Today I learned things, and ate rather a lot. So, a good day, then. I started by going to the Acadian Cultural Centre to watch a film about the history of Acadia, and make some connections with my cruise past Nova Scotia a couple of years ago. There, it was just the name of an area, which I equated with a national park or something similar; but today I learned all about the shocking history of les Acadiens (Brits beware: you’re not the goodies).
Not far from there is Vermilionville, a historic village of relocated and reproduced buildings from 1765 to the 1890s, furnished authentically, beautifully landscaped, and populated by artisans in period costume. Luckily, there was a summer camp programme running, so I was able to eavesdrop on their little lectures, which is where I learned about, for example, sleep tight (make sure the ropes that support your mattress are taut) and don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater (baby got bathed last in the family tub, by which time the water was brown – though they did employ the nicety of lining the tub with a sheet, to sieve out the worst between bathers).
The afternoon was taken up with a CajunFood Tour, with the enthusiastic Marie in her bus strung with Tabasco bottle lights and her rallying cry of “Allons manger!” We made six stops around Lafayette – not a progressive dinner (though we did end with dessert), it was no place for vegetarians. There were crab and corn bisque, a shrimp po’boy, pork crackling (meat and fat as well as skin), boudin which though it looks just like one is emphatically not a sausage, and a mysterious saucy nibble that we were challenged to identify. Well, it looked like chicken, it tasted just like chicken, and when it was all eaten the bones looked like chicken – but apparently it was farmed alligator, so that’s another first.
As she drove us around the town, Marie chattered away, and in fact (a former history teacher) made a better job of recounting Acadian history than the arty movie had that morning – but also random snippets like the biggest branch of the live-oak tree outside the cathedral weighs the same as 14 African elephants; the Old Tyme Grocery produces 2000 po’boys every Friday in Lent; an alligator in the little University swamp has escaped twice in the last couple of months to roam the campus. It was fun, and interesting, and tasty, and the company was good, too: “Zach,” asked Julia of the sole young man on the bus, “I have a daughter. Are you married?”
And the day wasn’t over: that evening it was back to the Blue Moon Saloon for my first zydeco music. Terry and the Zydeco Bad Boys were playing and Terry’s girlfriend, sitting next to me, said, “You’re going to love it. It’s happy music!” And it was, lively and jiggy and impossible not to tap along to. The small but adoring - and very friendly - crowd didn’t leave it at that: there were all sorts of dancing, as individual as the dancers, and some of them were really good, the girls swept along and around by fluidly strutting young men. It was a pleasure to watch them, on a warm night on the back porch of the Saloon with a dog wandering through and a cat asleep at the entrance.