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?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Celtic Nations Heritage Festival

Here in southwest Louisiana, we celebrate just about anything and everything, especially all things Cajun French. But Irish, Scotch, and Welsh? Yes, indeed. I went to the Celtic Nations Heritage Festival today in downtown Lake Charles.

Two outdoor stages provided continuous music and entertainment. Note the leprechaun leaning against the tree.


Vendors sold all things tartan, should you want a scarf . . .


or a custom-made kilt . . .


so you can dress like these gentlemen. I do love a man in plaid.

There were coats of arms and Celtic crosses . . .


bobbles and bangles . . .


a bakery booth that sold shortbread, “eccles cakes,” which are small round puff pastries filled with raisins and spices, and “drunken Scot” bread pudding, glazed with a deliciously sweet whiskey-laced sauce.


I watched a harp demonstration . . .


and a sheep herding demonstration. See the border collie in the background? They sure kept those sheep in line.


This was a popular tent.

I’m sure there must be folks in the area with some Irish heritage, but I can’t say I know any. I do have friends here whose mother’s maiden name was McDonough. But they’re Yankees like me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day -- 2010


I’d like to recognize and pay tribute to all veterans today. Your service is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

My Grandpa Lowdermilk served in WW II. He never talked about the war. But I remember him sitting silently in his chair Saturday afternoons watching war movies. I have photographs, awash in duotone sepia and beige; Grandpa’s arms behind his back, hat cocked slightly to the left, his mouth stern, pensive -- he was so handsome in his uniform.

Andrew and I went to Graceland-Orange Grove Cemetery today to see the bi-annual Avenue of the Flags. It’s an impressive patriotic sight; a sea of 700 or so veterans' flags proudly waving in the soft breeze of a perfect fall day. Avenue of the Flags is the largest display of veterans’ flags in the country.




Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sowing Seeds, Practicing Patience


I took advantage of this sunny pleasantly cool fall day and planted 80 iris and daffodil bulbs throughout my yard. Can't wait till spring to see them in bloom. Talk about your delayed gratifications.

Which got me thinking of all the things in life that teach us patience. As a child, we go to bed Christmas Eve and wait for Santa -- could there be a longer night for a kid? As teens, we get our driver's permit at age 15 and wait till we're 16 to get our license. We take a test, such as the ACT, and wait weeks for the score. Later on, we apply for a job and wait for the phone to ring. We conceive a child and wait nine months to meet him or her. We're in a hurry to get in to town and wait for a train to pass in West Lake. We writers send off manuscripts and wait for editors' replies. Doesn't it seem we spend half our lives waiting? We plant all sorts of seeds in our lives. We wait. And watch them slowly grow.

What's been teaching you patience lately?