Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lafayette Bred & Fed

Looking back at it, I guess you can say I never really had a chance. Food had its grip on me before I was even born. That’s why I’m proud to say I’m “Lafayette bred and fed.” In the 1980s, my Dad was a high level executive in a large, global healthcare organization. Before his big break, he started out like a lot of people waiting tables. He was a server at Evangeline Downs, ran the Pizza Hut on Evangeline Thruway, and later the Popeye’s chains of Lafayette. He has this great story of cooking a gumbo in the kitchen of the Four Corners Popeye’s while riding out a hurricane with Al Copeland’s attorney; a man who would later become my Godfather and connect my Dad with the job that changed his life. Food is powerful.

Both of my grandmothers cooked...constantly. My maternal grandmother, Vivian, worked as a lunch lady for most of her life in Lafayette Parish. Although “lunch lady” may conjure up thoughts of a mole ridden Chris Farley slinging sloppy joes, my grandmother was/is the real deal; and I took pride in knowing what she did was important. It was also nice to get an extra roll on my tray every now and then. She still cooks daily; feeding anyone who walks into her house--at any hour they walk in--and still insists on cooking two different meats per meal. Chicken and fresh sausage. Rabbit and pork. Turtle and whatever my grandfather brought home that day.

My paternal grandmother, Rosella, worked in the homes of some of the most influential people in Lafayette. She not only cooked amazing spreads of dishes that I can still taste three years after her passing, but she knew how to make even the simplest of foods, a can of tuna fish, come alive and be stuck in my mind forever. Again, I am proud of what my grandmother did, taking care of people and cooking for families. There’s a vulnerability when you cook for someone. You put yourself out there for everyone to see and judge. My appreciation for the culinary artists out there was born from my life experiences and instilled in me by those before me.

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