Current Littourati Map

Neil Gaiman's
American Gods

Click on Image for Current Map

Littourari Cartography
  • On the Road
    On the Road
    by Jack Kerouac
  • Blue Highways: A Journey into America
    Blue Highways: A Journey into America
    by William Least Heat-Moon

Search Littourati
Enjoy Littourati? Recommend it!


Littourati is powered by
Powered by Squarespace


Get a hit of these blue crystal bath salts, created by Albuquerque's Great Face and Body, based on the smash TV series Breaking Bad.  Or learn about other Bathing Bad products.  You'll feel so dirty while you get so clean.  Guaranteed to help you get high...on life.

Go here to get Bathing Bad bath products!

Entries in Cajun (5)


Blue Highways: Abbeville, Louisiana

Unfolding the Map

Click on Thumbnail for MapHappy New Year!!!  In this January 1, 2011 post, we stop for some oysters in Abbeville with William Least Heat-Moon (LHM), and reflect on whether disasters, human- and nature-made, will lead to the end of the oyster industry in Acadiana and take with them a unique culture and cuisine.  Read on, and taste these morsels with us!  And click on the thumbnail at right to see where on the map, and where in our journey, Abbeville is located.

Book Quote

"My last chance at Cajun food was Abbeville, a town with two squares: one for the church, one for the courthouse. On the walk at Black's Oyster Bar a chalked sign: FRESH TOPLESS SALTY OYSTERS. Inside, next to a stuffed baby alligator, hung an autographed photo of Paul Newman, who had brought the cast of The Drowning Pool to Black's while filming near Lafayette. Considering that a recommendation, I ordered a dozen topless ("on the halfshell") and a fried oyster loaf (oysters and hot pepper garnish heaped between slices of French bread). Good enough to require a shrimp loaf for the road."

Blue Highways: Part 3, Chapter 14

Black's Oyster Bar in Abbeville, Louisiana. William Least Heat-Moon ate here on his way through town. Photo at nssf04's photostream at Flickr. Click on photo to go to host site.

Abbeville, Louisiana

One last Cajun meal, one last batch of oysters.  When LHM went through Abbeville and stopped at Black's Oyster Bar, I’m sure the thought never crossed his mind that oysters, which seemed so plentiful along with crawfish and shrimp, would quite possibly become a commodity that would be one day difficult to find.

Elsewhere in this blog I opined about how I love oysters.  I wrote about getting them on the half shell.  I may have mentioned that one of the best things to do is make your own oyster sauce – a little horseradish combined with some Tabasco or Louisiana Hot Sauce and you have yourself a bit of a kick to put on them.  Then, you put the shell to your lips, tip your head back, and let them slide with the hot sauce right on down.  Whether you chew them, or just let them go down your throat alive, they’re all good.

I may have also written that two fried delicacies that practically made me see God involved oysters.  The garlic-oyster po-boy, served in some fine New Orleans establishments but made particularly well by Liuzza’s by the Track just off Esplanade Avenue, is so good that I could literally eat one every day.  I’d weigh 300 pounds by now if I did, but they are that tasty that I wouldn’t care.  I could be having a coronary because of arterial sclerosis caused by too many garlic oyster po-boys, and if I were clutching my heart with a bit of one in my mouth, I’d consider it my honor to have died that way.

But the best, most wonderful oyster dish I had was something that even I had trouble envisioning until I tasted it.  Fried oysters wrapped in bacon.  Yes, it’s true.  Fried oysters taste like heaven, and then wrap some bacon around them, (because everything tastes better with bacon, right?) and you have a heavenly treat that’s a major sin to eat.  After eating one of those get out your rosary, because you need to do penance right there…and consign yourself to hell if you eat a whole meal of them.  I saw the light and never looked back after that meal.

I don’t revisit these things just to remember.  I revisit them because frankly, with hurricanes and with large oil spills, I fear for the fishing industry on the Louisiana coast.  Oyster beds that have been harvested for decades were put in danger by these events.  Shrimping businesses passed down through generations are in trouble.  These are major economic engines for Louisiana, particularly Cajuns, and a major reason that tourists go to New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana.  They are in mortal danger.  I want to go back and have my shrimp gumbo and my oyster po-boys.  I want future generations to be able to experience these delights.  LHM says that somewhere in Louisiana there has to be a bad chef but he never found one.  I know that from living in Louisiana, you have to go out of your way to find bad food there.  I know that there will be adaptation and renewal, and yet I worry about a culture, a cuisine and a way of life that could be gone within a generation.

I will be back in New Orleans in March.  I will stay with good friends and find good food – the best things that Louisiana has to offer.  And I will hope that these wonderful aspects of Louisiana that are unique to the United States, that make our rapidly homogenizing country a little more interesting, will be around for a while, and hopefully for a long time.  "Laissez les bontemps roulet," goes the French saying – let the good times roll.  I’m planning to take as much advantage of these cultural gems for as long as I can, and will by eating gumbo and oysters, dance to some Cajun music, and wash it all down with an Abita Amber or a cold Dixie.  Laissez le bontemps roulet, and let them live long!

If you want to know more about Abbeville

Abbeville's "5000 egg" giant omelette celebration
Black's Oyster Bar review
City of Abbeville
VermilionToday (newspaper)
Wikipedia: Abbeville

Next up:  Kaplan, Louisiana


Littourati News: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

On this Christmas Eve as I write this, I hope that all of you travelers and Littourati out there have a wonderful holiday season.  Whether your travel is in the real physical world, or you are traveling through your thoughts and reflections as you partake in a piece of literature, I wish for continued happy journeys for you all.

Since this blog is presently with William Least Heat-Moon and Blue Highways in Louisiana Cajun country, I am embedding the video, below, of The Real Cajun Night Before Christmas.  Enjoy!




Best wishes for a Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and a wonderful, wonderful New Year!


Michael L. Hess


Blue Highways: Delcambre, Louisiana

Unfolding the Map

Click on Thumbnail for MapWilliam Least Heat-Moon (LHM) drives through Delcambre, leading me to muse on things in Cajun country that I missed doing when I had a perfectly good chance while living in New Orleans.  Ah, well.  I still have 40-50 years left to do it.  To see where Delcambre sits on the journey we are traveling, click on the thumbnail at right.  Anyone know about the Cajun country progressive poker game in a pirogue?  Just wondering...

Book Quote

"I took Louisiana 14: roadsides of pink thistle, cemeteries jammed with aboveground tombs, cane fields under high smokestacks of sugar factories, the salt-domed country, then shrimp trawlers at Delcambre."

Blue Highways: Chapter 3, Part 14

A boat at Delcambre's Shrimp Festival. Image at Click on photo to go to host site.

Delcambre, Louisiana

One of the things that I missed while living in Louisiana were three or four events that I heard take place in many towns in Cajun country.   I really wished I had taken time to do these things, though as I look back on it, being a graduate student did limit my time especially toward the end of my stay in New Orleans when I was studying hard for my comprehensive exams.  Regardless, I still have some regrets I didn't do these things.

One thing I didn't do was attend a Cajun Mardi Gras.  There isn't as much of the pomp and spectacle of a Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but I heard and read that these events are very nice.  Before I talk about it though, let me rant for a moment while I have the speakers box about some misconceptions of Mardi Gras.

My wife, Megan, and I in costume at Mardi Gras 2010 in the French Quarter in New Orleans.I speak to a lot of people who tell me that they would NEVER go to a Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  They see the pictures and film of people on Bourbon Street drinking, puking and flashing their naughty parts for beads.  These people doing those things are TOURISTS!!!  They come to New Orleans thinking that is what is supposed to happen on Mardi Gras, and they make it happen.  They stay on Bourbon Street.  Unfortunately, that is the view that most people get of Mardi Gras.  Snoop Dogg's girlie videos done there don't help the image.  The Mardi Gras I know is family friendly.  It is celebrated in parades through Uptown, where children are set at the top of stepladders and get more beads thrown to them than anyone.  It is where cookouts happen as people wait for the huge, long parades with fantastic floats and masked riders.  It is a day where everyone is friendly to each other.  My Mardi Gras also happens in the French Quarter on Fat Tuesday, where my wife and I walk around in costume and check out the costumes of locals.  Sure, there's some risque ones, and you might see an occasional naked person, but that's the exception not the norm.  The norm is families with children, enjoying what literally amounts to a fun Halloween/Christmas atmosphere in February or sometimes March.  So go see a Mardi Gras!

That's my rant.  Mardi Gras in the Cajun country is even more down home.  Floats, but not as fancy.  Costumes, but not as decked out.  Neat events like chasing a chicken down.  Great food like gumbo and etoufee and jambalaya.  Great music.  Even more of a family atmosphere because there aren't hundreds of thousands of people packed in.  All in a small town atmosphere.  Having grown up in a small town, I find myself at home in such celebrations.

Another activity that takes place in smaller municipalities in Cajun country, and which LHM's passage above reminds me of, is the blessing of the fleet.  Delcambre blesses its fleet as part of an annual Shrimp Festival.  So do other bayou towns with a fleet and a passage to the gulf.  Every year, the shrimp trawlers head out for the first fishing trip of the season, and as they pass by, a priest stands at dockside and blesses them as they go by.  Again, it is a festive occasion, since many families depend on the shrimp season for the livelihoods.  This is why catastrophic events such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the BP oil spill can really cause a blow to the regional economy - no shrimp means very difficult times for many families.  The blessing of the fleet with holy water is one way which these fishermen try to ensure a good season.  It might help - we don't know - and it certainly can't hurt.

A third activity that I heard takes place down in the bayous is a progressive poker game where you go from bar to bar in a pirogue.  A pirogue is a small boat that is paddled or poled in bayou country.  I don't know if this actually exists, and I can't find any mention of it when I do a search, but if it does it sounds really cool.  One could go from backwater bayou bar to backwater bayou bar lazily in a boat, play his or her hand, maybe win some money, but also maybe meet some really cool people in the process.  And drink Dixie Beer.  Doesn't sound like a bad deal to me.

Once again, I find I'm kicking myself for not doing these things when I had the chance.  It's an open secret that I think it would be wonderful to live in New Orleans again - it's a place that one can grow to love despite the ever present daily difficulties and annoyances of living there.  Poorly maintained streets, crime, the third-world local and state bureaucracy, for examples, are things one has to deal with if one wants to put down roots in New Orleans.  On the other hand, it is a place that knows how to have fun when it's warranted, and how to exist despite what the rest of the country thinks.  I'm just weird enough to live there, and maybe I will again someday.  And if I do, I most certainly will take advantage of visiting Cajun country and trying to catch a glimpse of a culture that human progress in all its forms may make disappear someday.

If you want to know more about Delcambre

Delcambre, Louisiana for Kids
Delcambre Shrimp Festival
Louisiana Tourism Site: Delcambre
Wikipedia: Delcambre

Next up:  Abbeville, Louisiana


Blue Highways: Opelousas, Louisiana

Unfolding the Map

Click on Thumbnail for MapWe sidle up to stool in a bar in Opelousas with William Least Heat-Moon (LHM) and watch as he becomes the uncomfortable butt of a joke.  What he really wants to find is a place with Cajun music.  That's our next stop.  To see Opelousas on the map, click the thumbnail at right.

Book Quote

"'By the way, junior,' he asked casually, 'ever had yourself a Cajun woman?'

"His question silenced the bar. 'Don't think I have.'

"'Got some advice for you then - if you find you ever need it.'

"It was the quietest bar I'd ever been in. I answered so softly no sound came out, and I had to repeat. 'What advice?'

"'Take off your belt before you climb on so you can strap your Yankee ass down because you'llget taken for a ride. Up the walls and around.'

"Now the whole bar was staring. I guess to surmise whether my Yankee ass was worth strapping down. One rusty geezer said, 'Junior ain't got no belt.'

"Walt looked at my suspenders and pulled one, letting it snap back. 'My man,' he said, 'tie on with these and you'll get zanged out the window like in a slingshot.'"

Blue Highways: Part 3, Chapter 9

A place in Opelousas, Louisiana where LHM could have stopped today to get crawfish. From the Rebouche blog. Click on photo to go to host site.Opelousas, Louisiana

I'm not sure what to say about this one, since I've never been to Opelousas, nor a bar in the environs, nor have I ever been in any kind or relationship with a Cajun woman.  It's really the only thing that happens to LHM in Opelousas - except that the guy, Walt, who asks him whether he's ever had a Cajun woman, tells him a paragraph later that he should never take offense at what a "Coonass" says.  Coonass, of course, is a nickname and sometimes pejorative for a Cajun.

The etymology for the word "Coonass" appears to show that there are disputed origins, and its acceptance among Cajuns often depends on how high on the socio-economic ladder a Cajun stands, with people at the bottom of that ladder wearing it as a badge of pride and people toward the top viewing it as an ethnic slur.  It is like the infamous "N" word among African-Americans: a case where it started out as a pejorative term, but then the affected culture appropriated the word.  Just as younger blacks, especially among the hip-hop crowd, refer to themselves and each other with a variant of the "N" word but often take offense if an outsider uses the term, so might Cajuns refer to themselves as Coonasses but view it as a terrible slight should a non-Cajun call them by that term.  Given the word's unclear beginnings, I'm not sure that I'd want to use it anyway since I don't know exactly what it means - one can often infer meanings of things from inside a particular culture that are invisible or not understandable from the outside.

As for LHM's experience in the bar, I'm inclined toward the "boys will be boys" school.  The fact is that when you get a bunch of men together there will be questionable humor.  I learned this working in a lumber mill.  Humor that was sexual and scatological was rampant throughout the mostly male workforce in the mill, as were actual sexual paraphernalia such as magazines.  I remember walking into a "tally shack" where the tallymen added up their figures after a truck was loaded or when they were getting an order ready, and the walls were covered with so many Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler and other magazine centerfolds that there was no sign of the wood underneath.  Of course, being a high school boy at the time, I was thrilled at seeing naked women in various erotic poses.  I think it provided an outlet for those guys that they didn't get at home because they had to temper these activities and proclivities in the presence of wives and family.  It's often made me wonder whether men are just hard-wired for visual sexual imagery in a way that women are not.

Perhaps men are also hard-wired for explicit and frank talk, since I am stepping into the quicksand of generalities.  Sexual and scatological jokes among groups of men seem to be de rigeur.  In the lumber mill where I worked, if you related a good joke that people liked and felt it worth repeating, you gained a little bit of respect.  Being in high school, I didn't have that many good jokes, but I learned a few.  Too bad that, now that I'm in my late 40s, I've forgotten a lot of them.  Those that I do remember turn out to have been not that funny anyway, and some were downright disgusting, but perhaps I've just gained a more sophisticated sense of humor.  Somehow, I doubt it - give me a good fart joke and I'm laughing like a fiend.  If I've shocked some of you, I'm sorry.

In that context, LHM's experience of getting ribbed in a bar in Opelousas with reference to a sexual situation is not abnormal, but there are always those people who take it too far, who seem to believe the myths that are propagated by such humor and talk, and of whom such behavior reveals a real fear and/or hatred of the opposite gender.  So in that regard, boys may be boys, but there can be a fine line between boys being boys and boys being beasts.

If you want to know more about Opelousas

I had hoped that I could find that the Plantation Lounge, where LHM said he stopped, was still operating, but alas, I couldn't.  Here's some other information about Opelousas, though:

City of Opelousas
Daily World (newspaper)
Opelousas and St. Landry Parish
Wikipedia: Opelousas

Next up: Lafayette, Louisiana


Blue Highways: Ville Platte, Louisiana

Unfolding the Map

Click on Thumbnail for MapWe cross into Louisiana with William Least Heat-Moon (LHM) on his journey across the U.S. almost 30 years ago.  I'm sure that the rural communities of the area have changed since then.  For the better? You decide as we explore disappearing cultures.  To see where Ville Platte is located, click on the map thumbnail at right.  And go out and get some Cajun food to excite your humors!

Book Quote

"I switched on the radio and turned the dial.  Somewhere between a shill for a drive-up savings and loan and one for salvation, I found a raucous music, part bluegrass fiddle, part Texas guitar, part Highland concertina.  Cajun voices sang an old, flattened French, part English, part undecipherable."

Blue Highways: Part 3, Chapter 9

Building in Ville Platte, Louisiana. Click on the photo to go to host site.

Ville Platte, Louisiana

I remember the second time my wife and I drove into Louisiana.  The first time we drove into Louisiana was to make a trip to New Orleans from San Antonio, where we were living at the time.  We had three friends with us and conversation with them took up the leisure time in the car.  But the second time, it was just me and her.  We were heading to Breaux Bridge (which was visited by LHM and will be covered in a future post).  Near Breaux Bridge, we were meeting some friends who were living in in the Midwest and we were going camping out in the swamp along a bayou.

So, with just us in the car on a six-seven hour trip, we had time to listen to the radio.  And it was there, in the middle of Cajun country, that we heard a DJ speaking in that patois known as Cajun French.  My wife, who had French lessons in high school and could recognize a lot of words, listened for a moment and then said "That is unlike any French that I've ever heard - I can hardly recognize a word."  To me, it sounded like French as if spoken by a person out of the American South or perhaps Texas - with a kind of twang.

We had heard Cajun music before.  I was introduced to the high energy accordion, fiddle, bass and drums with the distinctive rhythm when I lived in Milwaukee, but it wasn't until driving through Louisiana on the interstate and truly listening to the radio did I hear the dialect in its full glory.

Later, when I lived in New Orleans, Cajun was still a novelty.  New Orleans is not really a Cajun town, even though you might think it is.  Rather, New Orleans is a Creole and immigrant town and the food and music reflect this.  Jazz, blues and creole cuisine were the norm, not Cajun music, though you could find Cajun music around town.  Tipitina's on Napoleon Avenue had Fais Do Do's on Saturday, I think, where you could go dance to Cajun music.  The patois you were most likely to hear was something called "Yat," which when I first heard it sounded almost like a New York, Brooklyn accent.  But it wasn't.  In fact, I grew to love the Yat way of speaking.  So I didn't hear Cajun spoken often, except on Sunday afternoons.  The independent local radio station, the wonderful WWOZ, had a DJ on Sunday afternoons named Johnny.  Johnny was a Cajun and played Cajun music, and he had a great Cajun tone.  Lot's of "Oooooooh - weeeee's."  He'd play something he liked, and he would belt out "Johnny like dat!"  I understood that Johnny lived across Lake Pontchartrain and would commute in to the station, but I wasn't really sure if that was a rumor or not.

However, Cajun did permeate my life.  We have good friends with whom we still stay in New Orleans, and Brenda is from a small town down in Cajun country - St. Rose.  You could hear her accent in her speech, and when I met her father who was a tried and true unwatered-down Cajun, you had to strain to hear him because he talked softly but it was a sweet and melodic Cajun lilt.  In New Orleans, Cajun cooking could be found in the backyards where occasionally, you could participate in a crawfish boil, where a picnic table is covered with butcher paper and then a steaming pile of crawfish, seasoned in crawfish or crab boil, with corn and potatoes mixed in, is dumped on the butcher paper.  Everyone gathers around with their Abita Ambers and dig in, mouth burning from the seasoning as we "pinched dem tails and sucked dem heads."  There has never been anything in my experience quite like it.

As LHM alludes to later in this chapter, Cajun culture is coming under assault on all sides.  The bayous and wetlands that provided them with a way of life are disappearing, first human activities like dredging and building shipping channels for extracting oil out of the area.  Extraction activities led to the massive BP oil spill, which damaged wetlands, killed the animals living there, and hurt shrimp and oyster industries that provide many Cajuns with a livelihood.  Such activities also weaken the natural defenses against natural disasters, as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita showed.  I once heard a statistic that a football field of wetland disappears from Louisiana's coastline each hour.  The one time I went on an airboat ride, the person who took us on the tour said that areas where he used to hunt and fish have vanished so that he does not recognize them any more.

Numerous analyses post-Katrina and the oil spill have talked about fragility of Louisiana wetlands.  Less focus has been given to the potential loss of a unique culture that depends upon those wetlands.  The Cajun culture and way of life should be treasured and protected, not left to die in the name of progress and energy efficiency.  As for me, I look forward to going back to Louisiana in March where I hope to make myself fat on one treasure they have given us - their cuisine.

If you want to know more about Ville Platte

City of Ville Platte
Evangeline Parish Tourism
Evangeline Today (newspaper)
Wikipedia: Evangeline Parish
Wikipedia: Ville Platte

Next up: Opelousas, Louisiana