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Regional Reports From Across the State

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Northern Louisiana

Strawberry Fields
Strawn’s Eat Shop first opened its diner doors in 1944 under the auspices of Mr. Strawn. Fourteen years later, the diner passed into the ownership of Gus Alexander, who galvanized the efforts of Lula McCoy, fried
chicken genius, and Ella Hamilton, whose witchery with pie helped pass this eatery into the realm of Shreveport eating legends. Twenty years ago, Buddy and Nancy Gauthier acquired the famed eatery and made some changes but were savvy enough not to change menu items that had kept the hungry masses at their door for decades.
Strawn’s has always been an old-fashioned diner, with daily specials comprising tummy pleasers such as meatloaf and mashed potatoes, chicken and dumplings, famed chicken-fried steak, fried chicken and roast beef, with winter-weather sides such as corn bread, mustard greens, pinto and lima beans, corn bread dressing, and purple hull peas thrown in for good measure. Bowls of hearty beef stew with corn bread on the side have won accolades from customers — nd honestly, why not? Corn bread with beef stew? Manna from heaven! The murals decorating the walls of the restaurant are just an added dollop of joy to what is already complete dining pleasure.

If there’s one thing that makes my mouth water, it’s the idea of an icebox pie. If there are three things that make my mouth water, it’s the flavors of fresh strawberries, chocolate and coconut. Happily for me, the legendary icebox pies at Strawn’s are available in those three flavors. These delectable edible orbs are a composition of flaky crust, fresh fruit and fresh whipped cream, perfect for your incisors to dive in deliciously. In a recent survey, Southern Living magazine named Strawn’s Eat Shop as one of the Top 5 diners in the south, crediting its strawberry pie as being largely responsible for the honor. Owner Buddy Gauthier was kind enough to share the secret strawberry glaze recipe. So “come by, and get your pie.”

Strawn’s Strawberry Glaze
1 1⁄3 cups sugar
1 1⁄4 cups whole milk (plus 3 tablespoons, set aside)
2 tablespoons margarine
1⁄3 cup cornstarch
4 whole eggs
1 to 2 drops of red food coloring
Mix sugar, 1 1⁄4 cups milk and margarine until sugar dissolves. Mix cornstarch in a separate bowl with the remaining 3 tablespoons of  milk. Add the cornstarch-milk mixture to the sugar, milk and margarine. Cook in a double boiler for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the eggs. Cook 2 to 4 more minutes, stirring constantly. Put the cooked filling in a bowl, and beat out the lumps with a mixer. Add red food coloring. Let the glaze cool for 30 minutes on the counter and 2 hours in the refrigerator.
Diner Tip: Spread the glaze
in the pie crust; top with
Strawn’s Eat Shop, 125 Kings Highway, Shreveport, (318) 868-0634

Winter Honeysuckle
Part of the repertoire of snowy white flowers that perfume the air with intense fragrance, winter
honeysuckle blooms in North Louisiana in pleasant beneficence. The mild winter days that
sometimes visit the Bayou State only serve to drawn forth its sweet lemony perfume. Its very botanical name, Lonicera frangrantissima, means “most fragrant.” Dismiss the thought of entwining honeysuckle vines
taking over your garden domain; this delightful little perfumer with the tiny cream-colored flowers contains itself on a fulsome blue-green shrub that may not be drop-dead gorgeous to look at but nonetheless brings a lot of
pleasure to garden strolls. In winter, its stiff branches are transformed into starry wands by the tiny flowers that bloom on them. The stems are perfect to cut for indoor flower arrangements that will fill your room with lemony
 fragrance for days. Native to China, winter honeysuckle has been known to survive in desert areas of Texas and stands up well to cold weather. When spring arrives, purple stems begin to shoot forth from the foliage. When the flowering time is over, the blooms are replaced by red berries during spring. Growing as high as 10 feet, this charmer likes full sun but will also do well in partial shade in well-drained but moist, rich soil.    

Persons of Letters
Nationally renowned literacy experts John Mangieri and Cathi Collins Block, representing publishing company Scholastic Inc., recently participated in the unveiling of the new Literacy Lab at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. The university’s College of Education and Human Development, renowned for graduating teachers of high caliber, helms the new center. Believing that strong literacy skills are the bedrock to an individual’s success in life, the Literacy Lab provides students with a professional media lab-curriculum library, with special emphasis on reading, mathematics and science. This allows the students to meet professional block requirements, expand their knowledge and help create lesson plans.

The university received recent acclaim in an article in Time magazine for its excellent work in training new educators.
“The Literacy Lab is a fabulous resource for our region and for our teacher candidates,” said ULM Provost Stephen Richters.

“Keeping information current so that all students have access to the latest research is crucial,” Block said. “With this lab, students are ahead of the curve.”

Added Mangieri: “Studies show that one aspect where [primary and secondary] students have the least confidence is in vocabulary. We feel that this lab can give teachers significant information to improve their lessons not just for tomorrow but for the foreseeable future.”

Assisting in the development of the lab was Beth Ricks, an endowed professor in the College of Education. The lab is intended to serve as a hands-on teaching mechanism for education majors.

“I noticed that students didn’t have a space to practice methods they were learning in our classrooms or create materials they could use in the field,” said Ricks. ”It was a disconnect between practice and fieldwork that needed to be resolved.”

Ricks drew resources from across the campus, and although the idea was her brainstorm, she credits the entire College of Education for the result, praising the collaborative effort of all involved.

“It really energized the department,” she said. ”My colleagues gave above and beyond what I had requested.”

In concert with Scholastic Inc., Ricks and the faculty garnered access to the latest technological resources in addition to research on education.

Block and Mangieri believe the Literacy Lab at ULM could improve reading levels by more than two years for every semester its techniques are employed.

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