Late last week, my human mommy helped my rockin’ friend Bashful pack his bags and head home after an eventful stay in my hometown of New Orleans. He had quite a visit. Between a Pelicans basketball game, gumbo and brass bands, and laundry and red beans and rice, it seems Bashful was always on the go with my humans . . . and he was always eating. He may need some new clothes (one size up) when he gets home. Before Bashful traveled back to Bacon and the Hotel Thompson, I got to spend a very special day with my new little friend.
We were up bright and early last Wednesday and in the car for a road trip. Bashful called shotgun.
Before I knew it (maybe because I slept for most of the trip), Bashful and I had arrived at our destination: the Small Animal Clinic of the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine where I do rehab for my hip and elbow dysplasia. (You can click here to read more about my special joints and the rehab I do.)
I sent Bashful off with Mommy to run a few errands while I did my workout. The pre-Christmas Baton Rouge traffic was even more horrific than usual. I want to apologize to Bashful for any words he might have heard as he and my human mommy attempted to traverse the city as quickly as possible.
I sensed some slight traffic-related tension when Bashful and Mommy returned to the vet school to pick me up, so we all spent some chill time in the Serenity Garden with its beautiful fountain before heading back to New Orleans.
When we returned home, my little sister Tallulah Bee was still at Camp Bow Wow, which meant that the fabulous piggy toy that arrived with Bashful could come out to play. (Tallulah is a bit rough with toys, so they tend to run off and hide in a special cabinet when she’s around. When Tallulah goes to camp, the toys know that it’s safe to come out and play with me.) Bashful and I had had a pretty eventful day already, so after just a very short play time we were fast asleep.
We had a message from the Hotel Thompson that Bashful arrived safely at home Sunday afternoon . . . and he didn’t arrive alone. Seems Bashful is quite the ladies man and he brought his new friend Lola from Nola back to Georgia. At this point, I’m going to leave you in suspense so that Bacon can introduce you to Lola when he’s ready. Patience, my friends. 😉
Our little friend Bashful has been out of the picture lately. Between decorating for the holidays and entertaining out-of-town guests, he’s had his hands full. (Okay, so Bashful doesn’t have hands, but you know what I mean.)
This past Monday, Bashful got back to living the New Orleans life, and on Mondays that means laundry and red beans and rice. My human mommy/blogging assistant did a little research into why red beans are such a Monday staple in my hometown, and she found this nugget of wisdom from the Camellia Beans people:
Old habits die hard. New Orleanians continue, with ritualistic fervor, to consume red beans and rice on Mondays. Spicy Caribbean recipes for beans and rice were brought to the city in the late 1700s by French-speaking Haitians fleeing the revolution in Saint Domingue (modern-day Haiti). Local housewives and housekeepers quickly adapted the thrifty, convenient practice of tossing meaty ham bones leftover from Sunday suppers into simmering pots of red kidney beans that could be left to cook, undisturbed, over a low flame for hours–leaving them free to engage in the arduous Monday drudgery that was “laundry day.” Despite the modern convenience of washing machines and dryers, the Monday red beans tradition continues today….
Bashful observed while Mommy followed the red beans recipe (I was sound asleep on my bed; I’ve watched this process for more than seven years). It’s a family recipe, so measurements aren’t exact; but you’ll get the general idea, and then you can adapt it to your tastes.
- Empty one 16-ounce package of red beans into a large stock pot and add enough water to cover. Soak over night. Drain water the next morning and add the following ingredients:
- One yellow onion chopped
- One green bell pepper chopped
- Two ribs of celery chopped
- Three to five cloves of garlic chopped
- A few large dashes of garlic powder
- About six to eight healthy dashes of Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce
- Four or five healthy dashes of Tabasco sauce
- Three or four bay leaves
- One or two ham hocks
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A handful of chopped parsley
- Add water to just an inch or two over the combined ingredients.
- Bring to a boil, and then simmer all day.
- Add sliced sausage about 30 minutes before serving.
While the beans simmered, Mommy and Bashful headed to the laundry room and got to work. You can’t tell from this picture, but Tallulah Bee and I slept under the ironing board while Bashful supervised. I have no doubt that Mommy truly appreciated all the extra
help moral support snoring.
When the laundry was finished and the beds were made, it was time to slice the sausage. Mommy found a really yummy and slightly spicy sausage made by the butcher at our local grocery store. A note to Bashful’s buddy Bacon about the sausage: It was beef, not piggy pork. Our apologies about those ham hocks though. 😉
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think Bashful looked too thrilled when Mommy held him over the hot pot to have a good look.
He was a whole lot happier when the beans were served with some good French bread and a fine red wine. I think Bashful could get used to the Monday routine in New Orleans.
It’s been a while since I’ve given you an update on Bashful’s New Orleans adventures. Every time I turn around, that little fella is hopping into my human mommy’s purse and they’re headed out the door. I finally got those two to sit down long enough to tell me where they’ve been and to share a few photos. Wow. They’ve been busy. A couple of weekends ago, Bashful joined both of my humans at Armstrong Park for the Treme Creole Gumbo Festival–New Orleans’ Premier Brass Band Showcase, which is presented by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation. In New Orleans, we love a festival. There’s at least one every month–sometimes one each weekend of the month–and they usually revolve around tasty food and great music.
This festival features gumbo of every sort you can imagine: creole gumbo, seafood gumbo, chicken and sausage gumbo, even vegan gumbo and smoked tofu and Portobello mushroom gumbo. (Just for the record, Mommy doesn’t recommend those last two.) Bashful had quite an appetite that day, so he also tasted some red beans and rice served with fried chicken and corn bread. (Mommy had a little bite of the fried chicken. She said it was one of the best things she’s ever eaten. She’s still talking about it.) Naturally, Bashful chose to chase down his festival food with a couple of local Abita Brewing Company Amber beers.
With his taste buds satisfied (for the moment), it was time for Bashful to enjoy some brass band music. Brass bands are a new Orleans tradition. Rebirth Brass Band, Hot 8 Brass Band, and the Original Pinettes Brass Band, an all-female group, are some of the more well-known groups. Bashful settled in and listened to a few songs by the Panorama Jazz Band. It was my humans’ first time to see them perform, and they had every bit as much fun as Bashful.
Having spent the afternoon enjoying two of New Orleans’ greatest offerings–gumbo and brass bands–Bashful had one more stop to make before leaving the festival. He headed straight over to visit Miss Linda, the Ya-Ka-Mein Lady. If you don’t live in New Orleans, you probably haven’t heard of ya-ka-mein. Here’s how Miss Linda’s website describes this local delicacy:
Ya-Ka-Mein is one of New Orleans’ well-best-kept secrets. It is a soup. They call it Old Sober. Ms. Linda is world famous as the guardian of the secret juice recipe in her Ya-Ka-Mein. Taught how to make the broth by her mother Shirley Green, Ms. Linda keeps the tradition by lacing the broth with the perfect mixes of spices–not quite Asian, not quite Southern–adding noodles, green onions, a hard-boiled egg and hot sauce. It’s a sure-fire remedy for a New Orleans’ size headache, which is why it’s known as “Old Sober.”
If Bashful keeps drinking that Abita Amber beer, he just might need another helping of Miss Linda’s famous ya-ka-mein.
Happy Halloween! It’s time for the last–and most terrifying–stop on our tour of New Orleans haunted places. I don’t know about you, but my nerves are still rattled from the Sultan’s Palace . . . and frankly I could use a little liquid courage before heading to our final destination . . . so let’s take a slight detour to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, which is right behind me.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop was built between 1722 and 1732. The building, one of the oldest in New Orleans, served as a base of operations for the famous pirate Jean Lafitte in the early 1800s. Today it’s home to a popular Bourbon Street bar. It’s also home to its fair share of ghost stories. Although more than 200 years have passed since Jean Lafitte did business here, his presence is still felt and seen throughout the bar. Look closely at the fireplace in the main room and you just might see Lafitte’s menacing red eyes staring back at you through the grate. The faint scent of cigar smoke fills an area of the piano bar, and a ghostly figure resembling Lafitte with a drink in one hand occupies a corner table. And ladies, you might not be alone when you visit the powder room. The famous pirate, quite the womanizer in his time, has been spotted in the women’s restroom. Careful when you climb the stairs to the second floor of the bar. The face of a woman appears from time to time in a mirror hanging on one wall. It might be the ghost of famous voodoo queen Marie Laveau. Or it could be the evil spirit of the infamous Delphine Lalaurie, which brings us to our final frightening stop.
Madame Lalaurie has been called the Mistress of Death. She and her third husband (she was twice widowed) lived in this grand French Quarter mansion in the early 1800s. Those lucky enough to be invited to the couple’s lavish gatherings marveled at the home’s opulent interior and the gracious welcome they felt from the lady of the house. But there was another far less genteel side to the house and the hostess. That horrible reality was revealed in 1834 when a fire erupted in the kitchen of the Lalaurie house and quickly spread. No one could have imagined the atrocities that firemen found when they entered the home. Delphine Lalaurie had been gruesomely torturing her slaves. A seventy-year-old cook was found chained by the ankle to the oven. She confessed to starting the fire as a suicide attempt because she feared being taken to the third floor. She said anyone taken there never came back. That’s where the firemen found more than a dozen slaves, male and female, locked behind a barred door. Some were chained to the wall; some were strapped to makeshift hospital beds; some were confined to cages. All had been horrible tortured. Many were mutilated.
Word quickly spread of the evil that had occurred in the middle of the French Quarter and an angry mob assembled in front of the house. A carriage sped out the gates and through the crowd. The Lalaurie family was never seen again. Some say they fled to France. Others say they escaped to the woods north of New Orleans along Lake Pontchartrain. The Mistress of Death might have left her mansion, but the ghosts of her victims remained. The building went through a series of owners and tenants who were haunted by groans, cries, and screams of agony. The Lalaurie house and its mistress have recently experienced a bit of Hollywood-related hype. Actor Nicolas Cage purchased the Lalaurie house in 2007 and lost it in foreclosure on November 13, 2009. And the actress Kathy Bates played a character based on Delphine Lalaurie in the 2013 television series American Horror Story: Coven, which was filmed in New Orleans.
MISS HARPER LEE’S HAUNTED NEW ORLEANS TOUR
Thanks for joining me on my haunted New Orleans tour. If you missed any of our stops, you can click on the links below.
Stop 4: Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop & the Lalaurie House
On the previous stop of our New Orleans haunted places tour, we met a couple of friendly ghosts just keeping an eye on things at Arnaud’s Restaurant. Well today, friends, the tour gets spookier . . . a lot spookier. That building behind me is the Gardette-LaPrete House, also known as the Sultan’s Palace. Originally built in 1836 in the Greek Revival style, the structure was purchased in 1839 by John Baptiste LaPrete, a wealthy plantation owner who planned to use the French Quarter residence as a town home. LaPrete made the lacy wrought-iron additions to the building and sought a renter to occupy the home when he wasn’t using it. And that’s where our story takes a decidedly macabre turn.
A young man from Turkey, said to be a sultan’s brother, soon became LaPrete’s tenant. He was joined by an entourage of beautiful women and eunuch servants. Before long, the lavish parties started. Neighbors heard exotic music from within and smelled incense escaping from the doors and windows. Rumors began to circulate: Was the young Turk conducting opiate orgies inside of the home? Was he grabbing beautiful women from the French Quarter’s streets and torturing them into submission before adding them to his harem? One night the music stopped, and a neighbor passing by the next morning made a gruesome discovery. Blood was trickling out from beneath a door, down the steps, and onto the sidewalk. When the police entered the building, they were met with a horrible scene. Body parts littered the home. Blood was splattered everywhere. There were no survivors. But where was the Turk? Eventually the police discovered his badly injured body buried in the courtyard. They suspected that he had been buried alive.
The crime, certainly one of the most horrendous in the city’s history, remains unsolved. Some people at the time suspected that pirates had attacked the partiers. Others speculated that the Turk and his entourage had been murdered by emissaries of his Sultan brother, who was either angered that his brother had stolen his harem as he left for America or was intent on executing all of his male relatives in an attempt to secure the sultanate. We may never know . . . unless one of the ghosts that still haunts the Sultan’s Mansion decides to speak. To this day, passersby hear mysterious music drifting from the home. They smell the faint essence of incense. They hear blood curdling screams. And they see the figure of a man sitting in a window, perhaps trying to tell the people below what happened on that horrible night.
MISS HARPER LEE’S HAUNTED NEW ORLEANS TOUR
Stop 3: The Sultan’s Palace
more to some
It’s been a while since we started our tour of haunted New Orleans. I hope you weren’t afraid that the ghost of General Benjamin “The Beast” Butler grabbed me when we were outside of Gallier Hall. No worries. I’m perfectly safe and ready to show you more of my hometown’s spookiest spots. Today’s ghostly haunt is Arnaud’s Restaurant, one of the grande dames of New Orleans fine Creole dining. The French Quarter restaurant opened in 1918 under the leadership of Arnaud Cazenave, a French wine merchant. Cazenave earned the entirely ceremonial title of “Count Arnaud” thanks in part to his flamboyant reign over his restaurant’s dining room. After Count Arnaud died, his daughter Germaine Cazenave Wells headed the restaurant until 1978 when it was sold to its current owners, the Casbarian family.
While Count Arnaud and his daughter are long gone from this Earth, they seem a little reluctant to leave their beautiful restaurant. Staff throughout the years have reported seeing a dapper tuxedo-clad gentleman in the corner of the dining room. The apparition resembles Count Arnaud, supervising the comings and going of the restaurant he started almost 100 years ago. Fortunately, the ghostly man is always smiling . . . a clear indication that he approves of the kitchen’s precise preparation and the wait staff’s splendid service.
And it seems that Germaine likes to join her father at Arnaud’s. Patrons have seen a woman in a hat exiting the ladies’ room. She crosses the hall and disappears into a wall where a staircase once stood. Perhaps it’s Germaine Cazenave Wells ascending the stairs she remembers to visit the restaurant’s Mardi Gras museum, which was established in her honor in the 1980s. The misty figure of a woman appears from time to time among the museum’s gorgeous ball gowns, many of which were worn by Germaine during the carnival season. Could it be Count Arnaud’s daughter checking on her gowns and recalling her days of revelry? I’ll let you decide.
MISS HARPER LEE’S HAUNTED NEW ORLEANS TOUR
Stop 2: Arnaud’s Restaurant
more to come
Many of our friends across America celebrated the end of summer a couple of weekends ago. Here in South Louisiana, we’ll still be looking for ways to beat the heat and humidity for at least another month. That means my little sister will have a few more opportunities to perfect her watermelon-eating skills.
When we first introduced Tallulah to a watermelon, she was a bit confused.
It was as if she thought the little spot where the stem used to be was some sort of wondrous watermelon key that would magically unlock this mysterious green thing. Goodness knows she tried and tried that approach, but to no avail.
It was time for the seasoned watermelon eater to step in and show her silly little sister a thing or two about this summer delicacy.
“First of all,” I told Tallulah, “you don’t just bite into the watermelon. You let the humans cut it into nice little slices for us. The humans love preparing our food and serving it to us. We mustn’t deny them this great pleasure.”
Obviously, one of us has a better grasp on patience and manners than the other. It becomes more and more clear every single day that I have many, many lessons to teach Tallulah. But back to the watermelon-eating tutorial.
I tried to show Tallulah the proper watermelon-eating style: dainty little lady-like bites.
Tallulah had something completely different in mind: putting the entire slice into her mouth all at once. And by entire slice I really mean entire slice. Tallulah devoured that watermelon slice . . . rind and all.
I’m becoming more and more convinced that my little sister is part pig. Check out that nose–and that full mouth–and tell me what you think.
Tallulah has a lot to learn about eating watermelons, but under my watchful eye I think there’s a chance she’ll catch on. I guess it’s a good thing we have a little bit of time before summer’s end.