]The kids and I met Claud in Atlanta, Ga. The next day, we hopped in the car and headed south. I had my sights set on New Orleans. Nobody wanted to drive that far. I kept telling them it was going to be worth it. I think we have ruined driving for the children because we have made the trip from the Southwest up to the Midwest so many times that they think all trips last three full days. That's just long enough to start feeling like you live in the car.
That wasn't the case with this drive. This trip was pretty easy and only took about seven hours. I eased everyone into it. I said we would just start driving and if we decided we didn't want to go that far, we could stop somewhere along the way. I knew that wasn't going to happen. We traveled through Alabama and Mississippi and before anyone noticed, we were in Louisiana. We were just a bridge away from New Orleans and the French Quarter. We made it before sundown.
After unloading our baggage into the room, we walked to Bourbon Street. That place was bustling. Other than the architecture, it looked a lot like Las Vegas. The people looked like they were in Las Vegas. Jazz music belted out from every doorway. Food vendors lined the corners. The steamy heat wrapped around the streets. I felt my hair frizz and my clothes cling to my sticky skin. People on balconies overhead threw down beads to women.
A Louisiana-style Shrimp Po' Boy Sandwich.
All I could think about was crawfish. I wanted to order a huge bucket of these tasty treats and sit with my family eating them with a nice cold glass of white wine. I ushered us into a seafood restaurant. Unfortunately, I was a little late for fresh crawfish. The season ended in late May. The waitress suggested we try the alligator meatballs. Daphne and I ordered crawfish ettouffee instead. Ettoufee is a Cajun dish, which is typically shellfish served over rice and "smothered" with a thick stew like sauce. I was not disappointed. It was thick and rich and packed full of crawfish. Claud ordered the gumbo and it was so spicy he was sweating. Jack ate the bread and butter. It must be said that even the bread was phenomenal. Everything was delicious. Later that night as Daphne and I walked hand in hand down Bourbon Street, covered in beads and wearing feather masks, I said, "So, was the drive worth it?" She smiled and hugged me and said, "Yes, mom, thank you."
We decided to explore a little further outside of the French Quarter to see what else Louisiana had to offer. We went on a swamp, wetlands, and bayou tour. We hopped onto a boat with about ten other people and a guide and cruised throughout the bayou. We weren't quite sure what to expect. The brochure had photos of alligators, but I wasn't keeping my hopes up, just in case. Boy was I wrong. I had no idea. We must have seen about twenty alligators that day. They came right up to the boat. The guide fed them hotdogs and marshmallows. I'm not sure that is their natural diet. Then again, their natural diet includes other alligators and people. So, I don't mind if they are filled up on marshmallows. We saw alligators of all sizes, wild boar, and three types of turtles. According to the guide, all of these animals are considered food in Louisiana. He wasn't kidding because I have seen them all on the menus around town. However, when we returned to the restaurant at our hotel, I wasn't hankering for turtle soup. Instead, I wanted to try a Louisiana po boy sandwich. I had seen signs for these sandwiches everywhere and I was intrigued. Po boys can be made with shrimp, oysters, crawfish, sausage, or roast beef. When I ordered it, the server asked how I wanted it dressed. I replied, "Fully dressed, please." I wanted to eat it how it was meant to be served. A dressed po boy has lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and mayonnaise.
When the po boy arrived, I was surprised that the fish was fried. I don't know why I assumed it would be sauted or grilled. I didn't care. I was excited to finally be eating one of these famous and popular sandwiches. The bread was so good. They really do bread right in New Orleans. It was crusty on the outside and soft and tasty in the middle. The shrimp was lightly breaded in a corn meal batter. Even though it was fried, it tasted really fresh. Claud ordered the gumbo again. Before I could do anything about it, he ate half of my sandwich. It was that good. That's OK because Jack couldn't do anything about how I was eating most of his truffle French fries. So far, the food here has been amazing and I haven't had to eat any turtles or alligators to prove it.
Shrimp Po' Boy
Time: 30 minutes
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled, deveined and tails
cup fine cornmeal
1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
Peanut oil for frying
head iceberg lettuce, shredded
3 tomatoes, sliced
1 large pickle, sliced
4 French sandwich rolls
Ketchup and mayonnaise
Pour peanut oil in a large frying pan (about inch deep) and heat to medium high heat. In a bowl, mix cornmeal, flour and Cajun seasoning. Place shrimp into the egg, then the flour mix. Fry in the oil about one minute each side. Set on paper towel. Cut open the bread and smother on some mayonnaise and ketchup. Layer in the tomatoes, lettuce and pickle. Fill up with the fried shrimp. Serve with hot sauce.