The environment of the Bayou, was like nothing I have ever experienced in the USA before. I was blown away by its beauty. Trust me when all you’ve seen of the States is NYC and LA, this place was a hidden gem. The people were so laid back, relaxed and kind. The town was sleepy and their wooden architecture was homely and rustic. Their houses were enviably large with wrap-around verandas and their inhabitants had ample space to lead good quality lives. Being here made it hard to imagine returning to London-living where most central dwellings are stacked one on top of the other. Cajun men wore the cowboy hats and boots, desirable fashion we pay a fortune for on The Kings Road in London! Their culture was a mind-boggling mix. They spoke an adapted version of French yet were influenced by an old Native American heritage, which somehow seemed so contrasting to me, but was perfectly summarised by their popular saying, ‘Laisser les bons temps rouler’ – ‘Let the good times roll’!
Celebrate New Orleans, from Mardi Gras to Jazz Fest!
I felt fantastically privileged to finally understand Cajun cuisine firsthand. Supermarkets back home have always stocked rows and rows of sauces, mixed spices and pre-marinated bbq meats (particularly chicken) that have all been prepared using Cajun influences, developed over generations. Yet the Cajun culture was probably the most advanced of all the indigenous people we had met. The welcome dinner was held in a very cosy venue, with warm lighting and television – luxuries we often had to do without whilst filming in the other remote locations of previous episodes. The funniest part of the shoot occurred on the night of the Superbowl. Being from England, I didn’t fully understand how important this event was to Americans. Crew members kept taking sneaky peaks of the game, which was on in the background.
Out of all the proteins hunted on this series, the turtle was the hardest thing to swallow. I had made a pact with myself that I would not try it, because I felt uneasy about hunting such a gentle-natured, prehistoric looking animal. However, after Michael had prepared his turtle meal, I felt I had to eat some in its honour. Turtles are an important source of protein for the Cajuns, just as beef and chicken are in the UK. On a lighter note, it was funny watching Kayne peeling his mountain of Crawfish, he had had a number of dishes in mind to cook for the challenge, but didn’t realise how time-consuming shelling them would be. Ironically, our episode wrap dinner that night was a crawfish party, so again, Kayne spent the evening shelling yet more of them. At least he had the pleasure of consuming them himself this time, and boy were they delicious.
Find out why New Orleans is called the “City of the Dead.”
The most challenging part of this trip for me was the jet lag. By this stage we had flown around the world and back, shooting other episodes and I had suffered surprisingly little jet lag so far, but in Louisiana, it had finally caught up with me. I felt extreme lethargy, almost to the point of feeling nauseous – I wonder whether its obvious on camera!? Nevertheless, the highlight of the episode was seeing an alligator up close and personal, basking in the sun on a fallen log! There had been so many false alarms (because fallen logs often look very much like alligator backs) while travelling along the swamps of the Bayou, so when I finally saw one, I snapped away, with my camera, that is!