Louisiana – A State of Mind

I loved that slogan – it was on our license plates for a few years. Far more apt than Sportsman’s Paradise, I suppose. Living in such a diverse state, which some have likened to a banana republic, takes a certain kind of mental state, for sure.

When I think of Louisiana, I think of home, even though I now live in Texas and have since 1989. My heart is still there, along with friends and family. Even though my dad is dead now, I still find reasons to return to New Orleans, my hometown. As if I needed a reason.

I can always claim it was for research for my next book. I’ve got quite a few books set in Louisiana and in New Orleans, in particular my Hearts of New Orleans series of novellas is set before, during and after Hurricane Katrina, a defining moment for the city, forever etched in its physical and emotional memory. Those first few years of struggling back from the brink of annihilation, the next few of getting on its feet, people returning, businesses reopening, and the Saints winning the Super Bowl has redefined it as a survivor. My Rougaroux Social Club series, about a pack of Cajun werewolves, is set in southwest Louisiana bayou country.

Nowadays, New Orleans is a city with its legs firmly under it and standing tall again. Sure, there are still problems, but the Crescent City will get over them and survive. It always has and always will.

Now anyone who has ever been to New Orleans knows it is not like any place else on earth and its people are what make it so special. And along with its people, its food is the shining star. Not just in New Orleans, but all over the state.

My aunt lives up north, in Monroe, La. That’s the redneck part of the state. It’s not Cajun and Catholic like in the southern part, it’s country and southern Baptist. I remember going there as a kid, being shown Bossier City (they had gambling!!!) and wondering what the big deal was – after all we had Bourbon Street. Been there – done that. But I never had better chicken and dumplings, corn bread, and greens.

And one of my favorite parts of the state is the middle. Okay, don’t laugh, but it’s truly beautiful, if you love tall pine trees, small towns, antiquing, and haunted plantations. Give me St. Francisville any day, and I can wander its roads and tour its grand houses until my heart’s content. Try having finger sandwiches and tea in a cozy shop or fried catfish for dinner.

As a kid, I remember driving with my dad down the river road to the very end of the road. Literally. The blacktop ended at Shell Beach where a restaurant on stilts looked over the marsh. We’d eat fresh from the Gulf oyster and shrimp po’boys and drink Barq’s, then get back in the car and drive home.

On Friday afternoons once my dad got home from work, my family would sit on the front porch steps with a sack of fresh oysters and shuck them, slurping them down with a squeeze of lemon and a dash of hot sauce. We’d eat boiled crabs and shrimp that we caught, either out on Lake Ponchatrain or crawfish from a ditch on the side of a country road. I learned how to mix cocktail sauce by about six years old and could pinch the tails and suck the heads with the best of them. But so could everyone. No big deal.

So if you read my books, and I hope you’ll give them a try, you’ll find deliberate and mouth watering descriptions of food in each of them. What’s a book about Louisiana without talking about the food? Hell, I’m not sure you can talk about the state and not mention food. Try it. I dare you.

And when you’ve failed, don’t be sad. I’ve given up on it. I don’t have that much energy – I need it for eating, especially when I go there. I usually come back to Texas with a few bags of “necessaries” – Hubig’s Pies (the factory burned and they’re trying to rebuild), muffalettas, pralines and Zapp’s potato chips.

My Mom’s Shrimp Creole recipe — not sure where she got it, but we ate it at least twice a month. (we had a rotating schedule – red beans were always on Monday and cooked with ham, spaghetti with either meatballs or meat sauce (which we called red gravy) on Wednesday, pot roast or ham on Sundays, and in between, she experimented on us with recipes she’d find in the Times Picayune, or shared with friends.)

3 tbs oil
2 lg onions, chopped
1tbs flour
4 lbs shrimp
2 green peppers
1 can tomato paste
1 can tomatoes (1lb)
1 cup each shallots, parsley, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups water

Heat oil, add onions and cook on low flame until light brown. Stir in flour and add shrimp and peppers. Cook a few minutes.
Add tomato paste, tomatoes, and garlic, stirring. Cook til tomatoes turn deep red (about 10 minutes)
Add water (enough to cover shrimp), parsley, shallots, bay leaf and cayenne.
Salt and pepper.
Cook 30 minutes.
Serve with white rice.
Serves 8

Good eating!

Lynn Lorenz is having a blast writing about romance and giving her characters a hard time before they get their happily ever after. She believes everyone deserves a HEA and that if you open your heart you’ll open your mind.
You can reach her at lynnlorenz@live.com or her websitewww.lynnlorenz.com
Find her books at http://www.loose-id.com http://www.amberquillpress.com and http://www.liquidsilverbooks.com
She’s blogging here twice a month at Love, Lust and Laptops and weekly at Lynn Lorenz’s Open Hearts http://www.lynnlorenz.blogspot.com

12 thoughts on “Louisiana – A State of Mind

  1. This is awesome, Lynn! My mom just visited New Orleans this past year and came home raving about the food, the people and the sights…especially the warm people. It’s definitely on my must-see list!

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  2. I’ve never been to New Orleans. It’s one of those places I’ve always wanted to visit though. So rich in history and culture. Plus I need to try me some real creole food! lol

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  3. Lynn– Love me some Zapp’s potato chips. Yum, yum. New Orleans food– I’m all over that. Have visited the city many a time and never leave hungry. Everyone should visit New Orleans once in their lives – it is unforgettable. Hell, my son almost went to Tulane (he would have been there during Katrina — so I am sort of glad he went to U of Oregon where he only had to worry about earthquakes and volcanic ash).

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  4. When I was 23 and freshly divorced (don’t judge, he was an ass!) I threw my dog, cat and VCR in my jeep and moved from Ohio to Houston. Driving along I10, I saw the exit for N.O. and so thought I should go. It was likely my only chance to swing by and visit that grand ol’ place, but I was young and on my own so my mother’s voice screeched in my ear that I’d better not. Instead, I headed on for Texas and my waiting roommate and never did make it back. I’ll get there some day! Until then, I think I’ll give your mom’s recipe a try. Sounds devine!

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  5. I’ve visited New Orleans once for a concert, but I vacation in Alexandria with friends quite often. (Still fond of those drive-thru daiquiri stores. We don’t have those in ‘Bama.) I’m not too fond of boudin though. Even though I call it “beau-dan” and my LA pal says it’s “boo-dan”. But I am quite fond of the state. Love to visit there. And those cities Tara mentioned, I say the names on signs and had fun trying to pronounce them!

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