|Squirrel at Alexandria Zoo - This one's safe.|
We arrived in Alexandria, Louisiana on the first day of squirrel hunting season for which some school districts have been known to acknowledge by letting out classes. At the luncheon tea room, The Cottage, a large table of women dressed in camouflage laughed about the men in their construction company office taking the day off to hunt, allowing the ladies to dress much more casually. Last night’s football game was called the Squirrel Bowl as it is the only game played on a Thursday rather than under Friday night lights so that players can hunt the next day.
|Penny Dartigo showing off freshly made cracklins|
|Terry Fogelman stirring cracklins|
Lady Bug’s boyfriend was cooking cracklins behind the food truck and drawing an eager crowd. Some even waited outside the chain link fence for the chance to buy it freshly cooked. Called by turns a jambalaya pot or cracklin pot, the cooking vessel is large, black, filled half-way with oil, and heated by propane. Terry Fogelman patiently stirred the bubbling pieces of pork fat with skin attached advising us to listen carefully for the crackle - like Rice Krispies - indicating it was done. The dish is served as a snack in a small paper bag and was more appealing fresh than those commercial products sold in plastic bags in grocery stores.
|Stuffed Alligator Above salad bar at Tunk's Cypress Inn|
|Deck around Turk's Cypress Inn on Kinkaid Lake|
With his Louisiana drawl, Mr. Thiels talked easily of the various bow and gun hunting seasons including those for wild alligator, ducks, and, of course, squirrels. He said his son could take us gigging for frogs, best found in rice fields when draining, and he would be happy to introduce coon hunting. Knowing that most of our crowd was from California, he admitted they never served anything organic except by accident. Mr. Thiels then gave his mental recipe for cooking squirrel with the same roux requirement as Lady Bug’s but he adds onions, bell peppers and tomato sauce. When asked how it tasted, he kidded with a straight face, “like cat”. It was no surprise his 35 year old restaurant is a favorite for family gatherings, Mardi Gras parties and receptions.
|Alligator at Alexandria Zoo|
While my previous experiences with Louisiana offerings were probably more extensive than my traveling companions, I enjoyed watching their willingness to try it all. And the pride and ease with which the cooks used native animals, ingredients and family recipes simply confirmed Louisiana’s reputation for unique cuisine throughout the state. Now, if they could just figure out alligator sushi for my California friends.
Alexandria, Louisiana Offerings for the Tourist
Tunk's Cypress Inn
LeCompte's Pie Festival
Lucky Palace Restaurant