Jambalaya on the Bayou

When we were in Minnesota this summer one of our RV park neighbors came over to chat with us. We asked each other the usual RV park questions: Where are you from? Where have you been? Where are you going? When we told him about our trip around the country he said, “You have to go to Betty’s RV Park in Abbeville, Louisiana. You just have to.” At that time, Louisiana was still months away, so we scribbled “Betty Abbeville LA” on a piece of scrap paper and put it in a drawer.

A few weeks ago we pulled that piece of scrap paper out and looked Betty up online. We already knew we were going through Louisiana because when we first announced that we were doing this trip one of Suzanne’s high school classmates responded and let us know that she was living in Baton Rouge and she’d love to have us come by. So as we were looking ahead at our route we made plans to visit Reagan in Baton Rouge and then head off to Abbeville.

We said good bye to the beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama and continued west towards Louisiana. Along the way we overnighted in the parking lot of a casino in Mississippi. It was great, Kevin was able to walk just a few hundred yards away and have a night out on the town. He played blackjack for a few hours and was up for awhile and then down for awhile and then back up for awhile and ended up coming home with the same amount of money that he started with (or so he says).

Reagan had given us two RV park recommendations near Baton Rouge and we chose Lakeside RV Park. Even though she and her boyfriend, John, don’t live too far away they decided to drive their RV out to the park and stay for the night too. It was our first RV park meet-up and so much fun! They were able to reserve a spot right across from us and we had dinner outside under the stars.

Reagan and John showed up bearing multiple grocery bags full of local foods. We had jambalaya, white beans and boudin for dinner, which we washed down with two different types of local beer. “Boudin” is a type of sausage and Kevin is now mildly obsessed with it (when he met up with his friend Chris to tailgate at an LSU football game later in the week Chris brought a case of boudin after hearing about Kevin’s new found obsession). Reagan and John also stocked our cupboards with a few different varieties of “Zapp’s Potato Chips”. Our favorite flavor was the “Spicy Cajun Crawtators”. They gave us several different varieties of spices and hot sauces too.

The next morning we all went for breakfast at their favorite local German restaurant. German food in Louisiana? Yes, it was delicious! Maybe not the most healthy food we’ve ever eaten, but we’ve been pretty good about running lately so we enjoyed every bite of it. (In fact, just the day before we had gone for a run along the banks of the Mississippi River!)

Suzanne and Reagan reconnected on Facebook a few years ago but otherwise hadn’t kept in touch since graduating from St. Lucy’s Priory High School. Despite all the years that had passed, however, it was like no time had passed at all. This was one of those unexpectedly wonderful visits that you can’t plan for and don’t anticipate, they just happen. Suzanne loved reconnecting with Reagan and Kevin loved meeting Reagan and we both loved meeting John. (There was a lot of love, can you tell?)

When we said good bye to our friends and left Baton Rouge we headed southwest to Abbeville, Louisiana. We weren’t quite sure what to expect when we arrived at Betty’s RV Park. Betty was out front at the mailbox and waved us in. It looked like we were pulling into her backyard. Oh wait, we were pulling into her backyard. She has 17 sites arranged around her house. We got the last available spot, which happened to be right next to the patio where the band would be playing that night.

When we checked in Betty informed us that it was gumbo night. This meant that she was providing homemade gumbo and everyone else should bring a side dish. She also informed us that Judy Bailey and a few local musicians would be putting on a live show, right there next to our RV! What we had heard about Betty was true: she does her best to create more of a B&B experience rather than an RV park experience. She wants to mingle with her guests and wants her guests to mingle with each other.

Well, mingle we did. We were the youngest in the bunch by a few decades and we loved hearing about all of the RV’ing adventures of our neighbors. There were full-timers, there were seasonal folks, there were weekenders. One couple in their 80s, who were the first to jump up and dance when the band played a love song, had even done an around-the-world RV trip as part of their Airstream club.

The best part of the night for Kevin was when the band played “Jambalaya on the Bayou” by Hank Williams. It was the first time he had heard that song and he ended up hearing it three different times while we were in Abbeville. He’s now a little bit obsessed with it (maybe even more obsessed with it than he is with boudin) and claims that if he is ever forced to do karaoke then that is going to be his song. With as many times as he’s played it on his computer lately he should have no trouble remembering the lyrics (Molly and Wylie probably even know the lyrics by now).

As luck would have it we found ourselves in town for Abbeville’s 28th Annual Giant Omelette Celebration. We had no idea this was happening when we headed that way, so obviously we were meant to be there for this occasion. You can read all about the festival and its history on the website, but here are a few things we think you should know:

  • There is a lot of pomp and circumstance around the occasion. No, really, a lot. There is a Catholic mass where a priest blesses the eggs, there is a procession where the chefs (known as ‘chevaliers’) parade through town, and there are multiple speeches by town dignataries.
  • The “Tabasco Girls Dance Team” is on site to participate in the parade and, even more importantly, to dance around the 12-foot skillet while pouring Tabasco into the recipe.
  • If you wear a “Kiss Me, I’m Cajun” t-shirt to the omelette festival then you shouldn’t be surprised when one of the chefs takes you up on the offer (Suzanne learned this the hard way).
  • The Omelette Celebration doesn’t last for just one day. It’s a multi-day event complete with charity run, craft fair, tractor show and egg breaking competition, among other things.
  • The omelette – which in the end is more like scrambled eggs – actually tastes really, really good.

While we were in Abbeville we took a short drive to Kaplan, which is the town just west of there. While researching Betty’s RV Park we came across a blog that talked about a market in Kaplan that had some of the best Louisiana cooking anywhere. We subsequently discovered that they’d been written up in the New York Times. Our verdict is that the sidetrip to Suire’s was definitely worth it. This was the first time either of us had ever eaten at a place that had the menu spraypainted on the wall out front. And inside the restaurant it was a combination mini-mart/grocery store/deli, but the food was amazing. Kevin had the shrimp po’ boy and Suzanne couldn’t decide between the catfish po’boy and the shrimp po’boy so they let her do half and half. The shrimp was definitely better. We highly recommend a stop at Suire’s if you’re ever in Louisiana.

That’s all for now. We’ve included our route map through Louisiana down below and we also wanted to let you know that our blog is now linked through a website where you can read about other technology-enabled nomads who are working while traveling around the country: http://www.technomadia.com. We’ll see you on down the road and we’ll leave you with a few lines from “Jambalaya on the Bayou”:

Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and a filé gumbo
‘Cause tonight I’m gonna see my ma chère amie-o
Dress in style and go hog-wild, me-oh my-oh
Son of a gun we’ll have big fun on the bayou.”

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5 thoughts on “Jambalaya on the Bayou

  1. Well, there’s still not a doubt in my mind that Suzanne married the right guy. Any guy who appreciates Hank Williams’ version of “Jambalaya on the Bayou” is a man of exceptionally good taste. That song surfaced during the 1950′s, when I was a little younger than I am today, and I believe it spent some time at the top of the charts “back in the time.” I suspect that it now resides in my DNA.

    Fats Domino issued a recording of the song much later, but Hank Williams was the guy who nailed it.

    Thanks for recalling a wonderful piece of “American” musical folklore.

    I’ll see you two “on down the road” next week.

    Peace & blessings,

    The Moondog

  2. Hard to follow-up that message from The Moondog, but here I go. So what you’re saying is, you were in the state capital of Louisiana?

    1. Molly – we’ve been practicing! You’d be so proud of us. It was actually pretty scary in the beginning how many we didn’t know, but the flashcards have a special place up front now and we test each other as we’re going down the road 🙂

  3. Did I mention that we’re going to have a sing a long at Thanksgiving! Kevin and Ken, you’re on for “Jambalaya on the Bayou” — the rest of us will need a printout of the words!
    Kevin and Suzanne — see you on down the road…

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