Saturday, November 17, 2018

I GIVE A FIG



During the month of November every year, for at least 20 years, I initiated a hunt for fig preserves made here in Louisiana to send to my youngest daughter, Elizabeth, in southern California—not smushed ones sold commercially in a grocery, but whole ones with the stem still on the fruit and steeped in lots of sugar like Elizabeth’s grandmother once served up on hot, buttered biscuits. For years, I talked to many food faddists in New Iberia, Louisiana who knew where I could find this homemade preserved fruit but they wouldn’t divulge the source (xenophobia at its worst)!! However…last year when we went to purchase grass-fed beef at GLC Meat Market in Loreauville, Louisiana, voila! I discovered an entire table of fig preserves, stems included, swimming in syrup, in Mason jars with gold tin lids. I saw more of the same product just last month, and I'm assured Elizabeth's Christmas gift is available.

When I first spied those preserves in GLC, I became as excited as I had been when I found a bottle of McIlhenny’s Tabasco sauce on the table of a small supermarket in Ahwaz, Iran where I lived in the oil patch for two years. “Hey la bas, hot sauce,” I exclaimed, startling a few shoppers clad in chadors who already thought Americans too boisterous. I couldn’t contain my joy when I saw those little red-capped bottles of sauce because I was in a three-months cultural shock phase and homesick for Teche country. At the time of this outburst, I envisioned a large black pot similar to the one owned by Big Mac in New Iberia, Louisiana, 100 lbs. of crawfish, a case of McIlhenny’s Tabasco, some strands of Spanish Moss waving in the hot desert breeze, and a crowd of expatriates gathered for a crawfish boil in my front yard. I left the supermarket with a half dozen bottles of the sauce and displayed one of them on the dining table for dinner guests to view for the entire two years we spent in Iran. It was a good conversation piece. 

I digress. My daughter Elizabeth could probably find fresh figs in California, but she hasn't located a source for fig preserves. I doubt if she knows how rich in minerals and anti-oxidants they are, as her sweet tooth usually takes precedence over foods that I’ve told her are good for her, so she’s getting nutrition without my having to counsel her about diet. She also doesn’t know that Buddha achieved enlightenment while sitting under a fig tree or that the fig tree was the first fruit tree mentioned in the Bible.

According to Francoise Mignon,* one of my favorite Louisiana authors, fresh figs taste better with a “dab of sugar and a spot of cream,” but he also admitted that he could possibly “respond to the sweetness of the preserved  variety …as it would carry with it a nostalgic reminder of the foregoing July when the gathering of the product was in full swing and figs for breakfast, dinner and supper were the order of the day…” He writes about the Ficus carica in Plantation Memo: Plantation Life in Louisiana, 1750-1970 And Other Matter.

Mignon mentioned that fig leaves have “served as models for more sculptors working in marble than any other device for de-sexing statues all over the Western world…” He was also amazed that Eve would have chosen the fig leaf to create clothes for herself and Adam since it has such a fuzzy, prickly texture. I might add to this comment that the smoother leaf of an elephant ear plant would have been a better sartorial selection as this large plant leaf wouldn’t have driven her to find thread and needle to create covering for the couple’s private parts.

P.S. And just as a piece of trivia, in case readers have warts, fig juice is supposed to remove these unsightly skin eruptions. I don’t know how many Cajun traiteurs still use this remedy in their practices.

*Francois Mignon, the author of Plantation Memo, published his columns first in the Natchitoches Enterprise and in The Natchitoches Times; later, the columns appeared in The Leesville Leader, The Shreveport Journal, Alexandria Town Talk, Opelousas Daily World, and The Shreveport Times from 1957-1970. He was the famous house guest at Melrose Plantation in Robeline, Louisiana who was invited to visit Cammie Henry, mistress of Melrose, and stayed in Yucca House on the grounds of Melrose for over thirty years! I’ve been considering writing a non-fiction book about him. His columns about Melrose are outstanding.

Photograph of fig leaves by Victoria Sullivan




Wednesday, November 14, 2018

POO YI, PECANS AGAIN!

Marquee on New Site of Cane River Company

Six years ago, I walked into the offices of the Cane River Pecan Company here in New Iberia, Louisiana and was surprised to see, on one wall, a framed copy of a 34-year old article in the Daily Iberian entitled “Pecan Businessmen Beginning Young” with my byline. After I talked with Jady Regard about the framed article, I blogged about the  Company, acknowledging the Dan Regard family for its phenomenal progress with a small enterprise manned by three forward-looking brothers who established a home-based pecan-cracking business called “The Nutcrackers" that  mushroomed into a thriving business selling pecans as far afield as Singapore.

The Cane River Pecan Company features a product line that includes roasted and salted pecans, chocolate-covered and praline pecans, fresh-baked pecan/chocolate chunk cookies, pecan pralines, pecan praline popcorn — and, now, a dessert that CEO Jady Regard has concocted for the “Company Special”—Boudin Pie!

In the window of the Cane River Pecan Company

Jady Regard is one of New Iberia Louisiana’s entrepreneurs who gave up a job as manager of corporate sales for the Chicago Bears and for the LSU Basketball team to take over marketing products of the Cane River Pecan Company. His newest concoction, Boudin Pie, contains one pound of locally sourced, uncased pork boudin, a layer of sweet potato souffle covered with a pecan glaze in a handmade deep-dish crust. Boudin and pecan glaze? I’m told that it’s a dessert infusion that bests all homemade Cajun dishes.

I haven’t tasted this dish yet, but I visited the new headquarters of Cane River Pecan Company on Main Street two days before their scheduled tasting event. I walked around looking at products the company offers and admired the murals of the Natchitoches plantation area on one wall of the showroom — pictures and timelines concerning the pecan growing business. By adding pictures to this wall, Regard hopes to form a museum that will educate visitors about the industry, as well as advertise Louisiana’s rich resources. 

The Cane River Pecan Company was sourced by Jady Regard’s father, Dan Regard (now deceased), who owned a pecan grove on the plantation “Alcock Place” in Natchitoches, Louisiana. He employed his sons to spend their after-school hours and holidays cracking up to 400 pounds of pecans a week, using a large nut-cracking machine he ordered from San Antonio, Texas. Jady and his brothers sold pecans from a shop adjoining the Regard home on Darby Lane and advertised their product on signs placed in store windows of New Iberia and in the local newspaper, The Daily Iberian. From that small beginning, with their parent’s backing, and, later, with Jady’s talent for marketing, The Cane River Pecan Company burgeoned into a worldwide product distributer now equal to other Teche Country products such as hot sauce and rice.

Colorful tins with lids featuring paintings by Louisiana artist Clementine Hunter and, now, lids of tins with pictures of New Orleans streetcars, contain the company's pecan products and line the shelves of the new showroom. In addition, corporations can order custom gift tins of pecan products that show their own logos and personal messages.  

Mais, when the weather clears — if the weather clears — I’m going downtown and get my satisfied from a boudin pie so I can brag about it to my Sewanee, Tennessee friends who often wonder what Cajuns will eat next!


Sunday, November 11, 2018

ALL LOVE,




Border Press Books, Sewanee, TN, announces the publication of All Love, by Diane Marquart Moore, a volume of poems about relatives and relationships, death and dying, illness and recovery, and includes a special section about a three-week sojourn in Mexico. Also featured are prose poems and excerpts from “Everyday Journal IV” about ordinary and extraordinary daily happenings, as well as observations about present-day social issues.

Reviewers celebrate Moore’s new book:

“Mindful of Diane Moore’s ‘other life’ as a Deacon in the Episcopal Church, ‘It is truly right and just’ to celebrate these poems that beat with such a steady pulse our hearts, and by extension, our spirits flourish. Deeply faith-based in her own way but accessible to all of ‘other’ or indeed those of no faiths at all, her words ‘extend to infinity’ (see title poem, which, as all good poems strive to do, means much with fewest means employed), help us negotiate ‘the boundary between twilight and dark,’ and are a sturdy ‘cane’ to rely on as we wend our way through the challenging landscape of this tome.” 
- Stuart Friebert, author of Decanting: Selected and New Poems, founder and director of the Oberlin Creative Writing Program and co-founder of Field Magazine, the Field Translation Series, and the Oberlin College Press.-

“In the epigraph for her poem ‘Music,’ modern mystic Diane Moore cites a line from Rumi. ‘Music’ is a lyric poem celebrating love in the sound of a wren’s singing, the sun’s laughter, and a loved one’s voice. Narrative poems convey Moore’s gift for agape: an Amish woman selling corn and flowers recognizes the poet as ‘a good little lady,’ a child necklace dealer in Mexico, ‘Christ’s vendor,’ displays ‘Jesus on a black string’ with a peephole revealing Christo Rey 'who takes away…all the sins in the world,’ as well as ‘my pesos at the rate of 20 a day’… In ‘A field of Battered Weed,’ Moore reveals the reality of long-lasting love through a thistle, ‘an ancient symbol of both pain and pleasure.’ 
-Kathleen Hamman, editor, Plateau Books, Sewanee, Tennessee.-

Diane Marquart Moore is a retired archdeacon of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana, poet, writer, and journalist who lives part of the year in New Iberia, Louisiana, and part of the year in Sewanee, Tennessee. She publishes “A Words Worth” blog at revmoore.blogspot monthly.

The beautiful cover photograph is Karen Bourque’s glass adaptation of a lotus appearing in Why Water Plants Don’t Drown as illustrated by Susan Entsminger and authored by Victoria I. Sullivan. Cover design of All Love, by Martin Romero.

All Love, as well as 49 other titles by Moore, are available through Border Press Books, P.O. Box 3124, Sewanee, TN and amazon.com.