MORGAN CITY, LA
Although the graphic is ironic, the Cajun Coast has always been a mix of everything: French and Creole, swamp and sugar cane, and yes, even shrimp and oil. The Shrimp & Petroleum Festival is an annual celebration for those who work in the region's two biggest fields of employment, and this year have been working side by side to clean up after the disastrous storm created by BP instead of Mother Nature.
Since 1967 they have been celebrating together and this year would be no exception. For the annual blessing of the fleet this Labor Day weekend, there were only a few decorated shrimp boats around, and all of the oil boats were out working on the cleanup.
A few kind Cajun families opened their restored Victorian homes -- complete with backyard garden waterfalls -- to let us enjoy the traditional grits and grillades (see Emeril’s recipe here). And I joined in the crowds eating shrimp crepes, seafood gumbo, beef brisket, watching the parade, and enjoying an art show by local painters.
I've rarely experienced the kind of casual hospitality as I have down here. Perhaps it's because in an area where hurricanes are a common occurrence, there's a shared understanding of what resilience and community are all about.
Everyone I spoke with told me stories of getting through all the storms because of sharing with their families, neighbors and friends -- something that I think is a good reminder for all of us.
Paul Hertel is Whole Living's research editor. He spent Labor Day weekend in and around New Orleans, reporting (and dining) on the environmental impacts of the Gulf oil spill.