We toured a couple of family homes on the southern coast of Louisiana. The first home was Avery Island owned by the McIlhenny family. Four generations have lived here and make Tobasco sauce -130 year. Not any Tobasco sauce – THE Tobasco sauce. The island is quite a family find, they manufacture the sauce on the island but the island is on a salt dome so they mine their own salt AND there is oil. They have it made for generations. The chili’s grown on the island are just for the seed – the sauce chilis are grown in Central and South America. We were all stunned to learn that the process to make the sauce includes a fermentation period of 3 years. Let me write that another way THREE YEARS! I’m not sure that is legal. Perhaps Avery Island is it’s own country and drafts their own food safety laws. Clearly something is amiss as they use barrels to age the chilis – barrels they buy from bourbon companies. By law whiskey barrels can only be used one time. For chili peppers – no law, they use them until they fall apart.
After our tour it was unlimited tasting time in their Tobasco store. Take any food or drink – you can put tobasco in it. The kids were fairly adventurous trying the Tobasco soda and ice cream. Everything tastes just like it normally tastes except your mouth is on fire for awhile.
Part of the island is a garden and bird sanctuary planned and cultivated by a sensitive McIlhenny brother. There is a giant Buddha statue somewhere in there too – BUT it was no a free part of the tour so Giant Buddha will have to wait for another day.
Our next stop was Laura plantation. This is a restored Creole plantation house. The product they used to farm was sugar cane – it is still grown on he land but it is corporately manufactured. The tour included information on the plantation life and Creole culture. The architecture is different than most southern plantations but typical for the Creole style. The plantation was occupied until the 1970’s and then it fell in disrepair. However in the 1990’s the house was restored. The outbuildings and slave quarters are all gone or dilapidated.