Whitney Plantation (Wallace, LA), B and C Seafood (Vacherie, LA), Abita Springs/Mystery House, Coquette (NOLA)


Road trip day! I drove about an hour west to the Whitney Plantation. What a change from the plantations I’ve visited in the past. Since the late 1980s, I’ve visited three. The first one, Oak Alley, I think, was all Scarlett O’Hara, little to no mention of slavery. The second one, the Laura Plantation, seven years ago, was the rare woman-led plantation and slavery got a brief mention.

The Whitney Plantation, opened in 2014, is entirely about slavery, with moving memorials that list all “the enslaved” (our guide’s term) by name and include photos etched into memorial walls and quotes with gruesome memories recalled by elderly people who somehow managed to survive the brutality of being enslaved on a sugar cane plantation/factory. There is also an emphasis on children who were slaves, with poignant sculptures of kids who lived there. Each visitor gets a pass to wear with a specific child’s name, a photo of a sculpture of the child and a quote from the elderly person who was once that child. Clever touch and it had us all looking in the church and old worn shacks and the Big House (which had a more sinister vibe then other plantations I’ve toured) for our child. Apparently the other plantations have cleaned up their act a bit and now mention slavery more, although none to the extent that the Whitney does. I was reminded a bit of concentration camps I’ve been to in Europe.

Lunch was a bowl of hot gumbo at nearby B & C Seafoods on Vacherie, where I ate seven years ago with my London pals, Francine and Russ. Solid roadside joint with friendly servers and locals.

From there I drove about an hour north and east to tiny Abita Springs, to visit a small folk art/grassroots art place called the Abita Mystery House, an old gas station packed with entertaining clutter/“found objects” that make fun of Southern stuff (UFO reports, Mardi Gras parades, voodoo). Reminded me of the town of Lucas, the grassroots art capital of Kansas.

I drove around the narrow streets of the Bywater to see what’s going on there. Still a bit rough but gentrified in areas and lots of cleverly painted tiny shacks and cottages. I drove past the great music club, Vaughn’s and Bacchanal, the little hidden wine and cheese shop and bar.

Tonight we had dinner in the Garden District at Coquette. Another clever southern food spot. We had grilled shrimp, perfectly seasoned, plus remoulaude and gremolata. The beef short ribs were fattier than I like but deliciously seasoned. I ate dirck’s trout instead, which was covered with brussel sprouts, cauliflower and preserved kumquat. Lovely. Light and tasty.

The dessert was a stunner although it looked like a flop. (Or a tart I would bake.) It was advertised as a lemon tart but it was deconstructed so there was a puddle of lemon curd and another puddle of white whipped cream and a few little round cookies that served as crust, plus fresh satsumas and some green tart gremolata ice. It was full of unusual flavors that all worked remarkably well together. Dirck and I walked along Magazine street, window shopping and admiring the beautiful old buildings housing the shops. On a very chilly night (low 40s and overcast and windy all day, glad I brought my down coat), no one else was around.

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