by Al Wilson & Trevor Johnson

Grandma says it starts with the roux, the base. The caramel colored goodness which is the beginning of all Cajun cooking. “Stir it low and slow,” she chides. It takes time and variety to make a good pot of gumbo — just like the culture of South Louisiana.

This multi-cultural blending of the French and Spanish, along with Acadians from Nova Scotia, and African-Americans brought as slaves has created a pot of different personalities and cultures that make South Louisiana something unique.

“South Louisiana accepted a lot of immigrants,” says Kathy Dugas, a history professor at Nicholls State University. “Even though there was a lot of prejudice, there was an acceptance of their cultures.”

And in the heart of South Louisiana, sits Thibodaux, a place Readers Digest in 2018 named as the most charming town in Louisiana. And while the area may seem sleepy, in 2014, Forbes ranked Houma-Thibodaux as the eighth fastest-growing small town in the country. So while many tourists traveling to Louisiana are consumed with New Orleans, they may miss out on something truly unique — the bayou region. The Spring 2019 issue of Garde Voir Ci, Living Local, explores what it’s like to experience South Louisiana as an outsider, from an insider’s perspective.

Living local is really just about exploring the region’s culinary culture, landmarks and businesses as well as its art and music.

The culinary element of the magazine highlights the homegrown restaurants, food spots and drinks of the area, detailing both the deep history and rich tastes of South Louisiana. This includes a map that pinpoints essential locations and how to spice up your experience — while visiting or even back home.

While the food is one of the main draws for the area, the deep history and unique businesses of the region drive the culture forward. From historical spots like museums and the sugar cane business, to popular tourist destinations like plantations and Mardi Gras, this issue provides a comprehensive guide for a diverse journey.

New Orleans is often considered the artistic powerhouse of the state, but the bayou region offers a more grassroots experience. Unlike the Big Easy, which has become the most recognizable part of Louisiana to the rest of the country, South Louisiana music and art has retained its Cajun DNA and really round out the Cajun trinity. They are an essential ingredient to the true South Louisiana lifestyle. Whether it is the entertainment to accompany the great food or provide businesses with artwork, South Louisiana’s music and art allows the culture to sing.

living local is the best tour guide for south louisiana, making any visit a truly local experience. Whether whipping up some crawfish sauce piquant or blasting “The Boudin Song” on the way to work, this issue will help you carry some South Louisiana with you wherever you go.

A LITTLE CAJUN MUSIC

by Hannah Carlos & Mallory Matherne

There’s a reason people from South Louisiana love the saying “Laissez les bons temps rouler.” Down in the Bayou Region, the locals always let the good times roll. And if asked what makes up the heart of the Bayou Region, locals all give a different story.

Misty Rhodes of Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou in Raceland said the locals’ heritage is unapologetic. “That’s just the way we are,” she says.

The good times really start rollin’ in the season of spring. Mardi Gras parades, delicious seafood, hunting wildlife and cooling down with flavorful snowballs are some things true locals do.

In the South, locals live their lives based on the season. In the Lenten season, the work week is concluded by going home Friday afternoons and getting the backyard ready for a weekly crawfish boil. Weekend mornings usually start before the sun comes up because that’s when the fish are biting. If locals aren’t hunting and fishing on a Saturday morning, they’re at the snowball stand getting a treat before they head to the camp for a day of recreation and relaxation.

A lot of the traditions in the Bayou Region are based off of good eatin’, good livin’ and good playin’. Most of the things locals do to pass the time involve food, drinks and music. Whether it’s a weekend lunch date with friends or even a funeral, everything down here becomes a celebration. Every meal has a beer with it, every award show is a reason to have a food-centered get-together and every Friday in the spring means foldable tables covered in newspapers with piles of crawfish.

Bayou entertainment means more than Mardi Gras season and crawfish boils. It represents a simpler way of living that connects family and friends at every gathering.

Jeanne Lirette, 70, said she recalls family gatherings occurring daily. She said the gatherings always involved seafood boils, dancing, drinking and quality time together. Although she was raised in the Bayou Region, Lirette was born in the Philippines and moved to South Louisiana at nine months old. Her parents met during World War II, tied the knot and moved to Louisiana after she was born. Lirette’s father owned a local seafood restaurant on the east side of Houma where she and her six siblings immersed themselves in the Bayou culture.

“Family time became a way of life for me,” Jeanne says. “That’s where your value is. Because Louisiana living is so simple, you were able to focus on the real value and treasure in life. Louisiana made it easier. The bayou region and entertainment influenced these beliefs instilled in my life, and it still affects the way that my family lives their lives today.”

Although Lirette has lived in the Bayou Region for most of her life, she said she could not imagine living anywhere else.
Megan LeCompte was born and raised in Houma. She has lived other places, but she said there was something so special about Houma that she could not find anywhere else.

“When my husband and I became pregnant with our first child, I knew I wanted my kids to grow up immersed in the same culture as I did,” said LeCompte. “I grew up fishing behind the house on weekend mornings, and now we have a bayou in the backyard so my boys can do the same.” LeCompte said, “I love having weekly crawfish boils and not having them be in celebration of anything, but having them just because we feel like it.”

The community and atmosphere of the Bayou Region allows locals and guests to fully immerse themselves in the food, life and culture that the area has to offer while making everyone feel like they belong. So “look at this” and come visit the bayou for a taste of the Southern culture that will always leave “Bon Moments” to remember for a lifetime!

Managing Editor LaToya Roberts contributed to this report

  • Beau Brooks boils crabs on a Sunday night.
    Photo credit: Rachel Klaus
by Rachel Klaus

Bayou Region cooking isn’t just unique in flavor, but also who is stirring the pot. Unlike in many cultures where women do the majority of the cooking, Cajun men are often the ones who take the reigns in the kitchen. And that’s something Thibodaux-native Beau Brooks takes pride in.

Brooks, an attorney and president of the non-profit organization of Upside Downs, says he thinks the reason why so many men cook in the Bayou Region is because they travel to places like their hunting or fishing camps.

“Most of the time it is just a bunch of guys there and each one will cook a meal on a certain day,” Brooks says. “That’s just how people have grown up since they were little.”

Marshall Welsh, chef and instructor for the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute, says one of the reasons why so many men cook in the Bayou Region is because of chefs like Justin Wilson, Paul Prudhomme and John Folse.

“People grew up watching those guys on television, it made it seem like cooking was a good pastime,” Welsh says.

“I think a lot of men cook because they think it is fun, especially since there is a unique culture of food in the bayou area.”

Brooks says he actually got his love of cooking from his grandmother.

“While growing up, I realized that my favorite dishes were the ones my grandmother cooked,” Brooks says.

“When I went somewhere else and tasted the same meal, it was not the same. I picked up her habits and got her to teach me how to cook. I think over the years, I pretty much perfected all of her recipes, even though she did not follow any in particular.”

Cooking to him is a stress reliever, and a way to pass a good time with friends and family. Like his grandmother, Brooks does not follow any certain recipe. Although Brooks can cook just about anything, his favorite things to cook are stews, gumbos, jambalaya and pastalaya. It is really anything that is native to Louisiana’s Bayou Region.

No matter what he cooks or how he prepares it, his neighbor and friend, Codi Waguespack will eat any dish he puts in front of her.

“My favorite things that he makes is his shrimp and crawfish stew, also the lima beans with a roux,” she says. “His lima beans are the best.”

Brandon Ruttley, another friend and neighbor, says Brooks is a perfectionist when it comes to cooking and that he probably should have gone to culinary school instead of law school.

“I think he gets ideas off of Pinterest and makes it his own,” Ruttley says. “Just about every other day he knocks on my door and drops off different foods.”

From boiled seafood to a good old fashioned roux, finding good home-cooked meals will not be hard to come by since it is a part of the unique culture of South Louisiana. Ruttley says cooking is important to the culture because it has been carried through generation to generation and Brooks is helping the culture expand by instilling the value of fixing a home-cooked meal for his family almost every night, preserving his culinary heritage.