I grew up in the south, and although I lack a southern accent (except for the irreplaceable “ya’ll), I have no difficulty understanding “southern.” For Eric, California boy that he is, it’s almost a foreign language.
At Poche’s smokehouse in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, Eric smiled politely when the cashier asked him if he’d like some cracklins to go with our purchase of crawfish and homemade sausage. I answered, “Thanks, but no.” As soon as we got out the door, Eric said, “What the heck did she ask me?” (To be fair, it was a heavy Cajun accent, which is even more difficult to understand.)
A sign on the wall menu at Poche’s proclaims, “Every part of the hog is good, from the rooter to the tooter.” We passed on the rooters and tooters (as far as we know) but did enjoy a wonderful Cajun inspired dish that night of crawfish jambalaya flavored with a bit of Poche’s smoked homemade sausage.
We’ve had a taste of the swamps and bayous in three different states in the past three days. At Caddo Lake State Park in the far eastern corner of Texas, we kayaked through a cypress swamp draped in Spanish moss, accompanied by the raucous calls of Pileated Woodpeckers and the songs of Carolina Wrens. In the time-forgotten town of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, we spent a peaceful night at Poche’s Fish-N-Camp, just a couple of miles from the family smokehouse.
And in Gautier, Mississippi, we overnighted at Shepherd State Park, close to the Mississippi Sandhill Crane Refuge, where we spent the next morning exploring this unique ecosystem. This is one of the few remaining wet pine savannahs, and home to a dozen species of carnivorous plants and abundant birdlife, including a small population of endangered Mississippi Sandhill Cranes. We saw a number of species that we don’t see in Oregon, including Brown-headed Nuthatches, Carolina Chickadees, Blue Jays, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Eastern Bluebirds, Brown Thrashers, and Northern Cardinals. We’ve finally hit the birding jackpot on this trip.
While in Mississippi, we spent a couple of hours at the rustic Pascagoula Audubon Center, enjoying the company of the director of the center. He’s Cajun, and told us, “You know, we eat anything!” and proceeded to delight us with a hilarious story of his efforts to contain invasive species by sponsoring a hunt for plants and animals that are threatening to displace native species.
That willingness to eat anything may be a bit rough on those with delicate digestive tracts, though. At Poche’s smokehouse and restaurant, I couldn’t help but notice that right next to the register, and just across from the rooter and tooter motto, are two shelves of digestive aids, ranging from Gas-X to Ex-Lax. (We had no problems, but then again, we stuck to some pretty safe choices.)