Brown Tide: A Day on the Bayou
The following is an excerpt from a piece I did after visiting Bayou La Batre, Alabama this weekend. Bayou La Batre is one of the small fishing villages threatened by the Gulf Oil Slick. The full article is available at ThirdCoastCuisine.com
For over half a century the people of Bayou La Batre, Alabama have gathered for a ceremony that is both a celebration and a memorial. They pray for a safe and bountiful fishing season and remember those who have lost their lives in seasons past. This small fishing village does not have the sugar white beaches and sparkling high-rise condominiums so often associated with the Third Coast. For every Destin there are a dozen Bayou La Batre’s.
The people who live here work hard just to scrape by in a profession that is equal parts heritage and obsession. Ask anyone who has ever made a living on a boat and they will tell you once the sea gets in your blood there is no getting it out. Things have been particularly rough in Bayou La Batre after equal devastation from both Ivan and Katrina and now the looming oil spill.
My reason for venturing to the Bayou was to be a judge in the annual Gumbo Cook-off. But as the event neared it was obvious that I would be experiencing something much more than a gaggle of gumbo. Any thoughts I had of a blog post filled with flowery descriptions of spices and the richness of broth were now metaphorically obscured by crude oil. In this town full of rugged people I saw despair etched on the faces of everyone. As one festival organizer told me, the oil slick has, “certainly been the topic of conversation.”