How's Bayou? Forgive us our tummies
It was Thanksgiving Day, 2004, when we realized our beloved Millie Dog, then a sprightly 10-year old, was a Dumpster Diver.
We always had family and friends up to Madewood for the holiday to swell the numbers around the dining room table to 20 or so, with more seated at side tables. We could always count on spectacular culinary offerings, from our friend Meda Colvin’s most recent take on a dish from Cameroon, where she’d worked as a doctor – or a can of Rotelle tomatoes and a pound of Velveeta cheese if she’d been busy at Touro Hospital in New Orleans that week – to graphic designer Jeanne Delahoussaye’s vegetarian pastas and Dr. Mike Williams's perfectly-seasoned boiled shrimp.
Another friend brought himself, and a steady hand with an electric carving knife. A special table in the kitchen was his domain, where he hovered, literally, over several turkeys as he sliced, surgically removing every morsel.
He was an eater par-excellence, and his belly always seemed cantilevered over the birds like a Volkswagen Beetle struggling to emerge from his shirt. An image, taken that day by a friend from a particularly unflattering low angle, expanded the tummy into something more on the order of Mount Rushmore, and ended the friendship when it appeared in large format at the entrance to a regional photography competition.
Sometimes Millie Wife, who never shies from asking the most difficult and piercing questions during an interview for a newspaper or magazine profile, suddenly becomes a shy little thing who just wants to hide. We’d spent Thanksgiving eve in the honeymoon suite in the Charlet House, a safe distance across the patio from the main house, and Mille just couldn’t get herself out of bed to face the crowd.
After several enquiries about our wellbeing, we walked the path to lunch, bursting into the kitchen around 2 p.m. with the explanation that we’d been in the back writing a book on being the perfect host and hostess, a joke that fell as flat as the mixers that Dr. Mike, who had initially rescued Millie Dog from the pound, had found in his search for anything to make a stiff drink.
He handed Millie Wife a brimful tumbler of what he called a straight Martini. It was pure vodka; but Millie, who normally goes all blotchy after a single glass of chardonnay, downed that, then another.
Everything started to be really fun.
My mother-in-law was on her second, very ladylike, scotch and water, when old-age memory loss kicked in. Seated next to Millie near the sideboard, her eye fixed on the Victorian tilting water pitcher that once dominated her New Orleans dining room.
“Isn't that the pitcher I gave you and Keith?” she inquired, and Millie confirmed that, yes, it was.
“And you gave it to these people?” she continued.
“She's kidding, isn't she?” our really-with-it octogenarian friend from Lafayette, Helen Jaubert, asked with amazement.
“I hope it’s the scotch, not Alzheimer’s,” Millie sighed, longing for the safety and comfort of the honeymoon suite, where she could light a fire in the Victorian hearth and just forget it all.
It was then that a new guest, unaccustomed to the various rituals, returned from the screened porch, where he’d gone for a smoke.
“You let your dog eat turkey bones?” he asked.
We rushed to the porch, where Millie Dog had torn through a Hefty trash bag and was dragging a turkey carcass, larger than herself, slowly and resolutely toward the door . . . and freedom.
Convulsed with laughter, Millie Wife wrestled the skeleton from Millie Dog’s mouth and longed for a third tumbler to round off the day.
Seven years later, it’s all become too much for us. Armed with our Medicare cards, the two of us – plus the still-feisty Millie Dog and her upstart younger sister, Mme. Clio – are heading to the mountains of North Carolina, where we’ve made a reservation for two at a rustic inn for Thanksgiving lunch.
Leaving Madewood to the ghosts of yesteryear: cantilevered abdomens, unembellished vodka and abandoned turkey carcasses.
We’ll miss you.
How's Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now juggles his time between Dixie Art Supplies in New Orleans and Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.
How’s Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.