Eugene O’Neill’s line about the shackles of history runs through my mind — There is no present or future, only the past, happening over and over again, now. Circumstances are different, but I know what’s coming.
Because of what I’m about to do, the security line at the Baton Rouge airport will grind to a halt. After all, this has happened before. And will happen again.
I tried to look natural, relaxed, as I slipped off my shoes into a grey plastic bin. It’ll be fine, I thought. Out came the laptop. They won’t stop me, not here. Off with the jacket. Though in New Orleans I was stopped with a payload smaller than this. There isn’t a piece of steel or iron on me, not one coin of copper or nickel. Last time, when the agent finally saw my package, she had said she wanted to come home with me. As I breeze through the metal detector, the TSA agent guarding it is already looking at the passenger behind me. I’m through. No incident.
Then the conveyor belt lurches to a stop.
“WHOSE is this?!” Today’s agent, a local boy, had seen through my façade. He’s pointing to my overnight bag and now knows as well as I what it holds: forearm-sized sticks of andouille sausage, several pounds of smoked beef sausages, packets of little pork sausages no bigger than my ring finger, smoked turkey legs, hot pork sausages, and—why not?— more sausage from a different producer about 200 feet down from the first. I have been to LaPlace, Louisiana, andouille capital of, if not the world, then of my heart.
“We might have to keep this bag,” he tells me. Then, breaking into a smile, he indicates my Timbuk2 laptop bag, just out of reach. It's bearing a similar carnal load: “And that one, too.”
LaPlace andouille is powerful stuff, but it’s no match for X-ray technology. Clearly, I'm not the first sausage smuggling bandit to come through security.
I am, it's been said, a meat wagon and my Baton Rouge experience is not untypical when I travel. In addition to my well-known affection for spirits, I am a fiend for cured and smoked meats. Whenever I travel, I try to make time to investigate not just bars and distilleries, but smokehouses, butchers, charcutiers, delis, carnicerias, cheese shops, wurstmachers, and any other place that might have some local meaty specialty.
Sopressata, sobrasada, chorizo, chaurice, speck, rookvlees, jerky, carne seca, horka, finocchiona, pfefferwurst, bacons, hams, smoked hocks, tasso, burnt ends, the assflesh Saucisson d'Arles—there’s no end to the sausage and cured meats I’ve schlepped across state and national boundaries. I even pack throwaway clothes as a sort of sartorial ballast so that, once ditched, I have have more room for meat on the return trip.
This morning, I made about a two-hour round trip drive just for the smoked treats—notably andouille sausage—from two shops in LaPlace, Louisiana. The LaPlace andouille is thick as my wrist and longer than a bottle of rum, each like a rolling pin of seasoned and smoked pork. That ersatz andouille I get in my local place is fine for what it is, but this stuff is transcendental. The sheer awesome deliciousness of proper Cajun andouille is unparalleled. Each batch of gumbo I make with it is stellar, filled with smoky goodness.
For my colleagues headed to Tales of the Cocktail this summer, LaPlace is a bit of a hike outside New Orleans. But just a bit. My suggestion for scoring the thicker, heavily smoked andouille typical of the town? Drive the half-hour west or pool your cash and send an emissary who will maybe skim, as courier fee, only a stick or two. If your plans don’t take you to LaPlace, stop by Cochon Butcher in the warehouse district. They’ve often got the same style of fat “sticks” in the deli case.
Bailey’s World Famous Andouille
513 West Airline Hwy
LaPlace, LA 70068
Jacob’s World Famous Andouille
505 West Airline Hwy
LaPlace, LA 70068
Wayne Jacob’s Smokehouse
769 W 5th St
La Place, LA 70068.
New Orleans LA 70130