The remote and rural areas of Acadiana are home to the most authentic Mardi Gras celebrations. This year, Bayou Teche Brewing in Arnaudville, Louisiana will kick off Mardi Gras season this Saturday with a new take on an old tradition: the Cochon de Lait.
The celebration on the Teche, however, will include a few surprises.
Bayou Teche Brewing President Karlos Knott, 52, grew up with grandparents who lived in the country, where it wasn’t uncommon for Cajuns to cook an entire pig for a group of people at a social gathering.
“Cochons and boucheries were part of that lifestyle. They didn’t do it for fun; they did it because they had to. Those kind of traditions didn’t live on in other places. Here, we’re keeping the tradition going.
“A good friend of mine, a French speaker, told me, ‘In Quebec they kept the language and lost the culture. Whereas in Acadiana, we kept the culture and lost the language, but it’s coming back.”
The resurgence of interest and preservation in the culture has garnered interested from younger generations, such as members of Quatre Coin, a college of young Cajun musicians who will perform all day of the cochon along the bayou.
In addition to the band, the cochon will include music trivia that spans 50 years of music, a competition in which participants must identify a song based on a few seconds of hearing it. Winners will receive plenty of LA-31 beer. Smoke n’ Section, a mobile cigar lounge inside a vintage 1972 Airstream, will sell cigars people can enjoy inside of the Airstream, and Arts coffee will be on site.
Providing a fresh take on an old ceremony comes easily for Knott, whose Arnaudville roots reach all the way to 1780. After stints of living elsewhere, he and his family members all “boomeranged” back home.
“Arnaudville is a cool spot. There are not many small towns doing so many cool things. We [Bayou Teche Brewing] do something every Saturday and Sunday. There’s also Little Big Cup, a couple of art galleries. For a small town you can spend a whole day in Arnaudville.”
More city dwellers are spending their weekends indulging in the ancient ways. As Knott’s grandmother used to say, “Lafayette is a lot closer than it used to be.”
“When we were growing up, there were all those old agrarian Cajuns left. There are not many of those left, and those that do are really young guys trying to bring that stuff back.We saw it and appreciated it, and it was beautiful. For an agrarian lifestyle, it was elegant. They had good food, a good time, and great music. It’s still a special place to live, and no other place has that culture and heritage. When you got a festival here, you hear local music, and the restaurants and the clubs have that. That’s cool unique. We get spoiled. You go someplace else, and none of that’s left. It’s all corporate.”