I’m an avid researcher but after a long weekend of attempts to verify that claim I came up with naught. I reached out to Lafourche Parish government as well as some folks I know who are deeply knowledgeable on Acadiana and they were stumped as well.Sometime around 1970, Raceland began holding an annual Sauce Piquante Festival complete with a sauce piquante queen; Louisianans know this rich gravy to be one of the finest foodstuffs that our culture has ever produced.
Last month I got wind of a new festival in Lafourche Parish: La Fete Des Vieux Temps – or the Festival of Old Times. And there would a sauce piquante competition! Time to load up the Econoline and head 45 minutes west of New Orleans to the edge of Acadiana.Strolling onto the grounds of the party, I’m immediately transfixed by the aroma pouring out of the massive (6k square foot) food tent. A team of men are standing over a giant cauldron of hog fat stirring pork cracklins with big metal boat oars.
A sack runs $5 and the conversation with the point man is free. I have a nice talk with Kerwin Cortez on the rural Louisiana foodway, and it serves as a good primer for my segue into a plump, well-made fried catfish po boy that I featured here in my 500 Po Boys series.I was just getting warmed up.
Boudin balls are a dollar apiece and come three to a cardboard boat. I’ve eaten them across Louisiana over the past 20 years and I never turn down an opportunity to try a different parish’s version. Lafourche has a unique take on the old Cajun staple. The outsides of the ball are crispy-crunchy while the interior is luxuriously creamy-more of a risotto-style than any I’ve ever encountered.I navigate across a dance-floor that has been taken over by folks two-stepping to a one man band who’s banging out 70s country covers. He’s really good and doing some Louisiana justice to old country gold. There’s a boucherie in progress in a nearby tent, and I stop in for a few minutes to chat with Rodney Cheramie, an elderly Cajun who’s more than happy to discourse on the fading art of rural butchery.
A group of men are all pitching in on the cutting and the big, freshly-killed hog is quickly being broken down into grill and fryer-sized fillets. Mr Cheramie explains how his family left Nova Scotia after refusing to swear allegiance to Britain. They migrated southward to Lafourche, one of the original 19 parishes of Louisiana created in 1807.The old welder is tightly gripping an electric saw as it screams and cuts its way through a pig bone-blood flies off and onto my shirt-part and parcel of partying with the Cajuns I reckon.
A few feet over stand a line of tents each with a cook team hovering over big cauldrons seated on top of roaring fires.The sauce piquante competition is underway. I buy 10 tickets and begin making my way down the alley between the contestants. I’ve been making this dish since the 90s but in the lone form known as ‘shrimp creole’ Out here in Lafourche the proteins are a lot more adventurous with some cooks consigning wild hog, turtle, or deer to the stew-pot.
One dish is such a wild take that I have to talk to the cook and it turns out to be John Folse’s brother Jerry. John Folse wrote the book on Cajun cuisine and is one of the best known chefs in the Deep South.I have a good time chatting with Jerry and his helper Macy when out of the blue Folse mentions that the two keys to his success are homemade stock and the fact that he’s using a Marcelle Bienvenu recipe for his dish. If you need two weapons in your arsenal when you swing into battle these are both good ones.
Folse’s piquante is rich with a dark roux and has little of the standard tomato flavor that the other cooks brought to the forefront of their versions. Crab, shrimp and catfish power the sauce and the consistency is silken. I’ve never had a sauce piquante like this one. Jerry’s dish was the final, and best one, that I sampled. With that I figured it was time to pack it in and get back to New Orleans.It is said that once you drink the water of Bayou Lafourche you will always return, and surely I will. The folks out there could not be nicer and if nothing else I’ll be back in the Spring for another big grillades po boy at the Gheens Bon Mange Festival.