The phone trilled, cutting through my fifth episode of “Duck Dynasty” like a screeching fishwife.

On the third ring I grudgingly picked it up.

I mean, it's 2013. Why do we even have this??

I mean, it’s 2013. Why do we even have this??

“Hello? It’s Mrs. Alma. I’ve got some satsumas for y’all. I’m coming over.” Click.

Five minutes later, my petite, sweater-clad neighbor rang the doorbell. She held a hefty Wal-Mart bag of the sweet orange citruses.

“I can’t stay,” she said as she pressed the bag into my hands. “We had so many and I just thought you’d want some.”

With surprising speed, the octogenarian darted back to her home down the cul-de-sac.

The only thing sweeter than these satsumas is Mrs. Alma.

The only thing sweeter than these satsumas is Mrs. Alma.

From the much-anticipated fig preserves Mrs. Debbie provides every summer to the wine and beer that accompany the Fontenot’s Friday evening porch gatherings, food and drink flow freely in my 16-house neighborhood.

Sharing food isn’t out of the ordinary.

When plaque paused Mrs. Helen’s heart, her neighbors quickly picked up the beat. Her home flooded with casseroles and cakes. Her husband didn’t go hungry.

There’s something special about giving food to one another. It ties us together, representing thanks, concern or well wishes. It shows how much we care.

In Louisiana, the kitchen is the heart of life; sharing food is equivalent of sharing love.


Pulled to Tradition

I can count the number of weddings I have attended on one hand. Maybe two, including ceremonies I was young enough to witness in diapers.

But countless hours of “Cake Boss” and “Ace of Cakes” taught me the importance of buttercream frosting, fondant roses and intricate piping. Everyone pays attention to the wedding cake.

So following my oldest cousin Amanda’s incense-filled nuptial mass, I knew to keep an eye out for a white, sugary tower.

Found it.

Found it.

The reception room pulsed with lights and body heat as Amanda and her ten bridesmaids surrounded the triple-tiered confection. Each grabbed a white satin ribbon that protruded from the cake.

With varying degrees of grace, the bridesmaids pulled, revealing silver charms. Licking off the extra icing, the women held up their prizes. Everyone cheered.

“What’s that?” a man who had acquainted himself with the open bar slurred.

“Cake pulls,” a fellow witness answered. “It’s a Southern thing. Very New Orleans.”

According to Southern tradition, each pull holds a special meaning.

According to Southern tradition, each pull holds a special meaning.

The Victorian-influenced tradition is simple: guests select ribbons connected to silver charms. Each charm symbolizes a different meaning, from luck and prosperity to romance and upcoming marriage. Sometimes brides let guests pick at random, others select specific messages for pullers.

Amanda chose the latter, which is how one bridesmaid knew the significance of pulling a fleur de lis.

“It’s because I just moved to New Orleans,” she said. “It stands for a new beginning.”

As the bridesmaids moved away, Amanda and her new husband took their inaugural bites, missing once and laughing continuously.

Two hundred guests later, the cake was gone.


Market Day

Rumbling thunder and sheets of rain clear the Red Stick Farmer’s Market as Karen makes a bumbling, halfhearted entrance. Sodden patrons dart from tent to tent, determined to scoop the freshest gourds and goat cheese. Vendors entrench themselves into Walmart folding chairs.

Frances Chauvin slowly counts her pies – blueberry, Granny Smith, pumpkin, coconut, cushaw – each sealed in store-brand bags. The 81-year-old turns to restock her dwindling display of shoe soles, crispy cinnamon and sugar-dusted pastries. Business was brisk before the rain.

Chauvin perks up as a woman emerges from the deluge. Without hesitation, she asks for pecan.

It is a wise choice.

It is a wise choice.

“It’s for my momma and daddy,” the woman says as Chauvin bends down for a plastic bag. The customer describes how she makes every meal for her 86 and 87-year-old parents.

“I just like to surprise them every once in a while,” she says. “They were so good to me, and my momma really misses cooking.”

Her eyes seem moist. It could be the rain.

Drops of water from the tent ceiling distract Chauvin. Her pies are in danger.

A neighbor uses a bamboo pole to push the pockets of water over the edge of the tent, creating temporary waterfalls. Before Chauvin can ask for help, he walks over.

She gives him a thank you shoe sole.

The rain slacks as a middle-aged man toting a toddler walks up to Chauvin. She smiles and hands him a pre-bagged pie.

“He comes every weekend, pushing his father in a wheelchair,” Chauvin says quietly. “He lets his father pick out a pie and I hold it for them while they eat breakfast. His father has Alzheimer’s and would eat it right away otherwise.”

The pair walks off into the rain, the little boy stopping to step in each puddle.