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How's Bayou? Gator with a side of soul

It's hard not to love life along Bayou Lafourche, "the longest street in the world," especially when you encounter a painted concrete bench in the shape of an alligator with a bagpipe backup of "Amazing Grace" wafting soulfully from concealed speakers when you're out for a snack on a balmy early-summer Saturday.

Bubba's II's Gator with a side of 'Amazing Grace'

Bubba's II's Gator with a side of 'Amazing Grace'

"Yeah, that gator's new, but the food's the same. Come on in, honey," the sassy lady at the entrance to Bubba's II's poorboy shop in Thibodaux observed with a dip and snap like that popularized by Reese Witherspoon in "Legally Blond."

Sauce was evident at the cash register as well on plate lunches, as the quipper-in-chief explained that the reason there are two Bubba's II is simple.

There were two bubbas -- brothers in bayou parlance -- who wanted to start restaurants.

"One's dead. The other's not. Both places are open. Different times. Here's a menu."

Bubba's seafood plate lunch

Bubba's seafood plate lunch

We selected the seafood special -- a great deal at $15.95 -- and gorged on perfectly-fried shrimp, oysters and catfish, accompanied by a spicy seafood gumbo and sides of creamed spinach, carrot soufflé and mustard greens.

By the last bites, Millie and I were feeling more "Nearer my God to Thee" than the gator's droning "Amazing Grace." And we still had two days to go before celebrating the final hours of my 49th year of life, off and on, at Madewood.

It was Sunday, June 10, 1964, that my family and a few friends friends turned onto the grounds and marveled at the mansion, badly in need of a coat of paint, but still a magnificent presence.

Over the next year, I'll be relating tales of joy and woe from those early days, as well as taking readers along as I complete projects I thought would be completed by 1965 and spruce up things for a celebration of half a century at Madewood next June.

There'll be some new projects that I'll chronicle in more "Home, Sweat Home" columns, and I'll be investigating the life and art of Southern Regionalist painter John McCrady through the collection of the artist's dynamic lithographs that line a wall in our quarters in the mansion.

Last night, we drank to 49 years at La Crepe Nanou in Uptown New Orleans. The escargots reminded me of a Bastille Day in Paris 40 years ago. After dessert at an open-air restaurant on the Place des Vosges, I caught a whiff of escargots and decided to indulge in a dozen.

"Non, Monsieur. C'est impossible," the waiter insisted with a robust shake of his head.

I waved over the maitre d' -- you'd have thought I'd asked him to poison his mother when I requested the post-prandial slugs. But he finally relented, and, I think, went off to  pray for forgiveness for this unimaginable transgression.

As I savored the final sopped-up butter sauce last night, a friend approached our table and told us of his new job with an antiques dealer on Jefferson Highway.

The last thing I need is more antiques, especially high-priced ones; but I told him I'd stop by one day when I'd finished at the nearby Salvation Army Thrift Shop, where I've found replacements for many service items broken at Madewood.

"You work there now?" he asked incredulously.

Not yet. But if I don't watch how much I spend getting ready to celebrate half a century at Madewood on June 10, 2014, you might find me on the other side of that thrift-store cash register one day.

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.

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.