Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Swamp Creature

My grandparents' property in Sunshine, LA
Today I started thinking about all the things I miss about Louisiana. What I miss most is probably my maternal grandmother, who was the personification of Cajun culture. Maw-Maw spoke in broken French often, usually in short phrases to us kids. The most common phrase was "Mon Dieu!" It was usually spat out in disgust over something that made her mad. If she felt pity for someone, she would say, "Shah, bébé". She had entire conversations in French with her sister, which was annoying because I was a nosy little girl.

Food is a huge part of the culture, and crawfish stew was Maw-Maw's specialty. It was chock full of the most succulent crawfish tails. She also made grits topped with redeye gravy. I wish I had asked her how she made that special gravy before she died. No one else in the family knows what I'm talking about. It was different from the roux she used in her other stews. It had a red color to it and a unique, bold taste. Her filé gumbo and crab stew were mouth watering as well. Although Maw-Maw didn't make this, I really miss boudin and fresh beignet's with powdered sugar on top. Outside at the bingo hall, there was a married couple that made jambalaya cooked in a huge, black kettle, with a fire underneath. There's something about cooking in black, cast iron that truly enhances the flavor of food.

The bayou was a scary place as a child. Maw-Maw told some pretty terrifying stories in an effort to dissuade me from venturing too far from the house. She instilled a lot of fear in her children and the grandchildren were no exception. Since I had to live with my grandparents for many summers after my parents divorced, I heard the warnings almost daily. Some days I would feel brave enough to climb up the levee, around the bend to a remote part of the river. A screeching bird or a twig snap would send me squealing back home in record time. According to Maw-Maw, beyond the bend in the levee lived a swamp man, covered in algae, that would eat me alive if he found me. I believed it too. I wouldn't advocate this type of deterent today, but looking back, I understand why she did it. After all, some people we knew had indeed drowned in the swamp, or been attacked by alligators. I just wish she hadn't painted such a vivid picture of the swamp creature. It makes me shiver to this very day.

1 comment:

Linda said...

Hi, Gail. I decided to go back to the beginning and see how you started blogging and pick up on some of the tidbits I'd missed by not joining your site until last year sometime. Love this post. I could visualize your grandmother and imagine the fear she instilled in you. I'm off to read a little more.