It Happens in Louisiana: Peculiar Tales, Traditions and Recipes from the Bayou is Sam Irwin’s newest book to detail Louisiana’s idiosyncratic lifestyle. It will be published by History Press October 19.
Irwin, Louisiana’s pre-eminent crawfish historian (ok, only crawfish historian), previously issued Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean in 2014. Like Louisiana Crawfish, It Happens in Louisiana will be available online and in the better book stores and bait shops. The book may also be pre-purchased through the author’s website at www.SamIrwin.net. Those who pre-buy are promised a bit of good ol’ fashioned Cajun lagniappe. The book retails for $19.99.
The foreword to It Happens in Louisiana was written by national columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson, who previously chronicled her Bayou State experience in Poor Man’s Provence; Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana.
Johnson wrote, “I once had a home near little Amy’s (pronounced Ah-Me) Grocery in workaday Henderson. By the time I lived in Henderson, Amy’s had been reduced to mostly beer and cigarettes. But once it was a real grocery store in a town that knows its groceries, and owned by Sam’s grandfather. His family members also were pioneers in the crawfish industry. Sam Irwin is what I call bona fide.
“When Sam writes of accordion-maker Marc Savoy, the moral is clear: It’s okay to be what you are. Not only to be, but to celebrate what you are.”
It Happens in Louisiana features more than 100 photos from Irwin’s travels across the state as well as shots from well-known Louisiana photographers like Greg Guirard, Ron Berard, Philip Gould and David Gallent. It covers events like the Easter egg Pâquer competition of Avoyelles Parish, Le Tournoi jousting traditions of Ville Platte and the loss of unique swamp and marsh cultures caused by man-made and natural Mississippi River flooding. Stylized graphic maps reminiscent of Louisiana’s highway café culture also illustrate the 18-chapter work.
The 160-page book also includes recipes from Chef Marcelle Bienvenu (seafood gumbo), Cajun fiddler Tracy Schwarz (chicken and sausage gumbo), a recipe for boiling crawfish for 20,000 people by Baboo Guidry and Glen Pitre and a tasty friend green tomato dish termed an Anti-Hero Sandwich to acknowledge Bonnie and Clyde’s mark on Louisiana.
Irwin is scheduled to appear at the Louisiana Book Festival (Baton Rouge) October 31 and the Livingston Parish Book Festival (Denham Springs) November 7.
“To paraphrase Tom Petty, everything in Louisiana is done with a Cajun accent,” Irwin said. “Cajun ways are often lost in translation and this book hopes to explain a bit about south and north Louisiana in a way that hasn’t yet been told.”
The third child of five in a Navy family, Irwin’s parents moved away from their St. Martin/Lafayette Parish hub to New Orleans, Green Cove Springs, Fla., Albuquerque, Austin and back to New Orleans before settling down in Breaux Bridge in 1961. Irwin’s French-speaking skill is rudimentary but he does make an effort to learn more and has endlessly bored his wife, Betty, with the etymological explanations of French/English cognates. Dee, his Jack Russell terrier, doesn’t seem to mind.
Irwin, the author of a rollicking crime fiction e-novel called The Ransom of Red Goat, is a founding member of the Baton Rouge Mountain Bike Association, a tenor in the Baton Rouge Symphony Chorus and part of the Public Relations Association of Louisiana. He is also proud to have been the “editor” of his daughter’s 2014 wedding, which was held in a sweet potato barn in Arnaudville, La. He blogs at www.LaNote.org and www.CrawfishReport.com.