Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving in Louisiana -- Vive la difference

I love to compare and contrast the cultural differences between my home state of Pennsylvania and my new home here in Louisiana. I love the culture here and find it fascinating because it's so different and new to me.

Naturally, I've been thinking lately of holiday variations. Of course, there are many similarities between Thanksgiving here and back home. We are, after all, still in America. I have to remind myself of that occasionally. For example, most people try to connect with family, if travel and distance are not prohibitive. The holiday generally focuses around eating a large meal together. Sports fans rally 'round the television and watch hours and hours of football. And people go crazy to start Christmas shopping the day after. But that's about where the parallels end.

Here are some interesting differences I've discovered. Please keep in mind, these are purely my own observations, they're certainly generalizations, and there are always exceptions to any rules.
  • While turkey seems to be the protein of choice on Thanksgiving day, in Louisiana, folks seem to be more open-minded to other options. I don't think it would be uncommon to find something a hunter may have bagged, such as duck or venison, a nice pork loin or beef brisket. A little boudin on the side. Or a turducken.
  • A turducken is, as far as I know, a uniquely Louisiana delicacy . . . a chicken stuffed into a duck stuffed into a turkey. All de-boned and stuffed again with dressing, usually rice dressing. I'd never heard of this until moving to Lake Charles. Our first Thanksgiving here, we bought one out of sheer curiosity. Frankly, we were not impressed. Not that it was bad, necessarily, but it just wasn't . . . good. And it was a mess. There was no way to slice it neatly. It just sort of fell apart on the platter. Since then, I've never heard anyone say they actually like turduckens. Yet thousands are sold this time every year.
  • Yes, Louisianians eat stuffing, or dressing, but it's usually rice. Maybe cornbread.
  • For some Louisiana families, Thanksgiving dinner is a big pot of gumbo and some pecan pies. Can't argue with that.
  • In Pa., from the time I was a kid, Thanksgiving break was always a long weekend, Thursday-Monday. Here, the kids are off the whole week. Add the two weekends on either end, and that's nine days off. Makes traveling for the holiday a lot easier.
  • In Pa., if I'm not mistaken, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving starts "hunting season." Lot's of men take this day off work, making the weekend just a little longer. The hunters in Pa. hope for a dusting of snow, so they can more easily track the deer. Snow tracks do not cross a hunter's mind in Louisiana. And in La., (I know this can't be true but it seems to me) it's hunting season year around!
  • Shorts and t-shirts. 'Nuff said there.

How about you? What are some of your Thanksgiving traditions, where do you go to celebrate, and what's on your holiday table?


Common Household Mom said...

Fascinating. I would like to try making a corn souffle sometime, but I am glad you have warned me away from the turkducken. Our traditions - green bean casserole! Lots of pie! Growing up, we always had to have 3 kinds of cranberry sauce - whole-berry, no visible berries, and my mother's special cranberry "salad".

The day after Thanksgiving is the only day of the year that we are allowed to eat pie for breakfast.

What is boudin? This Yankee is unfamiliar with that.

Jan Rider Newman said...

Ooh, pie for breakfast??
Great post, Angie. I think you covered the major differences.

Angie Kay Dilmore said...

Dear CHM,

Boudin is a mixture of ground meat, I think pork, spices, and rice stuffed into sausage casings. Sometimes it is formed into spheres and fried, called boudin balls, or the mixture can be tucked into a kolache. To read about it and how it is made, it sounds totally gross, but it's actually quite good.

Anonymous said...

Angie, I agree. Having turkducken once is enough. My experience with such animal was less than pleasant. The touch pads for my oven are on the front of the stove. Someone inadvertantly hit the buttoon. When I took the turkducken out, it was only hafl cooked. Cooking even half the bird in a microwave DOES NOT increase the flavor. Oh well, no more such bird at this house. I think you list of differences is great. My early Thanksgivings in KY were probably more like yours in PA than in LA.