New Orleans, or, as the locals say, “Nwaulins”
I had mixed feelings about visiting New Orleans. I’m not a party kind of person. I could care less about Mardi Gras and I had heard, and seen on tv, how grungy this town was. Well, it was…grungy, that is. But, even after Katrina, who can go to “Nwaulins” and leave uninspired?
I’ll get to the French Quarter in my next post. But now, I want to say something about what made New Orleans what it is today. Sugar. Also, rice and crawfish, but mostly sugar.
Remember that picture of the canal going through Port Arthur a couple posts ago? The one with the smoke on the horizon? Well they were burning what was left of the sugar cane fields in preparation for rice. In a few months the fields will flood, the rice will be harvested, and next they will “grow” crawfish. Over and over again, every single year. Just a little fact that I didn’t know before asking a few questions. Sugar, rice and crawfish. No wonder New Orleans is known for its restaurants. But, back to the plantation…
The Laura Plantation
We looked at all the options and decided to spend our meager bit of money on a plantation tour. We chose the Laura Plantation. This is the only true Creole plantation in the whole bunch of them. I had grand visions of something white and expansive, with ancient oaks lining the half mile long driveway. Well, that was the neighbor. The Laura Plantation is much more understated. I immediately liked it.
There’s a long, convoluted story about this family and how they ended up running this plantation. If you’re interested, here’s a good website: http://www.lauraplantation.com/sugar.asp Plus, Laura wrote a book about it called, “Memories of the Old Plantation Home.”
Basically, as a young woman, Laura’s mother, Elizabeth was required to run the plantation since no one else in the family was capable. She did not want to do this, but had no other choice. She became bitter, and mean, and ended up running the place with an iron fist. Here is where she retired:
Laura was affected by her mother’s lack of compassion, so she softened her style once it was time for her to take over. The place was run by women, Creole women. Creoles are a blend of West African, European and Native American cultures. The Creoles had a habit of isolating themselves from the rest of “Americans,” who, at that time were really just transplanted Europeans.
It was a multi-cultural, gender neutral environment. Still, there were slaves. In fact, it was the slaves who built the main house and all the out buildings. Here are a few of the remains of their handiwork:
As some point they started making wine and became one of the most productive wine makers in the south. The place is decorated with old wine bottles. I love the idea of using something over and over again. But I can’t imagine drinking enough wine to do this:
A week or so after taking this tour, we went to see “Twelve Years a Slave.” What an eye-opener. I felt deep sadness for everyone who lived during that ugly time in American history. There simply were no good choices. And all for the love of sugar!
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