My mentor was a simple Cajun Man that could not read or write for he taught me so many lessons of life. He did it in a way that no text book could achieve. He did it in the only way he knew how? He was the true meaning of the word "RACONTEUR."
Emile Navarre was born in Chacahoula Louisiana in 1862 and he and his family had a very hard life there on the bayous. He only knew how to work the land but the devastating hurricanes of 1909 convinced the family to leave and try and find a better life elsewhere. They kept some of the old ways that were still useful and those that were not, they abandoned in favor of new ways of working and living. Tempe Arizona area was as far as their meager savings would take them. My father was the youngest child of six.
I have written about this man before (Memories of My Cajun Man). I will attempt to pass on some of the lessons in the words that only he knew for if he did not know the English word he would simply use his Cajun word. I was not taught the Cajun language that they spoke among themselves but when they found they did not have a Cajun word for something new, they simply used the new English word, so one could get the jest of the conversation if you listened carefully. I spent most of my early childhood there as I detailed in the above HUB.
I will attempt to tell here a story of how this Cajun Man taught me in a very unique way. I just called him "PAPA".
A LESSON IN GREED!
"Papa, everyone has a "bicycle" or why can't I have "new shoes" and why do we have to eat "couche-couche," (Corn meal-grains) every day for supper? Of course these issues were very important to an eight- year old.
He never said at any time that it was because we were very poor and could not afford many everyday things or did he ever scold me in any manner. He would simply start telling me about his "Le Cousin Leon," (Cousin).
"Now as I recall that happened to, "mon cousin Leon" (my cousin Leon) dat man lived in a fine house near the bayou Lafourche and he had many a fine "chevaux" (horses). Dat man wore new "Botte"(boots) and dat man sat at mon table every day and ate his fill of "couche-couche." Then he would be silent not saying a word, just waiting for what he knew would be next.
Well, that didn't sound so bad to me for he lived in a fine house and had new shoes and he rode a fine horse instead of a bicycle and yet he still wanted to eat couche-couche? Of course I wanted to know what happened to cousin Leon after that?
Papa just sat there and shook his head sadly. Finally when he spoke it went something like this.
"Dat very next year a L'orogan (hurricane) came and took cousin Leon's fine house and all his fine things and put it into the bayou Lafourche."
Now the silence was mine to hold and think on. I still think of all those lessons that I leaned from Papa's-- Cousin Leon. It was many years later that i learned that there was NO ACTUAL COUSIN LEON. Cousin Leon was manufactured especially for me by my Cajun raconteur Papa in the only way he knew how!
YES, I WAS TRULY BLESSED WITH THE SIMPLE LESSONS TAUGHT BY--- COUSIN LEON!
Couche-couche is a simple corn bread that is cooked in a iron-skillet with oil until it is crispy brown and then eaten with milk sometimes on it or with it and I add a little fig jam to top it off. Yes it is now my favorite evening meal.