Posts Tagged ‘frank’

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Life has been busy, y’all. So busy I slap forgot to put up my post last week. It’s a wonder Pete let’s me hang around. One thing about being retired is that I lose all track of time and I never know what day it is. On top of that, I started a part-time job at my church working Tuesday through Thursday so Tuesdays feel like Mondays and Thursdays feel like Fridays and I don’t know which end is up lately.

One thing I have been doing on my off time is reading a lot. I’ve always been an avid reader and I read whenever I get a chance; I prefer actual books, but I do have a Kindle and I read some things on that. I’m on NetGalley and preview books there prior to their publication for purposes of review and so by necessity those are on Kindle. Books that I don’t plan to keep on my shelves forever are also often read on Kindle. I can get my library books there too. Books I plan to keep, usually nonfiction or collector copies of fiction, are obviously real, paper books.

Anyway, I thought I’d share my most recent reading list with you. It is heavy on Louisiana thematically, but there’s nothing wrong with that!

For Christmas, I bought for myself a copy of Mosquito Supper Club by Melissa Martin. When this beautiful cookbook came out last year, I am embarrassed to say that I dismissed it as yet another chef hawking yet another Cajun cookbook with overblown and impossibly stuffy recipes fluffed out with pretty pictures. I could not have been more wrong. Martin’s photographs of swamps, bayous, fish, crabs, shrimp, and landscapes are stunning, but her recipes are from her family and from her childhood on the bayou in the southernmost parishes of Louisiana. She writes extensively about the vanishing marsh, sustainability, and the history of her Cajun people. The book is a gastronomical feast for the eyes and belly. I have thoroughly enjoyed this cookbook that is really so much more than a cookbook.

Speaking of the vanishing marshland, the nonfiction Bayou Farewell by Mike Tidwell is part history, part travelogue, and totally entertaining. Tidwell is interested in the vanishing Louisiana coast; as he travels down the bayou on one shrimp boat or another and talks to the locals, he is stunned to see how much land loss Louisiana has suffered in just one man’s lifetime. The rapid rate of this land loss is devastation. The book was originally published in 2003 and holds up still. Beautifully written, Tidwell takes you along the bayous and into the homes and around the dinner tables of the Cajuns that he meets. I read this book slower than I needed to because I did not want it to end.

Moving north from Cajun country, the next book I want to share with you is Shreveport Martyrs of 1873 by the Very Reverend Peter B. Mangum, JCL. This book tells the story of the 1873 yellow fever epidemic right here in Shreveport that wiped out at least a quarter of the population. The epidemic is the stuff of legends here, and tours of the historic Oakland Cemetery on the edge of downtown include a pass by the Yellow Fever Mound – the mass graves of the victims. Sometimes new dirt has to be brought in and put on the mound as sometimes pieces of fabric or bone might work their way to the surface. During this epidemic, there was obvious panic and concern as the affluent tried to protect their families by sending them away to stay elsewhere. Five missionary priests stayed behind, stayed with the sick, to minister to them, sacrificing their own lives to the fever. It’s quite a story and well researched.

And so, that’s one little bit that has been keeping me busy! My links are Amazon affiliate links, which I’m duty bound to disclose, but it doesn’t matter where you buy your books! These are good ones.

What are YOU reading?

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – One of the benefits of retiring from the classroom is that I no longer pay attention to the hysterical headlines about Covid, whether there will be another national shutdown, how high the case count is, and what the spread rate among school children may be.

I don’t pay attention to any of it. I don’t read it.

So, that being said, I may be a bit behind the curve on what’s what in Covidland.

What I do know is this: my and my spouse both had Covid in January last year. It wasn’t fun. But hey! Natural immunity!

And call us sheep if you must, be we both opted to be vaxxed and boosted, but that’s our own personal choice and I think that’s how it should be. Personal choice, like a flu shot.

There’s been a Covid outbreak at our church in the past couple of weeks; that is, several people have tested positive. Everyone is doing fine, nothing to worry about, but today my husband thought maybe he should get tested. He’d been directly exposed and has been feeling a bit under the weather for a couple of days.

We went to Ochsner Quick Care so he could get tested. This is where we both went last year in January and at that time we were in and out quickly. Today, it was going to be a two hour wait for a test.

Seriously?!

We went across the street to a Velocity Care and it was a three hour wait there.

He said never mind, came home, and decided to just self-monitor and self-isolate if necessary. He felt well enough to get out and do his daily three mile walk so I guess all is well.

But my question is why in the world at this point in this pandemic are we having to wait two and three hours for a nasal swab?!  I’ve seen people posting do-it-yourself swab tests but there are none to be found around here and even if you could they’re at least $30.

Something is just upside down it seems to me. 

I can’t bear these polarized discussions about Covid; that’s not my point here. I know people who have died from Covid, some with comorbidities and some not.  (Those with comorbidities, by the way, were living just fine with diabetes or COPD until Covid got them). The politicizing of the pandemic has been absurd, if you ask me, and caused much more harm that ever should have been the case.

Anyway, not to tread those waters, but I would be interested in knowing why it’s so damn hard to get a test now, two years into this pandemic and when this is supposedly basically a harmless variant.

I was happier in my oblivion.

By:  Pat Austin

ARNAUDVILLE LA – Welcome 2022! I did not post last week – you may not have noticed (ha!).  As you may or may not recall I retired from teaching in May. As a state employee in Louisiana, I did not pay into Social Security but instead into the Teachers Retirement System for the state. However, previous private sector jobs means that a little Social Security dividend may be on the horizon if I can get nine more quarters. So, I have picked up a part time job working as the secretary at my church. It is a nice three-day a week gig, 18 hours, and eventually I’ll get my nine quarters. All that to say, I didn’t post last week because I was juggling off days so I could go out of town over the New Year’s weekend.

There’s no way I was staying in Shreveport over New Year’s weekend, I mean…seriously. Guns fired in the air…sounding like a third world country.

We spent the past week in my beloved south Louisiana, in a tiny town called Arnaudville, which I love. The population here is about 1500, but we are 15 miles from Breaux Bridge, about 25 miles from Lafayette, an hour away from Baton Rouge, and a little further than that from New Orleans but I don’t need to go to NOLA except to see the WWII museum. 

I’m sure I’ve waxed rhapsodic about my Cajun paradise before, but man it has been a great week. You’ll never find friendlier people anywhere on the planet – of this I am convinced.

This part of Louisiana is a conservative bastion. NOLA is another story, but Cajun Country is ultra conservative. We have had very interesting conversations with people here and met many like minds. As a rule, these Cajun people are hard-working, family oriented, and faith based. Work hard, play hard.

It is depressing to think about returning to Shreveport this week. Shreveport is a culinary desert. Nothing but chain restaurants and heavy on the Mexican and Chinese. You would think that just three hours to the north of Arnaudville I could get decent seafood, but you would be wrong. I can get decent frozen seafood, but here, in south Louisiana I can get seafood fresh and prepared in delicious sauces that would make you weep. Lump crabmeat topped with crawfish etouffee, hot steaming crawfish seasoned with a spicy Cajun blend, and fried alligator so tender it melts in your mouth.

We have stocked our freezer in our Air BnB with food to take home: chicken thighs stuffed with boudin and pepperjack cheese, wrapped in bacon; a pork roast stuffed with bell peppers, onions, and garlic, a pork chops stuffed with crawfish dressing. I can’t get food like this three hours from here.

Last night we went to a local brewery famous for their beer of course, but also their wood fired pizza. My favorite is the Alien Autopsy which is topped with a spicy tasso ham, andouille sausage, and candied jalapenos. For New Year’s Day they offered an eggroll stuffed with black eyed peas and shredded cabbage. We listened to live Zydeco music, people danced under the live oaks, and we talked with a local business owner for hours about the state of our country. His recommendation, in short, is for all the producers to just go “off the grid” and quit feeding the system. Quit supporting the welfare state.

He may not be wrong.

Here in Arnaudville, there are two Catholic churches served by the same priest. He is fabulous. To attend an Episcopalian service, we’d have to drive into Lafayette, probably.  So, when here, we walk down half a block to the Catholic church and listen to Fr. Travis. He is young, energetic, and always on point. His sermons are amazing. And I love a town where you can go to the brewery to hear a live Cajun jam, order a pizza, and run into the priest. We were able to visit with Fr. Travis today and discuss several theological questions we had while the fiddles and accordians played sad Cajun ballads and lively dance tunes across the room.

I hope we can move here soon and get out of Shreveport. My son is in nursing school, starting clinicals, and I don’t want to move off until he is on his own two feet. But man alive, I can’t wait to get out of Shreveport. Life is short and I want to spend the rest of my time in a happy place with good food, good music, good people.

Here’s hoping the New Year brings good things to us all.

SHREVEPORT – Some random observations from around the Web:

  • Perhaps I am a luddite, but the New York Times list of the best books of 2021 is bizarre to me. I would be hard pressed to find one or two that I would read.
  • Speaking of books, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has a curious reading list to occupy his time over the Christmas break.
  • I love Christmas time in Louisiana! The levee bonfires, cancelled because of Covid last year, are back! The tradition serves to light the way for Papa Noel on Christmas Eve.
  • I went to see Spider-Man No Way Home this weekend; loved it. It was the first time I’ve been to a movie theater in a couple of years, but I’m glad I went. Great movie!
  • In the saddest news I’ve heard in a long time, this couple from Iowa died this past week within hours of each other from Covid. They ran a beautiful bed and breakfast called The Peppermill out of their lovingly restored Victorian home. Belle was an excellent cook, a DIY queen, creative, fun, and such a warm person. Her husband Dan was equally welcoming. This is devastating news to the community and of course to their daughter.
  • I loved Adrienne’s post on decluttering. The struggle is real.
  • The Democrats are coming after your gas stoves. Now let me tell you, one thing I CAN do is cook, and I refuse to cook on an electric stove. I know, you have one, you love it. Fine. That’s your choice. But when I’m making a gumbo, when I am cooking the roux, I want to see exactly how high that flame is. It’s an art. And no electric stove is going to do that for me. Besides, the key word there was CHOICE. I have a 1940s Chambers range in my kitchen, and it runs on gas. I’m keeping it.
  • Our church held the annual Nativity Pageant last night, and y’all, it was so dang cute. Little mice crawling up the aisle, at one point one of the sheep abandoned the stable and fled to his mother in the congregation, and little tiny angels. It was precious. Take a look!
  • I hope you all have a wonderful holiday! Eat as much fruitcake as you like, enjoy your families, read a good book, and remember the reason for the season. Merry Christmas from Shreveport.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium. She is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation (LSU Press).