The best part about Cajun Country? The incredible friendliness and hospitality. A week or so ago, two other friends and I were lucky enough to get to go to Lake Charles, Louisiana, for a real Cajun wedding. Driving from our corner of northwest Alabama, we stopped in Jackson, Mississippi, to pick up another friend and we got our first taste of what Cajun generosity is all about. (And I know that Jackson isn’t really Cajun country but when you’re close enough to drive to New Orleans for lunch, that qualifies in my book!) Our Jackson friend, Jana, is always the one we turn to for decorating and entertaining advice since she excels at both of those — and she outdid herself this time. We’re ashamed to admit that even though she’s lived in Jackson now for almost three years, we’d never gone to visit her. So this was our first peek at her new house, and we all just fell in love with it as soon as we walked in the door. Everything was so warm, inviting and luxurious, with handmade Jana touches everywhere. She designed and made all the window treatments, as well as throw pillows and handpainted floor coverings. I wish just a little bit of her creativity would rub off on me.
And maybe it did, a little bit, because the next day Jana took us to a wonderful consignment shop in Jackson — bargain hunting is another Jana speciality — and I found one of those wonderful 1980s’ embellished skirt like you’d make and wear to a friend’s Casino Night party. Instead of thinking, “Wow, I could probably wear that,” I had a Jana-thought: “Wow, that would make an adorable pillow.” Of course, you need a Jana to make those thoughts come true, and she did. You know you’d pay $60-plus for this pillow in a decorating shop, but I got it for the $8 cost of the skirt and Jana’s sewing time, which she luckily didn’t charge me for. Aren’t friends wonderful?
And the Cajun hospitality at Jana’s house didn’t end with Jana. On our way back from the wedding we of course had to stop in Jackson to drop Jana off. We had driven through nail-bitingly scary heavy rain for hours and were suffering the after-effects of too much fun, but Jana’s husband, Don, met us at the door with restorative glasses of wine and a wonderful Cajun lunch of real authentic New Orleans mufulletas (the secret’s in the Central Grocery olive salad) chips and salsa and a fresh fruit salad that Don showed us how to liven up with chili powder — something I’d never tasted before but I really enjoyed. I know I’m embarrassing Jana and Don here by gushing all over them, but, really, when you have friends who go to so much trouble to make you feel special, then you just have to brag about them. I mean, folks pay good money to be treated like this, and Jana and Don did it just because they love us. Awwww…
So this wraps up my Cajun Week, with reports from my few days exploring Cajun Country. I had a blast and I hope you did, too. Can’t wait to go back. And check out my weekly TimesDaily column on the Cajun wedding, at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090918/ARTICLES/909185004