Preserving the Lagniappe Culture: Food Memories

Earlier this week, a co-worker asked me, “Which culture, if any, would you identify yourself with?”

I paused, pretty sure I understood his question but not entirely. “Exactly what do you mean?”

“Well, sometimes people identify themselves with a culture, and I was just wondering if you did, too. You may not.” While this did not exactly bring added clarity, I still felt I understood him much better.

“It would be the Southern culture. Yes, if there is any one culture, it’d be Southern.”

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Is it true that if you live away from a very cultural place for a long time that you could lose that culture entirely? If you were rooted in the culture to start, that seems a pretty impossible task. How long would it take–or does it take–to lose a culture? What if you don’t want to lose the culture? Are you battling uphill without a weapon?

Losing a culture with which you closely identify is a very dreadful idea indeed. Not to have identified with one in the first place is scary, too, but cannot be helped except to move forward, to embrace an entirely new culture.

I cannot help but to believe that moving away from the mores of a particular region will result in some loss. That’s natural. However, I also believe that all does not have to dissipate into the nether regions of legacy maintenance. Cultural preservation, I suppose it is called.

Here is my contribution.

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Pass the Sauce

                  King Cake Mayonnaise Saltines Raw Oysters w/Horseradish, Ketchup & Lemon Crawfish fat, bursting Strawberries I wanna Snowball with Condensed Milk on Top, Bubble Gum flavored like I always get. My Daddy loves to cook me redbeansandricewithsausageandasideofcornbread. He also cooks me tomato gravy and gives me a slice of white bread to soak it up. When it’s New Year’s, Mama cooks up the black eyed peas, cornbread and cabbage. It’s gonna bring me good luck. We all eat gumbo when it’s cold outside and when it’s not. It ain’t right if you don’t put the rice on top of the gumbo. Rice swims in gumbo. Everyone knows that. I mainly like fried oyster po-boys, but I’ll take the shrimp if that’s all you have.

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                Fried oyster po-boy, dressed. I’ll need some hot sauce, please.  Crystal’s only, though, because it’s not too, too hot like that Tabasco. . . . I cannot take that kind of hot. People say, “You from here, right? You got to like spice!” Well, a little spice might make things nice, but I’m not trying to go up to Charity, right? . . . Hey! Are the oysters seasoned with Zatarain’s or Tony Cachere’s? . . . Why you lookin’ at me like that? I know it’s a crazy question! Sorry I asked . . . Look, I’m fixin’ to get on down the road and take my meal home with me. See ya’ll later.

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                Come on, Mee-chelle, we going to Mike Anderson’s. Im’a get us some oysters. I just want to see if you’ll eat them. I know I will, and your momma won’t eat with me . . . Yeah, they’re gonna be raw. Of course they’re gonna be raw. You know your Daddy. The only way I like them is raw with a little horseradish and ketchup mixed together. On the half shell . . . Oooooowee! I love me some raw oysters . . . See her eating those? I’m tickled pink that I can get my daughter to eat them with me. Her momma don’t care for them as much. Shoot, I’ve tried to get her to come with me, but she won’t, so I thought I’d bring Mee-chelle. Shoot, Mee-chelle can eat oysters all day. Put each one on a little cracker after you dip it in the sauce. Watch her, she likes it . . . Yeah, she’s smiling. Raw oysters are good.  Sure do wish her momma would come with us, though.

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                I’m the secretary, so I’m in charge of this year’s crawfish boil, and you’re going with me. I’ve already ordered the crawfish and the corn and the potatoes at $2 a pound. Now I’ve got to find a place to have this shindig. Remember when you went last year there was not a lot to do? This year we are going to have it out at the park, so you ought to find yourself a friend to bring with you. Ya’ll could go to the lake. You could bring a fishing pole or something. Maybe that’d be fun. I’m going to be in charge of clean-up and all that other stuff. You helped me with that last year, which was a big help. You’re a good daughter, Michelle.

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                 Alright, if I just scrounge up some change, I can go down to get me a snowball. I’ve got $1 here, but 25 cents more and I can get that condensed milk on top. I wish’d it hadn’t taken me so long to figure out I like that stuff. Daddy says it’s nothing but pure- dee fat. He don’t care, so I don’t care. I’m gonna go to that place that says “SNOWballs” spray painted in big, black letters on the front. I like their crushed ice the best. They put just the right amount of juice, too. I hate when the juice drowns out the bottom of the Styrofoam cup.

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                 Pralines on wax paper in the kitchen. They might stick to the paper a little bit, honey, but ain’t nothing you cain’t take a knife to. You being my oldest grandchild, you can manage to get it yourself. If you spill, be sure to pass the vacuum under that table.

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                  Oooooowee, Mee-chelle! I know whereyou could get you some big ol’ strawberries—down at an intersection in Bogalusa. This man was there the other day sellin’em, and we bought us a flat. Ten dollars a flat, I think it was . . . The man sellin’em is your cousin. I bet you didn’t know that . . . I’ll give you ten dollars right now if you go down and get some . . . I know it’s 20 minutes away, but they sure are big and juicy. Ooooowee! Them suckers’ll melt in your mouth . . . Come on, I’ll go down there with you. I’ll drive you and buy you a flat . . . Well, I know you’re one person, but there’re a lot of things you could do with some big ol’ strawberries like the ones I seen . . . Come on, we’re going. Now I gotta have me some strawberries.

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Honey, I done made Mississippi Mud Pie so many times that I cain’t even taste it. I just make it up and serve it to whoever walks in the door. Look over yonder for a pie knife in that drawer. Cut you a real big piece.