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 By the time the Acadians became Cajuns in southwest Louisiana, trout had been replaced by river catfish and shrimp and oysters subbed for mussels.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 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.