The first order of business on my first day was a simple but important one: lunch. As we followed (more like chased) our supervisor Nigel to our lunch destination through the sounds of honking car horns, tubas, and tap dancing, he reminded us that the resources the National Park Service preserve in the city extend beyond landscapes to include soundscapes, smellscapes, and yes, even “tastescapes”. When interpreting the resources of the Mississippi River Delta, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park strive to capture the large breadth of resources in south Louisiana. In order for our staff to better understand these plentiful resources, our very own Jazz ranger Matt Hampsey has arranged for Fridays to be staff “resource days”. On most Fridays, National Park Service rangers, interns, and volunteers cram into our big white van and set out to get more acquainted with south Louisiana . As employees of the park these days are extremely important for us to have a connection with the resources we’re protecting as we interpret them and seek volunteers to help protect them.
For whatever reason, lunch has remained an important theme throughout our resource days. As I think back on all of our resource days in the past few months, our lunch choices are the first things that to mind. So, in honor of the many tastescapes across Louisiana, the following discussion of staff resource days will be named in accordance with our always fantastic lunch choices.
La Cuisine de Maman – Vermilionville/Lafayette: Tilapia, Crawfish Mac N’ Cheese
On our very first resource day, we loaded the van stereo- with the likes of zydeco legends John Delafose and Clifton Chenier and headed down I-10 towards Lafayette. Lafayette is the home of the National Park Service Acadian Cultural Center as well as the Bayou Vermilion Historic District. Nestled on the banks of Bayou Vermilion, the Vermilionville Historic District provides visitors with pristine examples of restored Acadian homesteads and live folkways demonstrations. Inside of the houses we met seamstresses, wood carvers, and even a fiddle player. The village also hosts various camps and we were fortunate enough to catch a two-step band playing for the ceremonial closing dance. The Acadian Cultural Center provided a great museum dedicated to the history of Acadiana. Exhibits included vernacular architecture, musical instruments, migration maps, and foodways.