#34 Goin’ to Lafayette

You non-Cajun readers might have the impression that Cajuns are a bunch of barefooted, foul-mouth, uncouth folks who go around shooting and making a gravy out of everything that moves. Well, you pretty much got dat right (just kidding), but every now and then we country Coonasses yearn for a taste of civilization. Whenever we’re craving a night out on the town or a little fine dining, we put on our shoes, jump in the pickup truck, and take a trip to town, which for most Cajuns means one thing…we’re goin’ to Lafayette.

Believe it or not, there are just some things you can’t get at the local Super Wal-Mart. Fashion, for instance, is not one of Wal-Mart’s strong points (who’d have thunk it?), so most Cajun lady folks like to do their shopping in town, either at the Mall of Acadiana, Super Target, or one of Lafayette’s many discount stores. While the women folk are shopping, the men can go down to Academy and load up on hunting and fishing gear, catch a gun and knife show at the Blackham Colosseum, or just hang out at the nearest bar and drink the time away while we wait for the women to finish shopping.

Lafayette’s a lot like any metro area, just scaled down a bit. Name a chain, and it’s probably got it. One notable exception is a shortage of Starbucks on every corner. Starbucks is replaced by CC’s Community Coffee Houses, though not at every corner. If you’re hungry, there are plenty of dining options, since Lafayette has one of the highest number of restaurants per capita of any US city (at least that’s what someone told me). There’s a nice mix of national chains and local restaurants. You can go to Chili’s or choose one of our unique local eateries.

After the shopping and eating is done, Lafayette has plenty of entertainment options. Whether you’re watching a UL sporting event, a concert at the CajunDome, or listening to bands at Downtown Alive, there’s always something to do.

When I left Louisiana back in ’98, the only ethnic foods were Chinese, a Lebanese place, and one Thai restaurant. Since then, Lafayette has experienced a renaissance of sorts. If you’d have told me back then that Lafayette would someday have over five sushi restaurants, I’d have fallen down laughing. The downtown Lafayette area has been built up with plenty of new restaurants and shops. South Lafayette continues to add new strip malls and has a growing suburban area. I’m not sure what’s fueling this growth, other than a booming oil industry. I just hope we’re not setting ourselves up for another 80s style bust. Now, if Lafayette can just get some good jobs and half decent schools, it might just lure some of us remote Cajuns back.

#24 Evangeline Maid Bread

Growing up in Louisiana, there was only one brand of sliced bread that graced my mama’s counter top, and that was Evangeline Maid Bread. On every trip to town, I remember looking out the car window for the giant spinning Evangeline Maid sign, a fixture that’s been a constant part of the Lafayette landscape for as long as I can remember.

Cajuns and carbohydrates go together like white on rice (we like dat too), and there’s no better source of highly refined carbs than Evangeline Maid Bread. It’s some of the softest, fluffiest white bread you’ll ever taste – it’s the crack rock of the bread world. If you haven’t tried Evangeline Maid Bread before, I’d like to recommend that all you non Cajuns run out buy a loaf, but unfortunately it’s an exclusive product of south Louisiana, so you gotta come down to Acadiana to try some.

Now French bread may be perfect for po’boys, but there’s no better way to soak up gravy than with a slice of Evangeline Maid Bread. Sometimes I like to stuff it full of rice and gravy or potato salad for some hot carb on carb action (now we’re talkin’). When I’m down home, I don’t need no whole grain bread, bring on the refined white flour goodness, digestive system be damned.

One anonymous Evangeline Maid Bread enthusiast said it best, “It’s white bread, but it is the stuff dreams are made of, and it’s unavailable anywhere outside of south Louisiana. Some claim to be close, but a fresh loaf of Evangeline Maid is simply dreamy.” Now I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Former KLFY Broadcaster Jim Olivier Dead at 57

I just got word that long time Cajun broadcaster Jim Olivier has passed away at the age of 57. If you grew up in the Lafayette area in the 80s and early 90s, you probably know who Jim Olivier was. In the pre-500 channel era, it was hard to flip the channel without catching one of Jim’s shows. My grandmother used to wake up every morning and watch Passe Partout, which was sort of like a Cajun Good Morning America. Because the first half of the show was completely in French, it was her favorite news show. She’d tune in to hear him talk about the latest news, or to watch a local Cajun or Zydeco band play a tune. Jim also hosted a noontime show called Meet Your Neighbor which my grandmother never missed. Hearing about his passing brings back a lot of old memories.

Commenter liztrudy on the Daily Advertiser website put it best when she said, “Jim was an all-around great guy who was one of Acadiana’s true ambassadors. We have lost a treasure.”

Here’s a short clip of Jim introducing the Basin Brothers back in 1990: