Saturday, February 25, 2017
Today marked a special day for me. This was the three month mark since I had the brain tumor surgery and thus marked the date for removing my lifting restrictions officially. (Check the past blogs under “Brain Surgery” for more details on that detour.) When I reminisce of that recuperation time, I remember wishing I was down south exploring the different cultures in America. It was so fulfilling to think that on this milestone day, I was able to do exactly what I had been hoping to do all winter long.
We heard about a small local festival through a neighbor at our tiny RV park. This “Cracklin’ Fest” was just down road at a nearby state park. As we were getting out of our truck we heard the cajun music in the distance. This band was complete with the concertina, fiddle and a guy singin’ words that I only know wasn’t my language. When we approached the live band, they were all decked out in Mari Gras colors and were surrounded by a group of people talking and listening in camp chairs and enjoying the beautiful sunny day.
We walked up to a series of booths with different groups boiling, or deep frying the pork fat into cracklin’s. They had large pots that were heated with propane and stirred with large paddles or spoons. After around three hours of boiling, the crispy, bacon-like pieces were scooped out and seasoned with either salt or a cajun spice. They set these out on cardboard to cool off and share with the on-lookers. To not waste the leftover oil, they progressed to deep fry up other items such as polish sausage pieces and then finally chicken legs. Other booths opted to make pork rinds, or even fry sweet potatoes that were then seasoned with cinnamon and sugar after the cracklin’s were completed. Some people cooking belonged to a cast iron cooking club that met every Saturday to just cook for anyone willing to eat their blueberry or apple caramel cobblers. It seemed this festival just centered around people who enjoyed cooking and just wanted to share their delights with others. I gladly volunteered for the tasting part.
So, we made our way around the short circle tasting the different local delicacies, listening to the music. At the different booths we were able to talk with those tending the food and their friends. Everyone just wanted to smile and have a good time joking with each other. They were quick to include us in the conversation as well.
After my youngest felt awkward being donned with Mardi Gras beads, we decided to explore the nearby trails surrounding the festival. The trail led us into a cyprus-tupelo swamp. These giant trees showed their roots as their bases were under water. If it were a different time of year we would have seen rare red irises dotting the bases of the trees. I imagined that beauty as only the leaves of the plant were visible at this time. Regardless, this was a uniquely beautiful part of God’s creation that I needed to explore.
As we walked on, I reminded my boys to keep an eye out for the fire ant hills, snakes, wild boar, black bear, and alligators. Strange how I felt least concerned about the potential black bear sightings, maybe, because that was the only critter I felt half way familiar with. In the distance we still heard the cajun musicians playing on. We came to a small lake with an opening to a river. Some areas had algae growing in clumps. However, one of the clumps started moving! We were so excited to have seen the first alligators of our trip slowly swimming around the water. Here and there, fish jumped and the reptiles would change their swimming direction, moving towards a future meal. With the winter months, these sightings are a bit more rare as they prefer the deep muddy bottoms when the air turns cooler.
While this has been a fun adventure exploring culture and surroundings of this Acadiana area, I look forward to learning more about the French people who were expelled from Acadie (Nova Scotia) and came down here to make a new home and come to be called Cajun.
Until we meet again,
p.s. All of the food down here is HOT! Maybe it has something to do with the Tobasco plant nearby?