Monday, January 22, 2007

Day Thirteen

Team Mannschaft got to make the video on a VERY fun day. Click below to see real life in Louisiana when the SAINTS are playing!

Our plan for a Sunday morning job fell through, which meant we got to sleep in with no wakeup whatsoever. Strangely, the weather turned very warm in the night (it was almost 70 degrees by about 8:30 in the morning), which made our bus MISERABLE both in temperature and in smell. Even though we could have slept until noon, we were driven out of the bus by how gross it was this morning. If we know it will be hot, we can open windows, put mosquito netting on them, and run fans down the middle of the bus. If we think it will be cold, though, we bundle up tightly and try not to let the door stay open very long so we can hold in the warmth. We expected a deep chill, so we closed things down and bundled up. Ugh.

Once we recovered from our morning stinkout, we made canned ham and eggs for breakfast and did a thorough cleaning job on the trailer. Juan and Kate had already done the same on the storage holds under the bus, so we are now better organized than we have been for awhile. We got word that a big downpour was about to hit us, so we went into storm mode and moved things around in our tents to prevent things from getting soaked. Right when we got ready for it, the rain came down in buckets. No problem.

Just after noon, we loaded into the bus for the main event of the day: watching the Saints in the playoffs while eating enormous piles of crawfish, crab, and ALLIGATOR! We drove up I-10 and went to the beautiful Slidell home of Cindy and David Franatovich, whose house we worked on last Sunday. We cannot even describe what an amazingly beautiful paradise this place was for us today. The house is on the water, in some kind of saltwater channel that drains into Lake Pontchartrain (we think). They have multi-level decking off the back of the house and a big open living room (with a HUGE high definition TV in it!) attached to the kitchen.

To add to the glory of the place, we were met just inside the door by Cindy’s parents, Connie and Jerry LeRouge. They are the warm and wonderful people whose house we cleared near the end of last January’s trip and whose sheds and outbuildings we cleared earlier this week. They were as bubbly as ever, and both of them looked great.

Whether anyone in that house was ready for us or not, we took the place over. Everyone looked exuberant just arriving at the house, and we had not yet experienced all that was to come. One great feature of the highest back deck was an enormous crawfish and crab pot. Most of us would say it was the biggest pot we have ever seen, at least until David told us that it was his “medium-sized” one. (The large one is 4x4x4 feet and looks like a very complicated air conditioning unit.) When we arrived, David and his almost-identical brother Steve were draining out the crabwater from the pot, having already cooked two hampers full of crabs in it (that’s somewhere between 160-200 crabs). They were prepping the pot for its next occupants: 120 pounds of live crawfish.

We were totally unprepared for the fascinating process that revolves around a crawfish boil. We were engrossed in every step of the procedure and we found that David and Steve were great instructors on the finer points of Louisiana cooking. Everyone exclaimed over and over again: “This is SO cool!”

The next item on the menu was alligator tail, which had been scaled and marinated in mild and Louisiana hot sauce, then dipped in a light cornmeal batter and fried. All of us at least tried it and some of us had trouble keeping ourselves from eating it all. It does not taste like chicken.

We got to learn all of the locals’ secrets for eating the delicacies mentioned above and we all made big messes of ourselves as we tore into the shells of our various menu selections. We each ate between 50 and 100 crawfish (not counting Julie, Rachel, and Kate, who opted out for a variety of reasons). When we were finished with the shells, we could throw them right into the waterway, or, for a more fun adventure, throw them into the air and let seagulls dive and grab them before they hit the water.

On top of all of the fine food we were swimming in, the SAINTS were playing! We became superfans. Of course, our fanaticism did not lead to a Saints victory, but we cared enough by the end of that game to be really proud of “our” team, even if we hadn’t followed them (or football in general) for the rest of the season. We even stuck around for the Colts/Patriots game, under the excuse that all of the bath and dish towels we had brought along to wash were not yet dry.

While the football games unfolded, we ate like kings and queens (or, maybe more appropriately, pigs). Lisa Trigo, her husband Bruce, and their daughter Lauren joined us and brought two big king cakes in Saints colors. They also brought Julie back to us, who has made a miraculous recovery and can now rejoin our community on the bus. Yay!

Some people sat by the lake and stared into it. Some people cheered on the Saints or the Colts (one pair rooted for New England, but quietly). Some sat and talked with Connie, Jerry, Cindy, David, Steve, Debbie (Steve’s wife), or Cindy and David’s kids Dara and Dustin. Leo fished.

We had a wonderful day. A better day than this page can explain. We rested, we ate well, and we learned more about Louisiana and about each other. We even had floats made of vanilla ice cream and pink cream soda. Only a Saints victory could have improved this spectacularly decadent day. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh . . .

Leo and Rachel chat on a rocking bench behind the extra large boiling pot filled with Cajun spices, veggies, and seafood.

Feke shows everyone back home how to take advantage of the fried alligator. Mmmmm!!! Delicious!

Our host, David, prepares the alligator tail on the back deck of his house. We were pleasantly surprised with the seasoned chunks of meat.

The Trigo’s brought two Saint’s colored King Cakes for dessert. Although we were full from the gator, crabs, and crawfish, we made room for our new favorite pastry.

We all had a great time, but then the game “Blurt!” came out and the battle of the sexes began. Although it was a close game, the men prevailed, and of course it was in large part thanks to Tim and Tommy.

Our delicious meal consisted of two large baskets of crab with corn and potatoes and of course…. marinated in Louisiana hot sauce. This picture doesn’t even include the 120 pounds of crawfish we worked our way through while watching the Saints game.

The group is enraptured in the game as it begins at David and Cindy’s. Although the Saints didn’t win; we all had a blast. We were spoiled all day long with wonderful food, happy hosts, and one big screen TV.

To take a break from camp life, Rachel, Vince, Janeva and Juan opt for a stroll in the rain. We had an easy morning, and everyone used their spare time to the fullest.

At the home of Cindy and David Fernanavitch, their nephew Wes describes the marine life of the canal to Juan. Right in their backyard live crawfish, alligators, fish, and crabs, (three of which we ate that afternoon!)

In the biggest pot of boiling water we had ever seen, David made 120 lbs of crawfish for our group and his family. There was so much that went into the mix, including brussel sprouts, corn, lemons, bay leaves, onions, potatoes, and special Cajun seasonings – some Tony Chacheries.

At the end of a lovely and comfortable day, with great food and intense football, we gathered for a parting photo. It was nice to be all together and spending time with good friends in a home.

This is the view from Cindy and David’s home in Slidell! We were so lucky to have been invited over for the afternoon to enjoy some playoff football, fresh crab, crawfish, alligator, and the famous red cream soda.

Cindy and David set up an extra table, which simply summarizes everyone’s feelings about the storm over a year ago.

Kellie is served a plate full of delectable crawfish from the 120-pound pot.

Dara and Jerry are pained as they watch as their Saints lose the game Sunday afternoon.

Tommy, Vanessa, and Juan enjoy the seafood lunch prepared for us.

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