.
The festival has grown considerably over the years to become one of the largest in Louisiana. It speaks to the party’s popularity as it takes place vs Festival Acadiens, Bridge City Gumbo Fest, and New Iberia’s gumbo fete, and thousands of people still choose Chackbay for their weekend get-drunk-and-have-a-good-time outing.
Upon arrival in the ‘census designated place’ of Chackbay we immediately vector in on the festival grounds, and stride into the gumbo kitchen.We proceed to have an involved conversation regarding the mechanics of preparing gumbo for thousands of hungry Cajuns. Two of the cooks are in the kitchen and happy to talk about how they get the job done.
We have to know about the roux right off the bat, and one of the gents admits that it’s prepared off-site and brought in. He shows us the stash. The broth is extremely thin, one of the thinnest we’ve ever encountered. Whoever is applying the roux to the soup has a light hand. Andouille is sourced from Opelousas out in Evangeline Parish. The chicken thighs are cooked off-site and trucked in as well.When you’re cooking for thousands of people, and you’ve done it for nearly 50 years you develop shortcuts so you don’t send yourself to an early grave with worry.
Two 45 gallon tilt kettles are in action. The team knocks out 90 gallons right at the start of the party, take that batch to the cooler, then starts another round. This process gets repeated over and over again til the crowd begs for relief as they’ve become more gumbo than human after consuming mass quantities of the stuff.Eight bucks will get you a pint of your choice of chicken and sausage or shrimp and okra gumbo. Potato salad comes alongside the offering-a small skift of rice sits on the bottom of each gumbo cup.
Unfortunately the potato salad cook saw fit to use sweet pickles in the mix thereby negating what is normally a delicious adjunct ingredient to the Lafourche region’s gumbo.To each his own. There are plenty cooks the world over who do the exact same thing.
There are people who put ketchup on fresh gulf seafood too.
Aberrance is found in kitchens everywhere.A massive pavilion is seeing heavy action from a medium-sized group of dancing Cajuns. Hank Williams Jr is a popular choice for the cover band.
Further afield the same carnies that were at Festival of Old Times down in Raceland last week have set up shop hawking chances to take home Confederate flags and a vast array of stuffed animals.A large baker’s rack filled with bagged-up sweet treats greets arriving partyers. Carrot cake, German chocolate cake, coconut cake, peanut butter cake, yellow cake with chocolate frosting, and peanut butter fudge are on offer but I note the absence of ooey gooey, perhaps the finest sweet treat Acadiana has ever developed.
A dollar will get you four goodly chunks of peanut butter fudge. I feel like I’m always battling the eventuality of diabetes but I surrender to my lust and score a nice bag of that fudge. “For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.”We’ve gotten wind of a quick mart in nearby Luling that is reportedly selling some of the best boudin in the region. The tipster was mysterious, merely saying that it’s “on River Road and run by Asians”
That’s all the information we ever need when we’re going hunting. Give us a general area, a detail or two about the purveyor and we don’t care if it’s catfish or cracklins. We’ll drive the wheels off our battered old van if there’s a sliver of hope we’ll get to tie on our feasting bib at the end of the journey.