CULINARY THRILL SEEKING — Those “poor” ol’ Cajuns have to eat shrimp

Published 12:10 am Monday, February 26, 2024

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Cajun historian Jim LaBove says his family figured they were “poor,” as they lived off the land in Sabine Pass.

All they had to eat was shrimp and crab and such.

The seafood we now consider a treat was what LaBove helped his dad harvest from waters of Sabine Pass.

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Cotton’s Seafood sold fish, oysters, shrimp and crab to Granger’s Seafood and fed many a family over the decades.

If you “broke” an oyster shell cluster on the boat, you had to eat it. No waste for these Cajuns.

“Food was all we had,” LaBove said.

It’s still a pretty good thing to have.

“Cookin’ Cajun” with Jim LaBove was the menu at the Center for History and Culture of Southeast Texas and the Upper Gulf Coast. Also on the menu were plenty of delicious Cajun favorites. (Darragh Doiron/Special to The News)

LaBove shared some history and passion recently for an interactive program. The interaction is that attendees got to eat a fusion variation of his family’s recipes.

Between servings of Crawfish French Bread, Chicken and Oyster Gumbo, LaBove discussed roux, gardening and the noble profession of bootlegging, a family tradition.

A slide show accompanied the event at the Center for History and Culture of Southeast Texas and the Upper Gulf Coast at Lamar University.

Also on the menu: Redfish Courtbouillion served over Cajun Fried Rice and peach ice cream served with fruit cobbler.

An author and artist, LaBove wrote letters of support to legislators who have recognized Port Arthur as the official Cajun Capital of Texas.

As a child, LaBove said his sisters wanted nothing to do with him, so he hung out with his mother in the kitchen. Washtubs past their prime became planters for green onions and parsley. The family gathered and dried leaves for file.

The LaBoves bartered for rice and flour for baking bread.

Cajuns, he said, love Mardi Gras, gumbo and a good fais do do.

“The big, scary thing is making roux, but you can’t learn unless you burn it one time,” he said his mother preached.

“Food evolves. Make it your own,” the family advocates.

Chef Casey Gates, Chef Traci Gates and Chef Ashley Fisher prepped the food for the Feb. 19 event and the night involved Gates’ culinary students.

Adam Nemmers, the center’s assistant director, interviewed LaBove at the program’s end.

Labove’s books, wildlife art and other works can be found at

Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie who’s grandma, Anita Huval, hailed from Breaux Bridge, La. Reach Doiron at