When Eunice icon Johnson’s Grocery closed in 2005, it was the end of an era for the family-run market which has a legitimate claim to being the first shop to sell boudin.
Arneastor Johnson opened his grocery in 1939 with a small ice-box for milk, which he updated to a refrigerated meat cooler right after World War II. He sold pork and beef locally ranched on the Cajun prairie and cured in the homemade smoke house behind the grocery — and started selling boudin, which at that time was solely a product of family boucheries. Arneastor’s four sons — Wallace, Steven, Matthew and Joe — grew up in the market and became experts in the prairie arts of smoked meat: pure pork sausage, pork sausage with garlic, “mixed” (pork and beef), mixed with garlic, beef sausage, turkey sausage and andouille, ponce (smoked, sausage-stuffed pig stomach,) tasso, bacon, ribs and beef jerky.
While the meat market at the back of the shop was a destination for those familiar with the quality of the Johnson family sausages, the grocery struggled, as mom-and-pop places do, and finally went under, unable to compete with the Wal-Martization of America. “A lot of the customers we built on were friends,” Wallace Johnson told The Independent Weekly three years ago. “A lot of them passed away. Nothing lasts forever.”
Wallace’s daughter, Lori Walls, is making him eat his words. “I really missed the sausage,” she says, standing in the quirky aluminum-clad building at 1111 St. John St. that was built by her contractor husband, Greg Walls. Johnson’s Boucaniere (Acadian French for smokehouse), an homage to her father, opened a few weeks ago. Located right down the street from St. John’s Cathedral, Lori is smoking her own prairie-style sausages, tassos and jerky in the heart of downtown Lafayette. She worked on her recipes while her husband built the small shop. Her uncle Matthew helped with seasoning, and Wallace taught her how to stuff sausage. “When I make sausage at the house,” Lori says, “my dad’s there every time.”
The smokehouse at Johnson’s Boucaniere is a far cry from the small smoke shed behind Johnson’s Grocery. Up in Eunice, the smokehouse Arneastor Johnson built was a closet-sized cinder block affair. Wooden dowels smoked to a charred black from years of use were draped with ropes of sausage. Oak fires were lit in a little metal pan on the dirt floor, the door was sealed, and the meat smoked for hours. On a clear day with little humidity, the smoked meat came out deep, succulent red. Customers came for some sausage for their beans or sauce piquant and usually left with a link of Johnson’s signature boudin, a warm baked sweet potato from the basket near the register, and if they were lucky, a cup of the hand-dripped strong coffee the Johnson brothers drank in the morning.
Lori has tripled the size of the smoking operation here in Lafayette. Her smokehouse has four compartments, each with its own metal firebox and sealed with a shiny stainless steel door. But she’s still burning oak, as her family did. Up front, the floors and counters gleam with a modern sheen, but an old pie safe her great grandfather built to hold the family’s food in the days before refrigeration graces a corner. Another familiar sight is the grocery’s wooden vegetable bin, worn smooth by the daily touch of hundreds of hands, which holds another Louisiana tradition, Zapp’s chips, to go along with the daily offering.
Lori’s generation has had to learn a new business model in order to keep the old smokehouse traditions alive; she’s serving lunch. Sausage po-boys, pulled pork sandwiches and a daily plate lunch special are the newest addition to the downtown noontime scene. The red beans and rice — made with her own sausage, of course — are superb, and she’s planning a sausage and tasso sauce piquante po-boy. Fridays feature meatballs and spaghetti, made from her own fresh garlic sausage recipe.
Wallace Johnson is a modest man, and it’s hard to get him talking about himself. So when he praises his daughter, it means a lot. “I’m very proud of her,” he says.
JUNE 19 Former Saint Steve Gleason, who is paralyzed by ALS, released a statement Tuesday in response to the Atlanta radio station's skit making fun of him and the disease, this Picayune post reports. What did he say? He said he'd accepted the apology of the DJs who did it, notes that at least the incident has got people talking about ALS, and asks anyone who is burning to take action about it to do so -- by helping him fight ALS.
JUNE 19 Blogger Ian McGibboney takes a look at the Gleason incident in this post. He makes a good argument about the difference between having free speech and being free from consequences for your speech (which none of us is). He also admits that many of us got upset before we listened to the skit -- but lets us know that the reality is far worse than we can imagine. It was the incredibly bad judgment, even more than the actual speech, that probably got those DJs fired, he opines.
JUNE 19 Washington Post blogger Aaron Blake writes about Sen. Guillory's switch to the GOP in this post. He writes what most political watchers in Louisiana know: Guillory was a Republican before he decided to run for the senate seat in a mostly-D St. Landry district, and has switched back now that he plans to run for Lt. Gov. in a mostly-R state. But how come Blake missed Guillory's appearance on a TLC pageant show? Now that is a video we'd like to see. (Again).
JUNE 19 Here's another Washington Post blog post about a Louisiana politician, and it's just plain scathing. Ezra Klein says Jindal's Politico post was "insulting" to the intelligence of voters, and adds that Jindal is personifying the "stupid" he's railed against, by being an "elite" who convinces GOP activists of "things that aren't true." Me-ow.
JUNE 19 Here's Gov. Jindal's post in Politico, in which he asks the GOP to get over losing to Obama (again) and stop "the bedwetting." (Uh, what?) He gives his Republican buddies what is probably a nerd's idea of a coach's motivational talk, which starts with a list of accomplishments that they can't seem to exploit and ending with an absurd description of liberals that sounds like a character treatment for a Fox "News" movie scripted by Gordon Liddy. Sure, he's preaching to the choir, but even the choir's not this gullible.
JUNE 19 Lamar Parmentel read Gov. Jindal's post on Politico, but thinks it was so dumb it probably was published in the wrong paper. This post by Lamar on the Daily Kingfish opines that possibly Jindal's post was destined for the Onion -- because the governor couldn't possibly be serious here. If you listen closely, you can hear the staff of the Kingfish giggling.
JUNE 19 Blogger Robert Mann posts from Turkey, a country he has visited several times in the past few years. Mann gives an interesting overview of the current political and societal climate of the country, which -- if you're living under a rock and don't know -- is experiencing protests and turmoil these days. Mann promises to post as much as he can during his trip, which should be fascinating reading.
JUNE 19 Blogger CB Forgotston says the legislature is keeping the vicious cycle going with its funding of new buildings for the community college/technical college system. Universities across the state need maintenance and improvement on existing buildings, and the solution is to build new buildings at other schools? By the time the bonds are paid off, those buildings will be falling down, too, CB says.
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to offer shares of its stock to the public for the first time.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.