Inger and Jeff Latreille
Acadian Culture & Mud Bugs
~Saturday, January 28, 2023~
We have a boat load of things we want to see in the next few days, all at least a 30-minute drive from our campsite in Morgan City. Our first visit was to the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center, in the parish seat of Thibodaux. Thibodaux sits along the banks of Bayou Lafourche (meaning the “fork”) which in this case is the Mississippi River. Our first greeter happened to be in the parking lot……a Muscovy Duck, a bayou resident. Our next greeter was a young lady, a docent, who offered us to tour around at our own pace and to let her know anytime we were ready to watch any of the 5 award winning films that were being offered. They also had a small gift/book shop that we planned on checking out at the end of our tour (we’re always looking for good books).
We started with their permanent exhibit room, full of anything you would possibly want to learn about Acadian culture.
We were already familiar with the terms Cajun and Creole, but never really heard “Acadian”. Acadians are also known as Cajuns, and in Louisiana, Acadians (Cajuns) make up its largest ethnic group at around 550,000, inhabiting the rural parts of southern Louisiana. Creoles make up about 10,000 people, and predominantly live in the New Orleans area. The wonderful exhibits showed every aspect of Acadian culture…..their music, clothing, fishing, religion, and cuisine, to name a few. Sugar cane was the main crop with Bayou Lafourche as the Mississippi River’s main tributary to the Gulf of Mexico. What intrigued us most about the Acadians was how well they adapted to their environment having come from France. From 1765 to 1785, about 3,000 Acadians traveled from France to Louisiana with the hopes of a better life, retaining much of their French culture while being influenced by Native Americans who had already occupied the area. But prior to this peaceful way of life for the Acadians, they had experienced a violent upheaval, one we had never read or heard about (read on).
After our tour, a docent gave us a list of the films that were available, all about 30 minutes in length. We had been warned about the one we chose for its disturbing topic…..the Great Expulsion of 1755. 150 years prior to 1755, the first Acadian arrivals sought a new beginning free from religious persecution and epidemics of their native France. After initial, short-lived settlements, they successfully established themselves in Nova Scotia, then called Acadie. Once the British got word of how well the Acadians were prospering, the Governor of Nova Scotia, Charles Lawrence demanded a meeting with delegates, requesting they take an unqualified oath of allegiance to Britain. When they refused, he imprisoned them and gave the fateful order for deportation. Men, women and children were forcibly removed from their homes, and land burned, while the approximate 10,000 of them awaited their deportation by ship. Nearly half succumbed to the squalid conditions while on board; mainly disease and starvation. Some refugees were taken to English colonies, others to France or the Caribbean. Families were torn apart forever. Trying to imagine what this would have been like only makes me appreciate the ease in which we live today. The past was riddled with so much hatred and uncertainty in who could conquer what with a world no one knew anything about……the Spanish in Mexico and Florida, the English on the East Coast and the French in Canada. And who knows…..the Vikings were there before everyone.
Our next stop was only about a 10-minute drive to the E.D. White Historical Site. As we drove the backroads, we nearly missed the driveway since it looked like someone’s private residence. On the large property were 3 buildings…..the visitor center, the reconstructed cookhouse, and the refurbished home of E.D. White.
I guess we’re the only ones interested in a history lesson on a Saturday afternoon. We went inside the visitor center where we were greeted, yet again, with a big smile and most sincere welcome. Just like the last place, we were allowed to tour on our own but she encouraged us to stop back in if we had any questions.
Having the whole property to ourselves, we started with the cookhouse, complete with the original fireplace and flooring. Everything else had been reconstructed. The historic home, built in 1824 right on the banks of Bayou Lafourche, is surrounded by sugar cane fields and centuries old live oak trees.
This was the residence of Edward Douglas White who was governor from 1835 to 1839, and his son, Edward Douglass White, who was appointed to the United States Supreme Court in 1894 and served as chief justice from 1910 to 1921. It was here, that E.D. White Sr. ran a sugar plantation hiring over 100 slaves to work his 2,000 acre property. Inside the lovely Greek Revival styled home, are many artifacts of which Chief Justice White’s stunning book cabinet was my favorite.
There is what’s known as the Cajun Bayou Food Trail. This evidently is a must-do in Lafourche Parish and something we plan on experiencing while we’re here. But what about beer trails? Though I don’t think there’s a formal “trail” of beer in the South, we can start our own. First one on the list….MudBug Brewery, or so we thought. When we pulled up, their large sign along the road said “closed”, but the main door was open. With only a few cars in the parking lot, we thought maybe the closed sign was left up by mistake. Unfortunately, they were closed for a private event. It is Saturday night after all. So we’ll have to try a different night.
Arriving back at our campground, it was quite the lively scene in the screened in community center behind us. It appeared to be a private party enjoying their Saturday night with live Cajun music, beer and dancing. Who knew we could ride along the coattails of someone else’s party, all while dining Cajun style with Jeff’s fantastic, spicy pasta dish called One Pot Creamy Cajun Sausage Pasta. If interested, here is the link to the recipe…..https://www.passmesometasty.com/one-pot-creamy-cajun-sausage-pasta/. If you like spicy, which southern cooking is all about, you’ll love it. If you don’t, replace the fire roasted tomatoes with regular stewed. Oh, and we added Red Hot Pepper Flakes which we do to most of our pasta dishes to give it a little kick. Happy cooking!