Most people living in the United States, experience four seasons — spring, summer, fall and winter. Though defining lines for those seasons have become somewhat blurred in the northeast, with the heavy snowfalls that have extended into spring, in Louisiana, the seasons are marked by factors other than the weather.
According to Louisianatravel.com, a website whose message is, “Feed your soul,” and highlights local cultural events and food throughout the state, there are many more seasons to enjoy in Louisiana. As one might guess, most of them also involve food.
In light of the popularity of crawfish in all forms, some might consider the year to start with crawfish season, usually in late winter through early spring, with the king cakes of Mardi Gras season falling somewhere in-between. Crab season follows in late spring through early fall, with shrimp season in May through July for brown shrimp and April through December for white shrimp. Prime oyster season is October through April.
The long hot days of summer lend themselves to snowball season. Tailgating season, the long-awaited period when those beloved football games resume in stadiums across the state, occurs during the seasons traditionally known as fall and winter.
Having recently visited Enterprise Plantation in Patoutville, and learned of the history of M. A. Patout and Son LLC., I am convinced that two more seasons, Easter and sugar cane harvest time, should be recognized for the sweetness that we celebrate in south Louisiana.
Because of the operations of M. A. Patout and Son, founded in 1825 and one of the longest family-owned businesses in the United States, its three raw sugar factories are an integral part of an industry that has a great impact on our state. Information from the American Sugar Cane League notes an annual economic impact of $2 billion dollars to cane growers and raw sugar factories, with an overall $3 billion dollars to our state’s economy.
Grown on more than 400,000 acres of land in 22 Louisiana parishes, the 11 raw sugar factories process approximately 13 million tons of cane a year. On average, approximately 230 pounds of sugar are extracted per ton of cane.
To sweeten this economic impact even further, the past 2017 sugar cane harvest was one of the best seasons for the amount of tons of sugar cane produced and sugar recovery obtained. This vital state product, sugar, is a pure carbohydrate, contains no man-made chemicals and is an important nutrient which supplies energy to the body.
Sugar has also found its way into another season with the approaching Christian commemoration of Easter, the most important day of the year for Christians. In remembering Christ’s rising from the dead three days after His crucifixion, the symbol of the egg evolved into the customs of early Christians signifying the resurrection of Jesus. The egg was colored red in memory of the blood He shed. Over the ages the Easter eggs were dyed in other colors, and in addition to the traditional boiled egg, are now made up of chocolate and other sugary ingredients, to the delight of young and old alike.
An Easter favorite, which outsells other national candy leaders along the Gulf Coast, is the Elmer’s Gold Brick, Heavenly Hash and Pecan eggs produced by the Elmer Candy Company, which beginnings date back to 1855 in New Orleans. Pastry chef Henry Miller, with his son-in-law Augustus Elmer, opened the candy factory. These Easter basket staples are now produced by a third generation Nelson family, owners in Ponchatoula.
With the sweetness of salvation obtained through Jesus’ death and resurrection, the blessings of an abundant sugar harvest and the delicacies of chocolate, marshmallow and pecan Easter eggs found in baskets throughout our homes Easter mornings, we cannot help but celebrate these sweet seasons in south Louisiana.
The following recipe is a quick and easy one which celebrates the flavors of this beautiful spring season. It can be made ahead leaving time for church services and Easter egg hunts.
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 6-ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 12-ounce carton frozen whipped topping, thawed
2 graham cracker pie shells
Fresh Louisiana strawberries and more whipped topping for garnish, if desired
Beat cream cheese, condensed milk and lemonade concentrate until smooth. Fold in carton of whipped topping. Divide into two graham cracker pie shells. Refrigerate 4 hours or until firm. Top with more whipped topping and sliced strawberries, if desired. May be frozen ahead, thawed, and garnished with whipped topping and strawberries just prior to serving.
Catherine Wattigny, New Iberia