Today’s Natchitoches, Louisiana post is an updated version of the original September, 2011 post. It’s the time of year for spring breaks and vacation plans. Vacations, staycations and day trips refresh our recreating souls, renew connections and give us ideas to implement into our home decor. I’ll cover that point toward the end of the week.
Natchitoches, Louisiana is a small town rich in history and bragging rights. Natchitoches (NACK-uh-tush) is located about one hour south of Shreveport and five hours north of New Orleans. Natchitoches was established by the French in 1714 and is the oldest permanent settlement in the 13 state territory Louisiana Purchase.
French and Spanish forts, historical homes, national historic landmarks, bed and breakfasts, antique shops, and fantastic restaurants line the original brick Front Street. The thirty-three block National Historic District and the plantation district along the banks of Cane River Lake is made up of 100 historic homes and buildings.
One of my favorite shops to visit on Front Street is Kaffie-Frederick, Inc., General Mercantile. Kaffie-Frederick is the oldest general store in Louisiana, and the charming decor is an original blast from the past.
Natchitoches is also the hometown of writer, producer and film director Robert Harling. Robert Harling is again in the spotlight as the writer and producer of ABC’s GCB, but he is probably best known as the writer of the play, Steel Magnolias. Hollywood came calling and the rest is Louisiana film history. Other motion pictures filmed in Natchitoches include The Man in the Moon, The Horse Soldiers, The Year Without a Santa Claus, The American Standard, and Lifetime Television’s series Scarlett.
The Taylor-Cook home, better known as The Steel Magnolia House, remains one of the most recognizable and popular historic homes in downtown Natchitoches. As a surprise birthday gift to me, Dave the Builder bought tickets to the Natchitoches Fall Pilgrimage/Candlelight Tour of Homes.
The evening tour of Taylor -Cook aka The Steel Magnolia House was a candlelight and cocktails themed party not to be forgotten. A few hundred guests strolled the grounds and toured the home filled with period antiques tastefully paired with stylish accents while sipping cocktails by moonlight, music and magnolias. Natchitoches throws a good party.
Clockwise from top left: Taylor-Cook House, Front Street, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Melrose Plantation
One of my favorite artist, African-American folk artist Clementine Hunter (late December 1886 or early January 1887 – January 1, 1988), is closely associated with Natchitoches. Miss Hunter was born near Cloutierville, Louisiana, moving to Melrose Plantation when she was fifteen years old. Clementine Hunter (pronounced Clementeen) was a self-taught artist who painted from memory. She was encouraged to paint and locally promoted by Melrose plantation curator, François Mignon. Her work was shown at the New Orleans Arts and Crafts Show in 1949, and a 1953 feature in Look magazine brought national attention to her work.
Her paintings of picking cotton, outdoor cooking, washing clothes, baptisms, and funerals portrayed plantation life in the early 20th century. Although most of her works are untitled the subject would be verbally described by the artist herself when asked. In the early days of her painting dating to the 1940′s, Clementine Hunter sold her works for a quarter. Her paintings can now sell for thousands of dollars. It is estimated Clementine Hunter painted between four and five thousand paintings in her lifetime. She continued to live in Northwest Louisiana until her death.
I was extremely fortunate enough to have the opportunity to purchase my Clementine Hunter painting in 1986 before forgeries of her work hit the market. The local couple I purchased “Outdoor Cooking” from were actual friends of Clementine Hunter. To authenticate the painting the couple took a photo of Clementine Hunter actually holding the finished painting. They gave me photo to keep when I purchased the painting and I cherish her photo as much as I do the painting.
Cane River runs through downtown Natchitoches. There is not an empty spot to be had on the banks of Cane River on the first Saturday in December. Natchitoches knows how to welcome the holiday season, and the proof is shown each year as approximately 150,000 visitors descend on the small town to celebrate the Natchitoches Christmas Festival of Lights.
In 2002 Oprah Winfrey made an unannounced and very surprising visit to Natchitoches. The visit was prompted by an on-air invitation from Peggy Plunkett who was in the audience at a taping of The Oprah Winfrey Show. Oprah came, saw and declared Natchitoches the “Best Little Town in the Whole USA!” Now that’s an endorsement!
Another wonderful festival(and there are plenty of those in Natchitoches) is the famous Natchitoches Meat Pie Festival. The origin of the meat pie dates back to the late 1700′s. Natchitoches Meat Pies are deep-fried pastries filled with ground beef and ground pork seasoned with onions, peppers, and garlic. The Natchitoches Meat Pie Festival is a two day festival celebrating the regional delicacy and the festival also has its very own official recipe courtesy of Mrs. L.J. Melder. I’ve included the recipe at the end of this post.
Southern hospitality flows through the town like the Cane River and the welcome mat is always out. Natchitoches, Louisiana is a sportsman’s paradise and home to Northwestern State University, festivals, historical homes and plantations, bed and breakfasts galore, quaint shops and excellent restaurants.
Natchitoches, Louisiana is a great destination for day tripping, a weekend getaway or a stay for a week or two visit.
images via Natchitoches Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Rotary Club of Natchitoches, Wikipedia, Flickr, Explore Natchitoches, CenLamar, NOLA, Natchitoches Christmas Festival of Lights, The Landing Restaurant/Photo by Lisa Gresham, Purzuit
|Official Natchitoches Meat Pie Festival Meat Pie Recipe|
- 1 teaspoon shortening
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork meat
- 1 bunch green onions, chopped
- 1 head garlic, minced
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- Salt, black pepper and red pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon flour
- Meat pie crust:
- 1 quart plain flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 eggs
- 1⁄2 cup shortening plus 1 tablespoon
- 1 cup milk
- Melt shortening in heavy pot. Add meat. Cook until the pink is gone.
- Add vegetables and season to taste. (Season well, as meat will lose seasoning during frying.) When the meat is completely done and the vegetables glazed, remove from heat and drain excess liquid. Stir in 1 tablespoon of flour.
- For the crust:
- Sift dry ingredients together. Cut in shortening. Beat egg and add to milk. Work gradually into dry ingredients until proper consistency to roll. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Break into small pieces and roll very thin. Cut into rounds using a saucer as a guide.
- To assemble:
- Place a large tablespoon of prepared meat along edge and halfway in the center of round dough. Fold the other half over, making edges meet and seal with water. Form edges with fork. Refrigerate again for 30 minutes. Drop in deep fat and cook until golden brown. Drain and serve hot.