As 2012's hurricane season approaches, Ron Thibodeaux's Hell or High Water proves there is always more to learn from the catastrophic 2005 season and our own Louisiana neighbors. This book is not about Hurricane Katrina or New Orleans. Instead, it's about—as the subtitle says—How Cajun Fortitude Withstood Hurricanes Rita and Ike.
While the post-Katrina story was unfolding in front of a national audience, Rita devastated a 250-mile stretch along the coast, wiping out homes and infrastructures, demolishing entire towns and even some parishes. The mostly Cajun populations pulled together to rebuild, only to have the disaster repeated as Ike followed Rita's path in 2008.
Thibodeaux shares some Cajun history, including the many hardships they had already survived, from le grand derangement when the Acadians were exiled from Nova Scotia, to the ostracizing practice of forcing children of French-speaking families to only speak English in schools, to Hurricane Audrey. Cajuns have had their lives and culture threatened before, and they have always endured. Rita and Ike were just two more challenges, but also examples of how imperiled this precious culture is, since it depends on land rapidly disappearing and a younger generation retreating to bigger cities.
The book depicts the damage and recovery efforts by focusing on real people who lived it. Farmers with fields so drenched in salt they wouldn't grow crops for years. Administrators struggling to reopen schools, and students clinging to what normalcy could be found in half-week studies at a campus shared with athletic rivals. Sue Fontenot's search for her brother's casket, carried away from its vault by floodwaters, bookends the larger story of the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team's ongoing search for hundreds of similarly uprooted caskets. The struggle of Champagne's Supermarket to re-open emphasizes how rooted in community the area remains. Threaded throughout the book are examples of how traditions have prepared the people for the current challenges—how the past communicates to the present.
A writer and editor at the Times-Picayune for 30 years, as well as the “resident expert on Cajun culture,” according to the forward by James Carville, Thibodeaux is ideal to present the story of the celebrated and misunderstood population. Hell or High Water is immensely readable as, true to his Cajun penchant for using humor in the midst of tragedy, Thibodeaux knows how to tell a story that is both funny and heartbreaking.
How to master the fish fillet
Step-by-step instructions for filleting fresh fish, which is a particularly useful culinary skill for those of us fortunate enough to live in southeast Louisiana.
Social media style
With our cover story featuring 25 must-follow Twitter accounts in Baton Rouge, and examining the growing social media site's impact on the local community, we wondered what Twitter might look like in the flesh—living, breathing, fashionable flesh. Prices are approximate, and price and availability are subject to change. (Styling: Erin Mehta)
Bad Guys, Good Eats! Pop-Up Dinner at Restaurant IPO
Chef and 225 contributor Jay D. Ducote and Chef Chris Wadsworth hosted the Bad Guys, Good Eats! dinner at Restaurant IPO Wednesday night. The dinner was themed around famous movie villains, pairing cocktails and ales with plates of food resembling famous baddies like The Joker, Lord Voldemort, Hannibal Lector, and many others. The highlights of the night were the three middle courses—a black bean soup laced with blood sausage to signify Lord Voldemort, a brace of coneys on black eyed peas resembling Sauron, and lamb medallions atop a fava bean puree to pay homage to the famous favorite of Hannibal Lector.
Elizabeth Arkley Hammett, a local nursing student and Fur Ball co-coordinator, and her husband Grey Hammett III, who works in commercial real estate, will take you through our summer guide. And they'll look good while doing it, too. Where noted, their clothes and accessories are available from local retailers.