Wednesday, March 23, 2016

It's not weird to find low-cal food in Cajun Country Well, maybe it is but we found some!

            I live in Cajun Country which means I fight adding pounds to the waistline constantly. Our food is that good. Like, over the top, heaven in your mouth, orgasmic good. So what's a food writer to do when the clothes don't fit and it's hard to get off the couch?
What's weird about this post is living in a culinary town where dieting is almost impossible.
            Well, not quite.          
            I am not one to forgo eating out — cooking is not my idea of a good time, even though I was raised in this culinary mecca — so it's been my year-long quest to find low-fat, low-calorie foods in one of the world's most decadent eating towns, Lafayette. Gumbos with their thick roux, jambalaya consisting of rice and meats and all good things fried — even though in South Louisiana we fry things lightly, well seasoned and to perfection — had to go. But I have not suffered, no siree bub.
            At Bon Temps Grill, for instance, one of my favorite restaurants in Lafayette, I chose the fish tacos with mangos and Creole sauce but you can substitute the tortillas for lettuce and wrap those babies up with less calories and carbs. (Pictured above is the taco dish with tortillas.) At Blu Basil, a Vietnamese and Asian-fusion restaurant, their chicken lettuce wraps are similar, wok stir-fried chicken with mushrooms, sweet onions and lemongrass accented by carrots, daikon, cucumbers, cabbage and crispy rice noodles. I felt so good about eating this dish that I enjoyed the spring rolls with shrimp as an appetizer and didn't hesitate to dip those suckers in peanut sauce.
            We don't like to frequent chains — why would you if you lived in Cajun Country with a plethora of great restaurants? — but Chicken Salad Chick came to town and we feel justified in recommending them because they hail from Alabama. Close enough. This happy place offers 15 different styles of chicken salad, plus salads, soups and cookies and fruit. I ordered the Original Chick with a choice of sandwich or "scoop" (I chose a scoop of cranberry chicken salad to avoid the bread), one side item (I chose the cranberry salad to stay with the theme), pickle spear and cookie of the day, which I handed off to my skinny friend Barb. All filled me up quite nicely and was delicious.
            So there you have it. The first quarter of my diet and I managed to eat out in South Louisiana and enjoy myself in the process. I started at New Year's and expect the entire year to pass by until I meet my goal; food writing has its drawbacks. I'll keep you updated.

Cheré Dastugue Coen is a food and travel writer living in Lafayette, Louisiana, a place where food is way too good. She is also the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She also writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Doodle your way through a Monday at Garvan Woodland Gardens of Hot Springs

There’s a community out there that doodles on stones, then hides them for people to find. These range from people's faces, hearts, animals and strange objects. Want to know more? Artist Bryan Payne will lead a workshop on “Doodlestones,” a worldwide community art project, at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday, March 21, at Garvan Woodland Gardens, an expansive botanical gardens outside Hot Springs, Arkansas. The all-ages event shows participants how to create their own Doodlestone, focusing on creativity, storytelling and individualism. Afterwards, participants will hide them around the garden. Payne will also be reading from his picture book and offering a short lecture. Cost is $20 for members, $35 for non-member adults and $5 for children ages 0-12. All include Garden admission. Reservations are required, call (800) 366-4664. For more information on Doodlestones, visit or

Monday, March 14, 2016

Natchez Mammy

Driving up to Natchez, Mississippi, there’s a roadside attraction along Highway 61 that will make you stop and exclaim, “What?”
It’s Mammy’s Cupboard and the restaurant is built in the shape of an Aunt Jemina-type character, a homage to the nourishing servant made popular in “Gone With the Wind.” The eating area exists within the skirt of an African American servant with the smiling woman’s head resting on top, holding a serving tray. The entire structure is 28 feet tall, enough to make drivers pull over out of curiosity, but leaves only a small space inside.
The restaurant, known to serve delicious lunches and desserts, was built in 1940 during non-political correctness days, meant to encourage people to stop for a bite as they headed over to Natchez and the numerous antebellum homes, not to mention the annual Natchez Pilgrimages in the spring and fall. Later, when PC was coming into vogue and Natchez visitors didn’t quite appreciate the sentiment, the mammy’s skin color was lightened. Today, she could be any race.
            Lots of famous people have graced Mammy’s skirts and the restaurant has become one of the most photographed spots in Mississippi.