The Great Lodge at Trout Point Lodge, in the Tobeatic Wilderness, Nova Scotia
What did the Acadians eat when they lived in Nova Scotia? In the big woods, wild mushrooms carpeted the forest floor. Low bush blueberries exploded with tiny sweet fruit, steelhead trout leapt in tannin-stained streams and blue-eyed mussels were waiting to be plucked from the Atlantic beaches at low tide. By the time the Acadians became Cajuns in southwest Louisiana, trout had been replaced by river catfish and shrimp and oysters subbed for mussels. African cooks contributed much needed handfuls of spice. Put the raw ingredients of eastern Canada and south Louisiana side by side and what you’ve got is a simmering history of Acadian-Cajun-Creole cuisine.
There’s only one place in the world to explore culinary cultural cousins like Finnan Haddie Jambalaya, Creole-Style Lobster Mushroom Etouffée and Blueberry Bread Pudding. Trout Point Lodge, located on the southern peninsula of Nova Scotia, is owned by Lafayette native Daniel Abel, New Orleans attorney Vaughn Perrett, and partner Charles Leary. The trio, fascinated by food and history, built a resort in the north woods that combines culinary, backwoods and nature, and Acadian French cultural tourism.
The innovative concept offered at the back-to the-land lodge, located in the Southern Nova Scotia Biosphere Reserve, first caught the eye of magazines like Food and Wine and Martha Stewart Living. Now Trout Point has drawn the attention of Ashoka, an organization dedicated to social change. Sponsored by the National Geographic Society, Ashoka’s Geotourism Challenge 2009 is an international competition to identify the individuals and companies worldwide that have introduced the most innovative practices in tourism that sustain or enhance the geographical character of a place — its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of its residents.
Trout Point Lodge is one of 10 finalists in a contest that garnered more than 600 entries world wide. The top 10 will be winnowed down to three winners, chosen in part by an online vote of the public. Anyone can pull the lever for our local boys at www.changemaker.net/geotourismchallenge until Aug. 12. The winners will be announced Wednesday, Sept. 9, and each will receive a cash prize of $5,000, but more important, world-wide recognition for their work promoting a sustainable sense of place.
Lafayette’s Abel has been auditioning for this contest his entire life. His grandfather was a farmer in north Mississippi. His grandmother owned the Egan Hotel in Crowley. His parents, Glynn and Leah Jane “Dukie” Abel, both worked at USL. Glynn Abel was dean of men for 30 years before becoming director of community affairs for the city of Lafayette. In between classes at Lafayette High, in the early 1960s, when Foreman Drive was the edge of town, Abel hunted and fished the bayous of Acadiana. He earned a BA in history and an MA in English literature at USL before getting his JD at Loyola in New Orleans and embarking on a career in the criminal justice system defending abused children.
This reads like a standard curriculum vitae until Abel starts talking about the switchbacks on the road less taken. Friends for decades, Abel, Perrett and Leary love to eat. They are also committed environmentalists who support organic farming and sustainable building. They believe in local food ways so strongly that they decided to establish a farm in Louisiana to raise the distinctive farm products, native livestock and homemade cheeses that were part of the state’s culinary heritage before the homogenization of American culture that began flooding into Louisiana following World War II. “We wanted to see what we could do that people, food-wise and agriculturally, did when they were more closely connected to the land,” says Abel. “We were all history students. It was fun to read about it. It’s just as much fun to try to do it.”
In the early 1990s, the trio established Chicory Farm in Mount Hermon, La. Perret and Leary quit their jobs to make and sell handmade goat and sheep’s milk cheeses, cultivated and wild mushrooms, baby lettuces and edible flowers to New Orleans restaurants and farmers markets. They got rave reviews. Abel kept his legal job, infusing funds into the project.
During a trip to Nova Scotia in 1996, Abel made the Acadian-Cajun connection. This sparked the idea of building a center that provided cooking lessons based on the raw ingredients that helped to create Louisiana’s distinctive cooking styles. Located at the confluence of the Tusket and Napier rivers, Trout Point Lodge, built in the tradition of the great camps of the 1920s, is both a luxurious resort, a cultural tourism destination, and a nature retreat emphasizing recycling, composting, and on-site gardening programs.
Kayaking, swimming and hiking are part of the program. So are foraging for your supper, then heading into the kitchens to learn how to marry cross-continental recipes like wild north woods mushrooms, plump Louisiana oysters and New Orleans’ beloved artichokes in a pasta sauce. “Through the cookbook [The Trout Point Lodge Cookbook] and the lodge, we’re promoting Acadian culture and Cajun and Creole cooking,” Able says. “It’s the framework for everything we do.”
MAY 23 Here's a story in the Picayune about some statistics that must come as a blow to folks who believe that any private school can do a better job of educating kids than any public school: Danielle Dreilinger reports that only 30 percent of the voucher kids are passing. That's less than half of the state wide average, she says. It's an interesting statistic because most of the schools (if not all) taking voucher kids have never had their students' standardized test scores released to the public before.
MAY 23 Stephen Sabludowsky blogs on Bayou Buzz about auditor requests here. Recently the state GOP started crowing about a request from the Legislative Auditor, claiming they were being targeted because of their anti-tax stance. (Uh, your what?) Denial and hyperbole aside, the state Democratic party blew holes in that theory with an email announcing they'd received the same request, Sabludowsky writes here.
MAY 23 Jim Brown blogs about the senate race in this post. He says that, given Bobby Jindal's "lack of traction" on the national stage, it might make more sense for the governor to consider running against Mary Landrieu for the senate seat. Since Tim Teeple left the Cassidy team, it makes sense he might land on a Jindal for Senate team, Brown opines.
MAY 23 In this Louisiana Voice post, blogger Tom Aswell writes of rumors that his nemesis, state Superintendent of Education John White, may be soon departing Louisiana for a federal post. It's hard to believe, given his performance, Aswell says, but stranger things have happened. An anti-White BESE member says that, if true, White is quitting before he can be fired.
MAY 23 In this post on American Zombie, blogger Jason Berry writes about the Mother's Day shooting. Mayor Landrieu said that "this is not who we are," but the fact is, this is New Orleans, Berry writes. The violence infused in the city is the result of a culture created by "sins of omission or sins of commission," Berry writes. It's not a problem that can be solved by legislating, policing, praying or publicizing, he says: Someone's got to understand what's happening first.
MAY 23 This post in the Westside Journal tells us what Port Allen Mayor Deedy has been up to lately: vetoing ordinances, apparently. This story is most interesting, however, when it delves into a petition that has been circulating around the city lately. It accuses the former mayor of a lot of nasty things; the former mayor says it is full of lies and "broken syntax" which may be a larger offense in his eyes.
MAY 23 This editorial posted in The Advocate is a bit confusing. The writing is poor - definitely not up to the usual editorial writing standard there - and the point is hard to grasp. Apparently, the writer is saying that privatization of state efforts is OK, as long as there is oversight and transparency, but Jindal's not good at that, and the legislature shouldn't over-react. Okey Dokey. Can't they get one of them Pulitzer-winning people to write an editorial?
MAY 23 This post on The Lens gives you links to a new Google Earth tool that allows you to see any spot on earth transform over the past 30 years. Bob Marshall, who covers the coast for the paper, says that in the case of Louisiana's coastline, it's possibly something you don't want to see, because it's not a pretty picture. There are several clips here, showing critical areas erode away. For Marshall, it was vindication for all those times he was met with eye-rolling when he talked about erosion.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.