In Louisiana March Means Crawfish Boil Season Is Here

The month of March may best be known for the start of spring, but in Louisiana March means crawfish boil season is here.  Louisianians love to boil, peel and eat these freshwater crustaceans in quantity and quality. We do love our seafood here in the boot, and from March to June we set the tables, plan the menus, and prepare the seafood dishes around a crawfish boil.  Crawfish taste almost like lobster, with the differences between the two basically amounting to cost, size and seasoning.

Boiled-Crawfish-on-plate

Crawfish are native to the swamps and marshes of south Louisiana and farmed crawfish ponds of the Gulf Coast region.  Louisiana produces approximately 150 million pounds of crawfish annually, and also ranks as the nations number one provider of shrimp, oysters, crabs and alligator. Boiled to seasoned perfection, the crawfish boil is a weekend backyard gathering, festival or fais do-do in the making.

crawfish app

Those in the best price for crawfish in your area know you need an app for that.  The Crawfish App is a free app available on iTunes.  The app uses your device’s location or an entered address to list crawfish vendors in the area. You have the ability to view by price, reviews, or distance.

crawfish boil supplies

It’s amazing how a crustacean can create culinary excitement throughout the cities and parishes.  We love to host a crawfish boil or two or ten during the season for friends, neighbors, coworkers and family.  Fire up the pot and bring on the onions, garlic, celery, potatoes, lemons, crab boil and culinary imagination.  I’ve been to crawfish boils where the host chef adds smoked or andouille sausage, okra, carrots, cabbage and fresh mushrooms to the seasoned boil.  The flavor and the taste can be summed up in three words. C’est. Si. Bon!  Food is the language of Louisiana, and ours is a flavored speak.

Zatarains shrimp crab boil

Zatarain’s Shrimp & Crab Boil

Here’s a tip from the Places In The Home test kitchen~ add a drop of Zatarain’s liquid shrimp & crab boil to potato soup.  Delicious.

LouisianaCrawfishBoilrecipeImage

Zatarain’s® Crawfish Boil

Ingredients

3 pounds yellow onions

6 heads garlic

6 lemons, halved

1 package (73 ounces) ZATARAIN’S® Crawfish, Shrimp and Crab Boil – Complete

4 pounds small red potatoes

1 sack (35 to 40 pounds) live crawfish, cleaned

1 bunch celery, cut in bite-size pieces

¼ cup ZATARAIN’S® Concentrated Shrimp and Crab Boil

1 box ZATARAIN’S® Crawfish, Shrimp and Crab Boil – In a Bag

12 frozen half ears corn on the cob

Directions

Fill an 80-quart crawfish boiling pot with a basket 1/3 to ½ with water. Place pot on a jet-style propane burner on high heat. Add onions, garlic and lemon halves.  (You can use a small laundry bag for lemons and garlic. Or just leave the onions in the mesh bag they come in from the grocery with tags removed.)

Bring to full rolling boil. Stir in Crab Boil Complete.  Add potatoes (in their mesh bag from the grocery or a laundry bag).  Reduce heat to medium-low. Boil 20 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender. Remove potatoes.

Return water to full rolling boil on high heat.  Add crawfish, celery, liquid Crab Boil and Crab Boil bag.  Return water to full rolling boil on high heat. Start checking doneness just before water returns to full rolling boil.  As soon as small gaps start to appear between the head and the tail on the largest crawfish, they are done.  Turn off heat.  Add frozen corn and cooked potatoes.  Let stand 15 minutes.  Remove corn and potatoes. Let crawfish stand for a minimum of 30 minutes, but 45 minutes is better. Serves: 20

To clean crawfish: Pour live crawfish into a washtub or ice chest; cover with water.  Drain.  Repeat 3 to 4 times until crawfish are clean.  Drain. Discard any dead crawfish and debris.

~Zatarain’s

Turn up the heat, the music and the good times with a crawfish boil.

cest-si-bon

An Afternoon Drive: Houses of The Historic Garden District

George Clooney’s character in the movie Michael Clayton works for a prominent law firm in the capacity of janitor, a lean, mean cleaner of situations gone askew. Have you ever Googled the word askew?  This page alone proves the gang over at Google has quite a sense of humor.  Getting back to the George Clooney reference.  I am the Michael Clayton here at Places In The Home.  Keeping these home fires burning, running smooth and in balance comes with a certain amount of stress.  Being stressed is not good.  Stressed is desserts spelled backwards, but my backwards is big enough, if you know what I mean.  Enter a fat-free, stress-free and well, free Rx for the mind, body and soul.  An afternoon drive viewing houses of the historic Garden District clears away the cobwebs and reminds me how much I love what I do.

houses of the historic Garden DistrictCorinthian Columns

“Architecture mirrors eternal harmony….music echoes it.”  

Otto Van Simpon

Smooth jazz provides the background music while arches, and columns, and pillars (oh, my!) provide architectural eye candy.  A self-guided tour along brick-lined streets and Louisiana bayous sets a serene scene.

bungalow

My Louisiana Parade of Homes series was a labor of love, and today’s post featuring local residential properties near and dear to my architectural and historical home loving heart is no different.

cold-front-cloud

A cold front rolling across the area is to blame for the dark lighting in some of the images.

ES-garden-districtSpanish Colonial

Spanish-garden-district

A-line-roof

Colonial Revival. Craftsman. Bungalow.

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Italianate. Palladian. Georgian. Just to name a few architectural styles of the houses of the historic Garden District.

magnolia-tree

Modern architectural elements stand out among the grounds of these stately homes and manicured gardens.   The blooms of spring will make a grand statement and give me yet another reason to visit the Garden District.

Queen-Anne

One of several antique horse head hitching posts in the neighborhood.

brick-single

The curb appeal allure is first found in the brick-lined street fronting the detailed brickwork of this single family stunner.

stack

Have a wonderful weekend!

Love your style!

Louisiana Parade Of Homes

Part II of our Louisiana Parade of Homes features local residential properties reminiscent of Louisiana history and culture.

bayou-shot

Bayous and stately homes line the brick streets of the historic Garden District.

French-architecture

Louisiana history is a melange of varied cultures and influences. The accent mark is well placed over the French and Spanish influence that frames our architectural elements, Créole and Cajun cuisine and the law of the Louisiana land. Louisiana law is different from the other 49 states.

cp-concrete

Our state Civil Code is adopted from the Napoleonic Code. Originally based on ancient Roman law, the Napoleonic Code deals in civil law with French and Spanish codes.  What is known as counties in the other 49 are known as parishes here in Louisiana.  You say antiquated, I say unique.  History and tradition holds a court of a different kind here in Louisiana.

DFH

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”  

  Charles Caleb Colton

CP-creole

Neighborhoods are replete with Acadian, Southern Colonial, Spanish, Créole and French Louisiana architectural styles.

CP-stately

CP-acadian

Southern opulence, historical influence and phenomenal curb appeal brings it all home.

Love your style!

The Southern Dinner Table

The dinner table tells a story.  Gathered in regional reverence, devout worshipers of the dining divine keep time to culinary tradition, nourishing the soul as well as the body.  Taking a meal is a multi-layered celebration weaving through generations, tradition and culture. A sudden wave of news copy on the popularity, rediscovery and dare I say appreciation of Southern foods has not only resonated with my taste buds, but my memories as well.  I surely don’t believe nor make the claim that the South holds the patent on dinner table philosophies, but sitting down to the Southern dinner table is an intended event.  It doesn’t matter if the table is set for cornbread, red beans and rice or chicken fried anything with all the fixings- eating is far from simply a practice in sustenance.  As cliche as it might sound, food in the South is prepped, cooked, baked, fried or grilled from the soul.

the-fondest-memories

Culinary tastes, rituals and traditions of cooking and dining vary from state to state, dining table to dining table across the South, but the core principles of preparing and sharing good food are uncomplicated, simple and basic. If you cook, bake, fry, boil, grill, can, preserve or pickle it, they will come. The differences between the ways of my Texas, Tennessee and Louisiana relatives always seemed to warrant a they don’t do it like this in…,  much to my mother’s dismay.  The one shared commonality between the Texas and Tennessee masses to this day is that dinner is the meal eaten in the middle of the day and supper is the meal eaten in the evening.

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Breaking bread with the Texas family came with rituals and a throwback vibe all its own.  The dining room table was for the adults, and the kitchen table was for the kids. Soft white bread on a china bread and butter plate was as close to a bread basket as you were gonna get.  My Aunt Sis was as full of sass as she was wit and lightening quick with an answer and a serving spoon.  This firecracker’s table came equipped with its own GPS system-grease, preserves and salt. Grease was the answer for everything, a pressed glass compote dish filled with homemade pear preserves never left the center of the table, and salt was not an acquired taste, it was a required taste.

compote

The ladies in both my Texas and Louisiana family subscribed to the take down the china, fill the crystal to the rim and put a hint of silver on the situation school of thought.  When questioned why a middle of the week dinner called for a fine lace tablecloth and a china pattern worthy of royalty, Sis would shoot back with a, “Well, hon, what’s the use of having the stuff if you don’t use it?”  I knew there was wisdom in her words, and they resonate with me to this day each time I open the doors to the china cabinet.  Life is too short not to use the good china, crystal and table linens every day. You can quote me and Aunt Sis on it.

dinner-bellvia

 

Does any of this ring a familiar dinner bell with you?  In continuation and reflection of the traditions and tastes of the Southern dinner table, my Tennessee family round the Southern dinner table traditions will be the subject of my next post.

Love your style!

 

 

 

An Admired Treasure Comes Forth From The Myrtles Plantation Mystery Tour

The door has opened on Part III of  The Myrtles Plantation Mystery Tour : Inspiration, History and Mystery.  The final portion of our story involves history, haunts and Houston.   Here we go!

myrtles-plantationThe Myrtles Plantation ~ Tara Marie Photography

The furnishings inside The Myrtles Plantation include four-poster tester beds, crystal chandeliers, ornamental frieze work, and ornate English, French and Italian architectural attributes. Most impressive to me was the backstory, explanations, insights, legends and lessons of lifestyles, customs and ceremony of the period.  Miss Hester told of how etiquette and ceremony were heavily emphasized.  It was considered in poor taste and bad manners to broach the subject of how long guests would be staying at The Myrtles. When the owners decided the time had come for their guests to be moving on, the center bed finial would be removed while the guests were out of the room.  An immediate departure was expected.  Another story of interest revolved around the main staircase.

antique spindles and newel

A mortgage button (decorative plug) in the newel post of the foyer staircase proudly signified the mansion mortgage was completely paid off. It is believed the property note would then be rolled up, placed in the hollow post, and capped with a decorative plug.  Some historians totally debunk this theory. There are others who say the practice of the time would have been to burn the  property note, therefore, placing the ashes in the hollow post.  Of myth and mystery comes tales that may not be long on historical accuracy,  but make for interesting and intriguing parts of the evening.  The history of The Myrtles and its legend of murder, mystery and sightings is detailed in this short video from The Travel Channel.

I was really into the spirited vibe of the evening for the sake of  the adventure. Far be it from me to discount the tales of tugs and ghostly reflections that others claim to have felt or seen. Miss Hester took me to the side and told me that the children like to show themselves to other children.  She told me of the pull described in the video, and that our son could be visited during the tour.  Dave was freaking out, our son was prepared for paranormal activity with a ghostbuster attitude, and I was dead up (pardon the pun) in the middle of all the mystery and mischief. Could this be what was in store for us this evening?

MyrtlesPlantationGhostvia

Everyone on the Mystery Tour was hanging on Miss Hester’s every word, braced and ready for impact. Between the ghosts and the thrill of what could happen I almost forgot I was on silver lazy susan lookout. When we entered the dining room I immediately saw the lazy susan prominently displayed in the center of the dining table.

Myrtles Interior Dining Room

Even though we immensely enjoyed every moment of the Mystery Tour, I’m sorry to report that  no sightings, tugs, pulls or sounds emerged from the house or the grounds.  We gave it our all trying to get that ghostly feeling, but it was a no-go.  We met a couple from Baton Rouge who were staying in the General David Bradford Suite on the first floor of the main house.  We stood on the back porch comparing our Mystery Tour notes. They invited us to join them for a post mystery tour spirit.  We all got to laughing at the very animated Dave the Builder.  Dave mustered up a shot or two of liquid courage, and in doing so was quite determined to wake the dead.  I reminded him it was probably best to let sleeping spirits lie.

chloe

Of course my brother could not wait to find out how we liked St. Francisville, New Roads, and The Myrtles. The conversation began with two to the point questions.  “Did you see the lazy susan?”  Yes.  “Can you find me one?”  Yes I can.  I filed his request away for a future antiquing trip.  Three months after our Myrtles excursion my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and another road trip of a very different kind was the plan.  We moved to Houston, Texas for six weeks for my mother to receive cancer treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center.  My mother successfully completed her treatment, and thankfully remains cancer-free.

Antique Center of Texas

One afternoon while my parents were resting, Dave and I set out to explore the Westheimer and Buffalo Speedway area of Houston. We lunched at  La Madeleine in Highland Village (now closed) and did an abbreviated version of a shop crawl beginning at Pottery Barn.  I called to check in on the parents,  who informed me they were rested and heading out to have dinner with a dear Houstonian friend of ours.  That’s a go for more shopping.  Three guesses what king of shopping I wanted to do!  Oh, boy, is this great!

Flounder

Carolyn Thompson’s Antique Center of Texas was hopping, and the finds and deals got my attention. I was thrilled to find a Pheasant mount, a black and brown English riding derby, and a large copper bowl.  I was shocked when I flipped over the price tag on the bowl to see a super responsible price.  The reason for the great price?  The entire center of the bowl was covered with a poorly done free handed inscription.  Where one person sees a problem another sees a solution. I simply hung the bowl with the center facing the wall. It is one of many items still packed in storage from the move, but as soon as I locate that bad boy I will post a picture.  On our way to the check out Dave happened to spot a booth brimming over with vintage silver pieces. Well, well, well, what do we have here?  We simultaneously spot the silver lazy susan and make a beeline for it.  The dealer approached us with a smile and a dealing mood. I put my best broker face on and played the will you take $$$ game for right under one hour.  Now comes the dance.  I call my brother with the price, he would counter, Dave would pace, I would shop some more, Dave would continue to pace, the dealer would counter- it all goes with the territory.  A fair and final figure was agreed on by all,  and everyone came away a happy camper.  That’s the true definition of a good deal.

silver lazy susan

I hope you have enjoyed the tale of  how an admired treasure came forth from The Myrtles Plantation Mystery Tour.  All roads leading to the lazy susan hold a special meaning to me. In the middle of the fun, the fright and the fight stood family.  Speaking of family, can a brother get some silver polish?

 

images via Southern Living,  Flickr

 

Tour de Mystery: The Myrtles Mystery Tour

Moving on to the second part of our The Myrtles: Inspiration, History and Mystery adventure, we pick up with our party of three filling the afternoon hours taking in local points of interest while counting down the time to The Myrtles Mystery Tour portion of our trip to St. Francisville, Louisiana. This story takes place fifteen years ago,  right around the time I opened Hopefully Classic Antiques and Interiors.  As you can imagine, antique shopping was high on the list of things to do, see and buy.  I can’t begin to tell you how much I love antiquing.  Dave the Builder gets into it, and being the fabulous parents we are we know how to bribe entertain our son while antiquing and attending auctions. We trekked the streets and shops of downtown St. Francisville until we could trek no more.  New Roads, here we come!

New Roads, Louisiana1, 23

In a glowing review of  highlights and attractions not to be missed was the story of Miss Emily.  Miss Emily was a local woman who worked the queue of vehicles waiting to board the ferry selling parched peanuts, homemade pralines and soft drinks from a large basket.  I love it!  Sitting in line waiting to drive onto the ferry goes better with an ice cold Coke, salty peanuts and a homemade praline. We continued our afternoon nosh aboard the ferry as we crossed the Mississippi River. This unique mode of transportation is now closed.  In the name of progress and moving on up, the ferry has been replaced by the  John James Audubon Bridge.  I’m glad we got the chance take a ride on it before it did.

John James Audubonvia

New Roads did not disappoint. I didn’t know what I was expecting in return from this small town, but it delivered lagniappe in a big way.  We found our way to the main part of town and hit up several antique shops.  The first shop (sorry, I can’t remember the name of any of the shops) specialized in clocks and vintage walking sticks.  Dave the Builder was in his height of glory.  We were welcomed into the shop by an older gentleman who was the owner and a lovely, lovely older lady whose greeting came in the form of  my kind of question, “champagne or fruit punch?”

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New Trad Mimosa

Our son put in his request for the fruit punch. I guess she could tell I was a little apprehensive about their comfort level with him in the shop with a goblet full of bright red fruit punch.  I knew this kid was raised in and around the biz and the dos and don’ts in shops and showrooms,  but I also knew she was not privy to this pertinent piece of information.  This lovely and wise woman handled the situation with such grace and tact.  She invited him to follow her to the butler’s pantry to help fix the drinks and slip a cookie or two.  She realized right quick she had made a new friend.  Gosh, what a great memory!  We sipped, shopped and scored two of the most unique antique walking sticks.  I wish I had them both today, but I sold them to a client the following week.  Oh well, the memory is more valuable to me than the walking sticks could ever be.

The Myrtles Mystery TourCountry Living

We found a couple of other shops and enjoyed the local fare before heading back via ferry to St. Francisville.  The timing was just right as it was barking up on sunset and coffee time. We crossed another suggested stop off our list by visiting The Magnolia Cafe.  This place is right up our alley- an unpretentious do drop inn heavy on casual fun, food and drink.

History & Haunting of the Myrtles Plantation

History & Haunting of the Myrtles Plantation

It was about that time to head out for the Myrtles Mystery Tour.  We drove up the winding driveway of The Myrtles, and the setting and timing could not have been better to set the mood and the tone for a mystery tour. The above image says it better than I can. We claimed three of the large rocking chairs on the veranda and pondered what was to come.  While the crowd and the anticipation built, certain imaginations showed signs of running away with the night.  Miss Hester, our tour guide for the evening, casually opened the front door at precisely 7:00 pm and invited the crowd of about twenty to come right on in.  Talk about playing to an attentive and crowded room!  We all gathered together in the foyer with wide eyes and listening ears.  This is where things begin to get interesting.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additional image credit: The Kitchn,  Southern Living/Robbie Caponetto

The Myrtles: Inspiration, History and Mystery

In the daily meeting with the Places In The Home creative team (me, myself and I),  quiet and centered thought brings forth ideas. Sometimes it all runs together, and at other times the ideas and interest flow like the mighty Mississippi River. There’s a world of inspiration out there folks!  I love the search, especially when it is right here at home. October is a great month for antiquing, fall road trips and home tours. We took October very serious a few years back and set out on a intrigue packed afternoon and evening fondly referred to as The Myrtles: Inspiration, History and Mystery.

antique sideboard

Working for family is a trick and a treat.  I set the tone for a blissful and professional working relationship right off the bat,  and we’re off and decorating. My brother is once again enlisting my help in redecorating his den and foyer. He didn’t realize he also wants to freshen up his dining room decor until I gently persuaded him to do so.

formal dining room

His circa 1903 home is one of the few Victorian turret architecture examples in the state. Staying true to the period is an absolute must on the exterior for historical purposes however,  I am allowed to blur the lines when it comes to the interior.  Small changes and edits keep the bottom line affordable and in check with current styles.  Changing the neutral color palette is off limits.  He loves it, and it flows with the historical aspect of the home.

table lampsclick on image to enlarge

New lamps for the sideboard and replacing the dining room chairs ( bad, very bad) is first on the list.  He has tried his best to get his hands on the balustrade lamp Dave the Builder made for me.  Dear brother, it ain’t happening.  That is the reason I sourced lamps in a more sophisticated image of  my lamp for his consideration. We will also be paying attention to new curtains or perhaps new trim for the existing ones, a new rug and lowering the artwork and framed photos. I have to consider the twelve foot ceilings, proportion of the space and overall balance when placing artwork.

Placing items and photographing the space for reference reminded me of the details surrounding the silver lazy susan with double turned malachite handles atop the sideboard.  St. Francisville, Louisiana is a charming  town rich in history and historical sites.  My brother is a history buff who really appreciates the architecture of  historical homes.  He enthusiastically believes no trip to St. Francisville is complete without a tour of The Myrtles Plantation.

The Myrtles Plantationvia

The Myrtles Plantation  is not without national media attention. Referred to as one of “America’s Most Haunted Homes”, The Myrtles has been the subject of interest, articles and television documentaries from Veranda, Travel and Leisure, The New York Times and The History Channel to the one I most remember, the visit with cameras rolling from Oprah Winfrey.  As visitors make their way up the winding driveway to the entrance of the circa 1796 Antebellum mansion, distinctive features such as the brick courtyard, double dormers and the lacy wrought iron wrapped front veranda captures the eye. I could sit on the veranda in the large rocking chairs staring out at the moss draped live oaks and lush grounds for hours.  One Saturday afternoon and evening fifteen years ago I did just that.

Photos of Myrtles Plantation, Saint Francisville

Dave the Builder, our son and I went to Baton Rouge for a working vacation.  My brother suggested we drive over to St. Francisville and New Roads to check out the sites and tour The Myrtles.  If we did tour The Myrtles he wanted me to pay close attention to the silver lazy susan in the dining room.  We bounced the idea around, decided what the heck, and off down Hwy. 61 we went.  Our first order of business when we arrived was to have  lunch at The Carriage House Restaurant at The Myrtles Plantation.

The Carriage House Restaurant at The Myrtles Plantationvia

Our waitress inquired if this was our first time to The Myrtles.  She gave us the poop scoop on the town, the shops, and the Saturday evening Myrtles Mystery Tour. The Mystery Tour is held on Friday and Saturday nights,  and is touted as the opportune time for Chloe, the reported ghost known to inhabit the house and grounds of The Myrtles, to make an appearance. Our son was captivated, my curiosity was piqued,  and Dave the Builder thought it would be a fun way to spend a Louisiana Saturday night.  I made reservations for the three of us for the 7:00 pm tour, and we left the grounds highly anticipating our return.

In part two of Three Part Harmony: Inspiration, History and Mystery I’ll tell the tale of Chloe, recount our ferry trip to New Roads and the infamous peanut lady, antiquing,  champagne punch, and the fun and fright of the Mystery Tour.

 

 

A Regional Favorite With A Kick: Hoppin’ John Grits

Mardi Gras is always on a Louisianian’s mind, especially when it comes to regional cuisine. We like a little kick in our Mardi Gras festivities, and a lot of kick in our food. Hoppin’ John is a Southern favorite recipe of black eyed peas, ham and the Cajun trinity- chopped onion, bell pepper and celery. Although traditionally served with rice, another southern favorite adds a culinary twist and turn.  Grits are about as Southern as you can get,and another house favorite of the Places In The Home gang. This recipe for Hoppin’ John Grits resulted in an unanimous chorus of C’est si  bon, cher!

hoppin'-john-grits

Hoppin’ John Grits

Ingredients

1 ½ Tablespoons olive oil

2 cups ham hocks

1 cup dry black eyed peas, soaked overnight or quick boiled

3 cups water

1 can chicken broth

1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 Tablespoon minced garlic

2  teaspoons parsley flakes

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

2 bay leaves

green onions for garnish, optional

Directions

Quick boil for black eyed peas.

black eyed peas

Bring 3 cups of water and 1 cup black eyed peas to a rolling boil. Boil for 1 minute. Pour off all water.

sliced ham

Heat olive oil in pan. Sear ham on both sides.  Before adding to the water, I prefer to saute the Cajun trinity in ½ Tablespoon olive oil and an additional ¼ teaspoon pepper (the kick).  This step is totally optional.

cajun trinity

Add water, chicken broth, peas, chopped onion, bell pepper and celery.  Stir well, bringing to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and add remaining ingredients. Cook for 1 ½ -2 hours or until peas or tender.  If liquid cooks down too much add additional water or broth.

Hoppin' John black eyed peas

Grits

Ingredients

4 cups water

1 cup grits

½ teaspoon salt

6 teaspoons butter or margarine

milk or half and half to taste

Directions

Bring water to a brisk boil.  Add grits and salt into boiling water.  Whisk together, reducing heat to medium-low and cook 5 to 7 minutes or until thickened. Whisk occasionally during cooking to avoid lumps.  Add 1 teaspoon butter or margarine per serving and desired amount of milk or half and half , stirring to blend.  Serves 6.  Plate grits and top with Hoppin’ John. Green onions may be added as garnish.  Laissez les bons temps rouler!

enjoy

Natchitoches, Louisiana: A Historical Town of Steel Magnolias, Clementine Hunter, Meat Pies and Oprah’s Best Declaration

Today’s Natchitoches, Louisiana post is an updated version in tribute to Natchitoches being chosen Best Southern Small Town by USA Today readers.  Visit Natchitoches once and you will come to know why this comes as no surprise to me. 

It’s the time of year for travel.  Vacations, staycations and day trips refresh our recreating souls, renew connections and give us ideas to implement into our home decor.

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 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 historic Front Street is Kaffie-Frederick, Inc., General Mercantile.  Kaffie-Frederick is the oldest general store in Louisiana. The front door swings open to a blast from the past decor full of charm, hardware, tools, classic toys and utensils all in I remember these splendor.

Natchitoches is the hometown of  writer, producer and film director Robert Harling.  Robert Harling is best known as the writer of the play, Steel Magnolias. Rooted in location and hometown authenticity, Natchitoches was the star of the South for a brief period of time in 1988 when Hollywood came calling.  The excitement surrounding the filming was a statewide topic of conversation, and the memories of the stars and their time spent weaving in and out of the local landscape a souvenir program in Louisiana film history.

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 purchased tickets to the Natchitoches Fall Pilgrimage Candlelight Tour of Homes.

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The evening tour of  Taylor -Cook aka The Steel Magnolia House was a candlelight and cocktails themed party not to be forgotten. Several 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

Roque House

Big_House_at_Melrose_Plantation_-_east_elevationBig House at 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.

Clementine was encouraged to paint and locally promoted by Melrose plantation curator, François Mignon.  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 1940s, 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.  Miss Hunter continued to live in Northwest Louisiana until her death in 1988.

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.  On the first weekend of December, Natchitoches illuminates the Southern night sky in a festive Christmas festival firework spectacular. Approximately 150,000 visitors descend on the small town to experience this annual Natchitoches Christmas Festival of Lights, a tradition of lights and holiday merriment. 

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 1700s.  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.

Official Natchitoches Meat Pie Festival Meat Pie Recipe
Ingredients

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

Instructions

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.

Serves: 18 pies

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, historic 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.  USA Today readers know what they are talking about.

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images via Natchitoches Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Rotary Club of NatchitochesWikipedia, FlickrExplore NatchitochesCenLamar, NOLA, Natchitoches Christmas Festival of Lights, The Landing Restaurant/Photo by Lisa Gresham, Purzuit

Home Decor Memories Under The Big Top Of The Piccadilly Circus

I hail from the land of Steel Magnolias, Divine Secrets of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood, grand interiors and impeccable tastes.   If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then I have flattered with the best of them.  In my attempts to recreate the glory of fine, whimsical and vintage interiors, I have found I like home decor memories and keepsakes weaved throughout my decor.

Steel Magnolias

It is a nice way to incorporate the wonder times of my childhood, friendships, travels, and family. I’m neither a Southern Belle nor Hollywood’s interpretation of one.  What I am is an appreciator of tasteful objects that take me to a place in my life timeline as I pass by, place around and prize them.

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

My mother, who is a Southern Belle with a nth degree black belt in retail, is of the firm belief shopping and lunch go together like Visa and MasterCard.  My brother and I were not particularly thrilled to see this idea of a circus come to town.  The brand of circus I speak of was the weekly ritual of lunching and marathon shopping at “the Village.”  The Village was the largest shopping center in town and the epicenter of early nineteen seventies shopping.

venetian-carnival-mole-by-scalamandreCarnival by Scalamandre

When I can’t sleep there is no sheep counting for my inner insomniac.  I think back and place the shops in their rightful storefronts circa nineteen seventy something.  Works every time!   Fast forward to today’s Village where all that is left of yesterday’s retail offerings is one national chain grocery store and a family favorite, Piccadilly Cafeteria.  I believe I have spent a collective decade of my life at the Piccadilly.  When you are the only kid on the culinary block it just works out that way.  With frequent visits came a strange familiarity with the surroundings.  My parents viewed after dinner visiting with fellow diners, local friends and dignitaries as the final course of the meal.  As my childhood patience was tested, I would stare at the chandeliers, grandfather clock, draperies and paintings in the dining area for what seemed hours.

cattle oil painting

I always loved the gold gilt framed oil painting of cows that graced the wall of the dining room with its larger than life presence.  Some years later the exterior of the cafeteria was remodeled, and the addition of eight large decorative pineapples found a new home atop the cafeteria’s exterior pillars.  Word spread fast throughout the community of the Piccadilly renovation and liquidation sale of interior and exterior decorative goods.  My checkbook, my brother and my memories headed to the Village faster than you could say dilly plate.

 

Piccadilly Cafeteria

The beautiful oil painting proudly hangs over the master sitting room fireplace in my brother’s home, and the “Piccadilly Pineapple” graces our kitchen dining area.  The pineapple is a symbol of hospitality, and goodness knows the Piccadilly served up enough of it over the years to my family.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages…  A memorable memento from where we’ve been, what we’ve seen, and who we are celebrates us and brings it all home.