Sweet Work If You Can Get It
A friend visited with her granddaughter at my house near Iuka. She later made the child write me a thank you. While I appreciated the manners lesson and the letter, an accidental compliment in its contents absolutely thrilled me.
“I like your play house,” the girl wrote. “Where is your real house?”
It’s easy to see why a child might consider my small cottage in the woods at the tiptop of Mississippi a nice place to camp and romp and chase lightning bugs – but not a house where you’d actually live.
Across the Bridge
Truth is, I hope never to have a house that looks like a “real” one, though of course on most days it must serve. A nice place to play, but you occasionally have to sully it with day-to-day duties like sitting in front of a computer till your forehead bleeds, or paying bills or recovering from the flu.
I thought about my little friend last month on Good Friday when I drove to Pie Day, an increasingly rare Louisiana Lenten custom. Here I was, going to a home where pies would be spread out like spring-breakers on a beach, all in the name of column-writing duty. I like the way you play. But where is your real work?
Pie Day started in Catholic France in the 12th century and was known as Jour de Tarte. Everything sounds better in French. All work, including cooking, was forbidden on Good Friday, and meals were limited to one. So the day before, the French cooked a fruit pie that would not spoil in order to have a meager meal ready.
In Louisiana, a few communities carry on Pie Day but with a decidedly Acadian twist. If there can be but one meal, it should last for hours. And pies might include crawfish, mushroom and cheese pizza, along with the fruit and sweet pies. While we’re about it, why not invite the whole town, a musician or two and make it a party?
I have been to a couple of memorable Pie Day gatherings in the past, one in 2010 at Paul Begnaud’s home in Scott, Louisiana. He lived in the heart of old downtown in a converted red-brick bank. Mister Paul’s kitchen, where the day before a harem of helpers had helped him produce 97 homemade pies, was in the old bank vault.
The home was full of art and whimsy and he served pie to the entire town on his own china. I should have written him a note of thanks. I love your play house. Where is your real house?
The setting of regal old live oaks alongside Bayou Mercier is so spectacular you almost don’t care if you get to taste one of the hundreds of pies.
But I did eat pie. I ate two kinds of crawfish pies, though Greg’s signature ones were long gone when I arrived. I ate strawberry pie and had a taste of blackberry. I watched as more and more people arrived with more and more pies — and their dogs and picnic quilts and guitars and the celebrated Cajun joie de vivre.
I sat on a cypress bench made from a log Greg reclaimed from the Atchafalaya Swamp and wondered how on earth my life could be any sweeter. Oh, yes, maybe if I tried the lemon pie with its heaping helping of homemade meringue.
Greg said that the only problem he sees with Pie Day is there are so many people you can’t possibly have meaningful conversations with everyone. And there’s so much food he has proclaimed a rule that you now must take a pie home.
The French have given up the Pie Day custom, but their spunky Cajun cousins are doing their best to keep a good thing alive. And, being a sport, I try to be supportive about meaningful Louisiana customs.
Rheta's new book will be officially hitting the shelves on April 1st! In the meantime, Pass Christian Books (300 East Scenic Drive, Pass Christian) has signed copies!
The official book launch party takes place at Pass Books on Tuesday, April 5th, 2016 from 6pm - 7:30pm with refreshments and hors d'oeuvres. If you haven't met Rheta yet, here's your opportunity!