I have not had as much fun or as much food as I had this past weekend in quite some time. I went down to a wedding for an old family friend (well, she’s young, but the friendship is old) in Shreveport, Louisiana. The wedding was the perfect Southern affair, spanning several days, requiring several changes of outfits, and most importantly tasting several different elements of Louisiana cookin’. And I brought an Italian along for the ride.
G and I arrived in Shreveport on Friday afternoon and found ourselves, along with the rest of my family, the welcome house-guests of the father-of-the-bride’s brother and his wife. We were put up in their guest cottage, which was outfitted with more breakfast/lunch/snack food than one family could consume in a weekend, even if there weren’t meals planned. We unpacked, hung our nice things so they could de-wrinkle, and set about to resting before the rehearsal dinner.
That night, at the Shreveport Club, the groom’s family (out-of-towners from Austin) hosted a lovely surf-and-turf dinner–beef tender and shrimp in a cream sauce. The rehearsal dinner, I learned, is traditionally given by the groom’s family for close family members and out-of-town guests, and I figured we were a bit of both. The wine was a little bit on the weak side (more acid than umph), which was unfortunate as it was the night where we sat through many a speech! One outfit and one meal down.
We went to bed so that we could get up and do it all over again. Friends of the bride’s family hosted a pre-wedding brunch. We were welcomed into their gracious, palatial home–rather reminiscent of Monticello–with a choice of mimosa or bloody mary. I went for spice over sweet, and the bartender threw in a special something, a pickled green bean, the likes of which I’d never before seen in a bloody mary. It was a nice change from celery. Brunch was served buffet style–cheese grits, the most moist fried chicken I’ve ever tasted, asparagus with a gremoulade sauce, and meat pie, right out the fryer. We took our plates outside to sit in the sun, attacking the chicken with our hands. The dessert that followed was just as good–homemade palmiers, coconut and blueberry bars, and the famous Louisiana praline (nothing but sugar, pecans, vanilla, and butter). All of it was sweet enough to make your teeth curl. Two outfits and two meals down.
The wedding was at 4pm, so we had a bit of time to explore the town and drive by the big, majestic homes of a Southern town that hasn’t exploded like my hometown of Atlanta, whose growth has encroached upon the once large and luscious lawns. We then changed to make it to the church on time. Like a true Episcopalian service, the processional was longer than the ceremony, leaving me enough time to tear up but not enough to cry. Then, we headed back to our place, as that’s where the reception was to be held.
We drove up to a big brass N’awlins band playing. It was much colder than everyone had expected, so many of the in-town women broke out their fur coats as we stood outside to wait for the bride and groom to arrive. We all grabbed glasses of champagne, as well as the (warmer) spicy crawfish beignets and espresso cups of mushroom soup splashed with cognac. We finally migrated to the back of the house, to the tent, so that we could all get warm under the heaters, and be dancing, imbibing, and eating.
The father-of-the-bride had chosen the wine–a Crucillon garnacha that is big and fruity, with a little kick. It’s his favorite because it’s both good and affordable (even though they don’t sell it in his town). My mom got him hooked. Different stations were placed around the edge of the tent–pasta with shrimp and taso (a Louisiana sauce based on the type of sausage of the same name); wheels of cheese; mini-burgers; grits with a crawfish cream sauce; and lamb and beef tender. The cakes were cut and passed around. The groom’s cake was a black forest cake, made predominantly of meringue, while the wedding cake was made of layers, alternating white and red velvet. Everyone ran around, tasting and dancing, until the band quit playing so they could head back to Houston. Three outfits (and a coat) and three meals.
Sunday morning brought Sunday brunch and a last chance to get together and say goodbye before the bride and groom left for their honeymoon and the before the guests headed home. This meal–the most simple of all–was the most divine. The furniture in the bride’s family home had been cleared out for the most part and replaced with little dining tables. Everyone headed toward the dining room buffet and stocked up on grits, green beans, and grillades. I had never heard of grillades before yesterday, but this spicy round steak stew, when served over grits, is the most delicious hang-over cure ever. Especially when followed by lemon squares. Too bad we had to get on a plane after that…although it’s probably better for my waist-line.
Oh, and for the record, that’s four outfits and four meals. In a two day span.
**for more information on Louisiana cuisine, check out John Folse’s “The Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cuisine.”