By Jade Gallaher
Food in Grand Bayou was not only the center of family gatherings but was also a celebration of the land where they lived.
“I can remember for years and years, my mom and her sisters would get together every year and would get several sacks of crawfish and make crawfish bisque at one of their houses,” says David Schexnaydre, who visited Grand Bayou often.
One of his favorites, crawfish bisque is peeled crawfish tails mixed with onions, garlic, breadcrumbs and various other spices that are then stuffed into the cleaned heads of the crawfish and fried. Brown gravy is poured over the top of them before serving, Schexnayrdre says.
Grant Gautreaux, one of the last people born in Grand Bayou whose mother’s family were in the commercial fishing industry, says seafood and crawfish were a staple.
“We ate a lot of crawfish in all types of forms, lots of stews, a lot of boiled crawfish, fried crawfish tails and fried fish,” Gautreaux says. “If one of my uncles would go catch a sack or two sacks of crawfish, everyone would sit around to peel them and take home their share of the crawfish.”
The people of Grand Bayou may have all lived within the same community, but the meals on every table were different. While most recipes were different variations of the same ingredients, other dishes included corn soup, potato stew and crepes.
A lot of the families’ food came from the land they lived on.
“You had a lot of native fruit. There were persimmon trees, there were muscadine vines, there were maypops and there were honeysuckles,” says Greg Leblanc, a Grand Bayou native.
These fruit trees are indigenous to South Louisiana and have disappeared from many places known to the people of Grand Bayou because of land damage.
A lot of Grand Bayou residents grew up watching their parents bring produce from their farms to the table.
“My father was a farmer and grew corn. So, he would say, ‘Momma, wanna make corn soup today? I’ll go get a mess of corn, and then we’d make corn soup,” says Jessica Rousseau Baye, who grew up in Grand Bayou.
Eating from the earth the majority of the time was not the only thing most of these families had in common, but also that they had meals together.
“We always ate together,” Baye says. “Other than breakfast, because we were going to school and catching the bus. Daddy was in the field probably earlier than us. But, on weekends, lunch and supper every night we ate together at a table, and I think that is not done very much except on special occasions.”