|Sometimes the additional positive dimension of a travel-fishing trip is the opportunity to visit and experience a country, region, or culture that has been, up until the trip, unfamiliar. And as our focus is on the fishing and the immersion or nearness to it, our choices in lodging often take us off the traditional, if not beaten, tourist path.|
The deep South has always been a bit of a wonder, and that is putting it mildly, for many from the North. I recently in my work for a County Community Health Center in Oregon encountered a Louisiana creole woman who needed an interpreter. Born and raised in the U.S., but more significantly probably 7th or 8th generation IN the U.S......she had never learned English. Now THAT is isolated and insular.
My recent defunct fishing trip to the Mississippi river delta south of New Orleans for redfish promised to be a cultural exposure I was strongly anticipating. What happened fishing and weather-wise is another very short and very expensive story altogether. But the point of this is the action within walking distance of our motel.
New Orleans is, of course, iconic. Visiting it a week after Mardi Gras, which this year started a week after the Super Bowl, might have left it in somewhat of an anti-climactic hangover...energy-wise. I wouldn't know. We never got into the city itself, choosing an inexpensive Quality Inn 8 miles NE of the city. Hoping to return after every day of fishing arm-weary and exhausted, we only wanted closer to the fishing, clean, quiet, and inexpensive. We got that. What we also got was amazingly Louisiana rural....so close to THE CITY.
When we asked about a good place for dinner the helpful staff offered that for a good restaurant we would have to drive back toward the city about 15 to 20 minutes. But, for starters, just a half a block away, was the Meat Market. Therein lies the story.
The Meat Market was clearly a rural community fixture, perhaps additionally trading on it's visibility just off the I-10 freeway. It was a combination food mart/minor grocery store, hardware store, cell-phone electronic outlet, deli, liquor store, cigarette emporium, dating and hook-up site, and meat market. And therein is where the real action took place. The deli/butcher counter/wholesale-bulk meat outlet was clearly the community magnet.
Most of us, especially (mostly) male, non-shopping fishermen are not used to the mom-and-pop, community butcher store model, massed piles of “quaint” cuts such as beef tails, turkey wing-tips, pigs feet, and decks of meat-cheese boloney logs, the cut face of which might reveal real anatomic surprises. The question I had immediately after.... what is it....really was how long has it been sitting there. If it once walked or swam and qualified as “southern” or “soul” food they had it, by the ounce, or pound, or frozen carton, or as part of a “special” collection of 3 pounds of this, 1 of that, five or another, and so until the total came of about 15 pounds, with a loaf of bread, maybe a carton of soda thrown in for $49.50....up to massive season-long meat investments of $150. I am still wondering what “pig tips” are and what one would do with ten pounds of them/it?
I assumed there was a rotation...of sorts. A fresh this became, after so many days, a baloney that or coalesced into a cut rate frozen bulk carton. I am sure the same thing happens in our chain-groceries, but without the clear, viscera-stimulating visual process. And, for color there were the head-high stacked cannings of pickled pigs feet, and the more succulent (maybe?) pigs lips, both #40 red-dyed to a color that would make fishing-ready salmon eggs proud.
Above the counter was a board listing the deli offerings....and they were a marvel. If you can tell me anywhere in the US where one can find the equivalent of their 32 inch Poor Boy......I repeat....32 INCH.....one has to see it to believe it...... stuffed with any of the meats and salami/baloneys offered below the counter... or from the fish/crustacean menu....catfish, fish (which meant trout.....which meant speckled trout...I assume?), or shrimp....all breaded and deep fried (of course!) for $7.99, I defy you to find it.
The action was the steady stream of local girls and women, scantily dressed in cut off short-shorts and short tops, made to bend awkwardly forward, perhaps by design, to peer over the counter. The lounging males, in no hurry to order, appreciated the planned or inadvertent exposures. Another dimension of meat market comes to mind.
Anyone visiting the meat market, and planning repeated dinner meals from their offerings should be sure to bring their own statin medicines. The shock of the impending fat-sludge shower should be tempered.
And then there was the point of all this, the one offering that summed up the ambience and raison-d'etre of the place; the stack of packages, among the frozen breaded catfish and Fish fillets; small, oval patties, breaded, deep fried, and frozen, clearly and unambiguously labeled...... MISC.
Good eateries like good fishing holes are often closely held secrets. If anyone wants inside information, say...gps coordinates, just ask. The MISC offering is, I think, a solid staple.