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For a few years, Smiles and I had two states left on our Bucket List.  We used to tell people, “We’ve been to 48 states… and they’re not the two you’re thinking of.”  Any time we would find out someone was from Louisiana or Mississippi, we’d ask them what we should do when we visit.  Every time, people would mention the food.  And the music.  But mostly the food.

On January 18th, 2024, we stepped foot into Mississippi and Louisiana (or as the locals would say, ‘Missippi and Losiana”) for the first time.  All over Louisiana, we kept hearing that Lafayette had the best food.  We put it on our map.  If Lafayette had the best food and the best thing about LA is the food, well, we’d better get there.

We spent a little time in Baton Rouge, and ate a delicious restaurant called Parrain’s.  So delicious, in fact, that we ate there three times.  The first time we ate there, we got to celebrate the 77th birthday of a sweet ol’ Louisiana grandma, and discovered that Louisianans (or at least the ones who love Jesus), after they sing the normal Happy Birthday song, follow up with “May the Good Lord bless you” to the same tune!

Next we saw New Orleans.  That place is a trip, let me tell ya’.  We accidentally showed up just in time for the first parade of the year (because they celebrate Mardi Gras for a few weeks straight).  We ate Beignets at Cafe DuMonde, like everyone told us to, and took the recommendation of Wendy (the first person we met while walking to the parade) and ate at Coop’s on Decatur.  That meal ranks up there as one of the best of my life (I ate Cajun Pasta, in case you want a recommendation).  With every delicious meal, we kept wondering how Lafayette could get any better than what we’d already eaten.

After our first visit to New Orleans, we pedaled around small towns in LA, before heading back into NOLA.  We took a hike on the Mandalay Nature Trail, and ate at Big Al’s in Houma, where we ate fried Alligator.  The next night, we made it to the famous Lafayette, where there was supposedly the best food in this state famous for it’s food.  And let me tell you what we discovered… If you live in a place where you can eat the most flavorful food in the country, you simply want something other than Cajun food.  We searched high and low in Lafayette, and finally settled on a pitiful burger joint that I would NEVER recommend, because we were getting grumpy from being hungry and driving all over a town.  We discovered that, in Lafayette, we could get sushi, burgers, pizza, or Thai food (all of which are lovely meals when you aren’t looking for something that comes with Hush Puppies for a side dish).

It reminded me of standing in a Nepali corner shop and looking at a shelf full of skin-whitening cream.  It broke my heart, as I stood there, staring at the shelf, thinking of how Americans tan themselves, and even lay in tanning beds, to get the bronze hue the Nepalis are trying to rid themselves of.

Why is it that we always want what we can’t have?  Almost anyone in the country would LOVE to visit Louisiana just to have a bowl of Crab and Corn Bisque in Baton Rouge or that Cajun Pasta from New Orleans or the fried Shrimp Smiles seemed to order wherever he went.  Yet the locals wanted burgers and pizza.

So, this begs the question… What is it that you or I want that we just don’t have.  How do we wish our lives were different?  That we were different?  Until we’re willing to be honest with ourselves, we can’t truly learn the art of contentment.  Until we know what we don’t appreciate, we won’t be able to intentionally give thanks for it.  When we think we’re missing out, we miss what’s right in front of us.

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