Prairieville Middle School seventh-graders got a first-hand lesson in Louisiana culture thanks to talks from an alligator hunter, a jambalaya king, Cajun musicians, storytellers and others who shared stories of living in the bayou state.
The volunteer speakers were part of the school’s annual Living in the South program.
Matthew Lambert talked about growing up in a large Ascension Parish family when “meat was hard to come by” and you could “feed a lot of people with a jambalaya.”
“A jambalaya could help make one chicken go a long way,” he said.
As Lambert talked about his days as a young boy, his son-in-law, Jeff Parent, stirred a black pot filled with onions and other seasonings.
“There’s an art to making it (jambalaya) seasoned and not spicy,” Parent said as he added more seasonings to the pot. Cajun food is seasoned, not spicy.”
At the end of the program, students ate the jambalaya Parent cooked and boiled crawfish cooked by volunteers.
Across the campus, state Rep. Eddie Lambert talked about alligator hunting in south Louisiana.
Lambert, whose wife, Marilyn, talked to students about being a lawyer and a judge, showed a video of how an alligator is caught.
“Always strange things happen when you’re hunting,” he said.
Lambert said his largest alligator last season was 10 feet, 5 inches in length and weighed 293 pounds.
Teacher Patricia Peno said the annual program “gives the students an appreciation of the culture and history of south Louisiana.”
Principal Diane Gautreau said she wants the students “to have a sense of belonging to the area.”
She said a majority of the 239 seventh-graders are not native to Ascension Parish.
“I want the kids to have a memory, and not just a book sense, but to be immersed in the culture,” Gautreau said.
To fund the day-long project, the students write and publish a cookbook each year.