|Penny ( with Junior and Joel) explains the Accordion|
Note the Craw-fish branding on the bellows
Any description of our group’s field trip to Martin Accordions last evening will not capture the richness of the experience. Our bus delivered us to an understated building immediately behind a Waffle house in Scott LA. Sixty+ Road Scholar participants from two separate program groups filed into a good sized hall where our emcee – Penny Martin - immediately captured our full attention. She told fun stories, made us laugh, chronicled the evolution of Cajun and Zydeco music, explained the importance of the music in keeping Cajun culture alive and shared the musical tradition of her very talented family. Penny’s father (Clarence “Junior”- founder) and nephew (Joel) joined her on stage, explaining their instruments and playing a wide variety of music from many eras. Joel's talent and mastery of the accordion was on display throughout. A couple of other musicians showed up at the hall and joined the Martins for an entertaining jam session. Upon leaving and throughout the remainder of the evening our group was unanimous in their appreciation for the music and what we learned.
|The group shares a water|
break on the Swamp.
("Mr. Butch" standing
in the back.)
|Our boat plowed through anything!|
The next day we took a break from cooking and traveled to Lake Martin (any relation to Martin Accordions is uncertain) where we boarded a 12 person flat bottomed boat for a “swamp tour”. “Mr. Butch” made our adventure memorable by explaining every form of life we saw in the swamp – from trees, to fish, to alligators and the endless variety of birds – he knew them all and more. Our listening devices allowed us to get within a couple yards of a 10 foot alligator while Butch quietly explained the importance of the bull’s “solar panels”. He helped us distinguish and understand the difference between a bayou and a swamp – and I’ll never forget how he contrasted the manner in which brooks, streams and rivers work in the northern and southern states. As we made our way back to shore, “Mr. Butch” told us he loved the swamp, but he didn't need to we all sensed his passion throughout the journey.
In the afternoon we met “Ms. Marie” whose passion brought her from a grammar school vice principal to starting her own business - the Cajun Food Tour – where she educates a more mature audience. Our adventure started with a discussion on roux – of course! (Folks in southern Louisiana love to debate the color of roux.) Marie suggested that a lighter colored roux, the way her mom made it, was the best roux. Our sampling of the lighter colored roux in the chicken and Cajun sausage gumbo at Vermilion Village made a convincing argument. We visited three additional establishments featuring foods of southern Louisiana including a smoke house for some more boudin (a local sausage), the Olde Tyme Grocery for a fried shrimp Po-boy (sandwich) and lastly a bakery for a little Kings cake. Throughout the afternoon Marie entertained us with local history and humor.
If you've been reading along, just like “Mr Butch”, I don’t really need to tell you that I loved my first Road Scholar program. Sure I learned a lot about Cajun cooking and culture, made some friends and laughed a lot – but more importantly I was reminded of the importance of passion in our work and lives. Whether it was the three different chefs who taught us about Cajun Cooking, The Martin Family, “Mr. Butch” or “Ms. Marie” I gained access to passionate folks whose enthusiasm for their work profoundly impacted my experience. Our Road Scholar Coordinator and Group Leader, “Ms. Patti” deserves great credit for finding such a wonderful group of people. “Ms. Patti” handled every detail perfectly – even when things weren't always perfect – allowing all of us to focus on learning and having fun. I know Mrs. Top Chef and I will be thinking of "Ms. Patti" when the weather turns cool in the fall and we fire up our first gumbo. (And we’ll also be thinking of our cooking partners Bill and Dolly when we drop a dash of rum in there to make it a Rumbo!)