La Famille And The Beausoleil

Linda Burton posting from Baton Rouge, Louisiana –Sunday morning in Louisiana calls for brunch, in my opinion. Brunch with music, something French, perhaps? I picked Beausoleil; it met the French requirement (meaning “beautiful sun”) and was on the way to the state capitol, which would be my second stop. Christmas wreaths on red doors; the Sunday music man standing by the front window tuning his guitar; I knew I’d made a good choice. “Merry Christmas,” I said; he nodded back, “Same to you.” The hostess approached; hair in a French plait; leather boots to her knees over casual jeans; fringed scarf draped down long; the proper ambiance. I was seated right away; a cozy corner facing French doors that led out to the patio. This was a neighborhood stop; a friendly charm permeated the room; people chatted from one table to the next. My server appeared wearing a butcher’s apron and a handlebar mustache. “I’m Christopher,” he said, as he leaned close and rattled off the specials of the day. Southern Magazine recently listed Beausoleil as one of the top 50 restaurants in the south, I’d read, citing Chef Nathan Gresham’s Seared Foie Gras French toast and Truffled Fried Oysters as part of the reason; he’s built his menu around fresh, local ingredients. So far, so good, I’m thinking, studying my menu.

Bon Appetit magazine called the South “America’s New Food Capital” in its February issue. Southerners have long known we have a special cuisine, but Southern food used to be limited to home kitchens, with mothers and grandmothers serving as the keepers of family recipes. The entrees on the menu in my hands read like this: Sautéed Gulf fish, green beans, toasted pecans, and brown butter. Grits and grillades. Shredded Rabbit with spaetzle, carrots, peas, goat cheese, seasonal mushrooms in a Dijon cream sauce. Louisiana jumbo lump crab cake benedict with poached egg and hollandaise. Fried Mississippi catfish topped with a rich tomato court-bouillion stew served over rice. Louisiana shrimp “Creole” omelet with goat cheese and green onions. Duck confit hash and stone ground grits as sides.

This was not my Mama’s cooking, I chuckled to myself, not sure what “grillades” are. (It’s beef, or some other meat, perhaps chuck roast or veal, cooked stew-like and ladled over grits, I learned.) I chose the Louisiana shrimp Creole omelet with goat cheese. And settled in with my coffee.

A baby girl turned in her high chair at the next table; she cocked her head and studied me; I cocked my head and waved at her; she broke into a flood of smiles. She may have been the prettiest one-year-old I’ve ever seen; wispy hair brushed softly around chubby cheeks, a white camellia pinned to the side. Puffy sleeves on her baby blue dress, tiny Christmas trees hand-smocked across the front. We connected, for a moment there. Her father turned then to straighten her back in her chair; I could see his face; pure adoration. Her mother sat on the other side of her; animated and smiling. (Oh, your Daddy is rich, and your Mama’s good looking….went round in my head.)

I watched this happy family scene as I ate my Creole omelet; but the music man was in a somber mood. No Christmas tunes, no Zydeco, but classic rock from way back when; Hey Jude…. he strummed, take a sad song, and make it better…. Why was he so sad? Perhaps the weekend news was on his mind. I thought of the images that filled my TV screen last night; twenty children murdered as they sat in their schoolroom in Sandy Hook, Connecticut last Friday morning. The young man who shot them, and six teachers, killed his mother first, himself at the end. Nobody understands why, and the country is muted with grief.

The singer began a new sad song just as my check arrived; just as the family in front of me stood to leave. I listened carefully to the words, an Eagles tune from somewhere in my past, Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses….I tried to recall the lyrics; stopped to hear it through to the end. You better let somebody love you, before it’s too late.

My grandfather and grandmother had a rule in their house. “We never go to bed mad,” they said. “We always kiss and say I love you before we go to sleep.” Maybe the Eagles last line should have been You’d better tell someone you love them, before it’s too late, I thought as I walked to my car.

Over at the state capitol, a mother trained her video camera on her young son as he came racing across the grassy lawn. “Faster!” she laughed, “Just look at you run!” Daughter rolled down the grassy slope; a perfect rolling-down hill; mother filmed that too. I got my pictures of the second high-rise capitol on my list, and the statue of Huey Long out front; enjoying the spacious grounds even though a storm was blowing in. As I gathered up my camera gear to leave, I passed the mother and children sitting close together on a bench. “I love you so much!” I heard her say, hugging each one in turn.

I pass a message on to my family, spread out from Florida to Alabama to Washington to Korea and points between – “I love you so much, and don’t you ever forget it!”