Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Reel South: An Enduring Legacy
you have ever gone on an eating tour of New Orleans and Cajun country, there is
a good chance you ate oysters supplied by Croatian-American oyster farmers. It
really is more like farming than fishing, as the veteran oyster hands duly
explain in James Catano’s An Enduring
Legacy: Louisiana’s Croatian Americans (trailer here), which airs as
part of the current season of Reel South on
PBS’s World Channel (hosted by Darius Rucker).
stands to reason the skills one learns living off the Dalmatian Coast translate
fairly readily to the Gulf Coast. In fact, Croatian immigrants quickly
identified the comparative advantage they held in oyster farming. Since the
late 1800s, they have built a small but resilient community in Louisiana,
largely centered on the oyster business. As one might expect, Hurricane Katrina
did not do them any favors, but it was the BP oil spill and the clueless
response that really threatened their livelihoods. Yet, they persevere and have
started building more permanent community infrastructure.
Catano pitches it to viewers straight over the plate, but it is a story worth
hearing, so why get overly complicated? These are hard-working, hard-playing
folks who do not ask anything from anyone. All they want to do is work their
oyster beds and keep their Croatian cultural traditions alive for the next
generation (who seem to be showing interest, even though there is less oyster
work to be had).
It just goes to show, when it comes to New
Orleans and the state of Louisiana, the more you look, the more you find.
Frankly, just the thought of oysters prepared any dozens of ways in the Crescent
City should make you hungry, so it is nice to take twenty-some minutes to appreciate the
oyster farmers who helped make so many great meals possible. Recommended for
additional perspective on a fascinating state, An Enduring Legacy: Louisiana’s Croatian Americans airs this Sunday
(2/26), as part of the current season of Reel
Labels: Documentary, Reel South