How's Bayou? May the force . .
On this May Day 2012, what do the following have in common: Maypoles, May Day, Mayfair, Maytag , Mayan, Maybach, Maylie's, Mayonnaise, and Mayowood?
That might be Madewood's name if my bother Don, executive director of the Jazz and Heritage Foundation, lived there. The only request he had of our parents when he left for college was an upscale blender so that he could make his own mayonnaise in the foothills of Virginia. So far, no gourmet mayonnaise booth at Jazzfest . . . but there's always 2013.
More to the point, the 38-room Mayowood Mansion, originally surrounded by 3,000 acres of farmland, was built between 1911 and 1938 by Dr. Charles H. Mayo, co-founder of the Mayo Clinic, in Olmsted County, Minnesota – almost a century after Madewood was completed.
On the first day of the Madewood Arts Festival in 1974, a highlight was the young female students of St. Philomena school in Labadieville performing a traditional maypole dance. They had researched the traditional French version of the celebration, and their mothers had sewn them long flowing dresses in colors that matched the ribbon that they would weave in and out as they circled the pole, creating a sherbet-toned series of stripes as they danced.
Sherbet inevitably leads me to Italian restaurants, and there was none that captured the spirit of a small, family-run establishment in a bustling Italian village as well as Maylie’s, whose main building still presides over the corner of Poydras and O’Keefe in the shadows of New Orleans’s skyscraper row. Born in the early years of the twentieth century as Maylie & Esparbe, a lunchtime watering hole for workers in the then-bustling Poydras Market, it gained a genteel sophistication under the strong hand of Anna-Mae Maylie, who often would deliver a diminutive, mayonnaise-rich appetizer of deviled eggs to your table herself.
Dining points me toward the standard-issue Maytag stove in our tiny Uptown New Orleans condo, unremarkable except for its skill in automatically turning on its oven all day every Saturday, then turning it off. We were mystified; but, as it only happened once a week, we simply shrugged our shoulders, vowing one day to put a bored Maytag Repairman to work correcting the stove’s maverick streak.
Then one Saturday we noticed what we thought was an error message on the little info screen, “5Ab.” We quickly retrieved the manual and discovered that it was not an error message. The stove was alerting us that it had moved into “Sab,” or Sabbath mode, a convenience for families that keep kosher and are forbidden to operate electrical devices during the Sabbath.
After holding down the clock button for a count of three while “Sab” flashed, we returned the oven to our everyday Episcopal/Presbyterian Mode (EPm) and promptly filled it with a succulent pork roast stuffed with apricots and plums . . .
A treat we had discovered in a Parisian boucherie, just a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower . . . where we spotted the soon-to-be-discontinued Maybach luxury sedan that Mercedes had revived in hopes of challenging Rolls-Royce and Bentley,
The type of vehicle that one might spot pulling up to Claridge’s Hotel in Mayfair, that ever-so-posh London neighborhood, home to the nightingale that sang in Berkeley Square.
Millie and I are prepared for whatever the end of the Mayan calendar will bring, fearless after our excursion to Machu Picchu several years ago; but one of our favorite trips, in 1990, was to Berlin, where we watched young East German girls in flaring grey-felt skirts with poodle appliques swing to the songs of Elvis and Ricky Nelson on streets that the year before had witnessed the annual communist May Day military parade.
Freedom and the American lifestyle were in the air Unter den Linden, and in the vast government-run department store that had already taken Karl Marx from the display windows and replaced him with Barbie and Ken.
“Johnny Cash: Ist gut, ja?” the impromptu cab driver, trying to earn a little money by driving tourists around in his tiny East German Trabant car, enquired enthusiastically.
“Ja, Johnny Cash ist gut,” I replied as we pulled up to the exclusive communist-party nightclub that sported paintings by New York artist Keith Haring. But my standard Western tourist clothing wasn’t “gut” enough to get me through the door. So much for the equality of the working class.
To conclude this May Day Mayhem, I return home to what one press release years ago described as “Magnificent Madwood Plantation House.” Typo aside, there are days when the accuracy of that description can’t be disputed.
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 juggles his time between Dixie Art Supplies in New Orleans and Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville. For more information on NolaVie, go to nolavie.com.
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.