Some people just don’t know how good they have it. Every single guidebook we own told us to eat at Brenda’s in New Iberia, as we made our way west from New Orleans. It is an acknowledged food sensation, and they were all right. Now, Brenda’s isn’t much to look at on the outside, and it may not be in the best New Iberian neighborhood, but I don’t know when we’ve ever had a warmer welcome. Brenda’s daughter loved the thought of us coming all the way from New York City, and ignored our thoughts about what we imagined we were going to order. No. She took over and decided what we had to taste that we can’t get in New York City. For some reason, she thought we must have been starving to death before we got to her mama’s restaurant, which seats about 15 people.
We had chicken, ribs, rice with gravy, rice stuffing, red beans with sausage, potato salad, pork and beans, smothered cabbage, pistolettes, steak tip stew, and peach cobbler. And when I expressed the slightest interest in lemonade, our cook rushed to the kitchen to squeeze me an entire pitcher.
We have never and I mean never been treated with such hospitality and enjoyed such wonderful food. Every single ‘side’ was an exceptional example of its species. No Thanksgiving has ever had such abundance, let alone such flavor.
We did our best to finish, and the entire experience – include the huge cup of freshly squeezed lemonade that we left with – cost the grand sum of $26. Brenda herself came out to meet us and to thank us for coming all that way to eat at her kitchen. Her secret? “All my food is made with love.” And we loved it back.
But here’s the strange part. Don told the people we met next in New Iberia – which has not one but two Chase banks, so I guess there is money here – that we had eaten at Brenda’s and raved about the food. Most politely said they had heard of it, but not one had ever eaten there. And I was convinced that they looked at us kind of strangely. Once again, an artist is not appreciated by those too close to see the brilliance of her creation.
The other reason to come to New Iberia is to go to Avery Island, where all Tabasco sauce is made. This is some operation, and we took the factory tour. I had no idea how important Tabasco was in the lives of people all over the world – even the Queen! The McIlhenny family continues to run a very successful business and growing business after about 150 years.
And just to show how everything is connected, the barrels that Tabasco ferments in for three years are those barrels we first met at the Jack Daniel’s distillery, where they can only used once. And after they eventually fall apart here after many uses, the chips are sold for grilling – imagine the infusion of Jack Daniel’s and Tabasco. And just in case you are a heavy user, they do make gallon jugs of the stuff.
Lastly, we toured a plantation house right in town, Shadows-on-the-Teche, the Teche being the bayou that runs along the town and at the back of this home, built in the 1830’s and occupied by four generations of the same family till the late 1950’s. No photos inside, but all original family pieces that survive the War and the home’s occupation by Union officers. Lovely…
And in case you are wondering about the last two lunches you have seen us consume, you need to know that they are great exceptions to our normal fare, and that we certainly only eat one meal a day on this trip, with the addition of some small breakfast fare at most hotels. In case you were wondering.