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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Pride in the Products: A Californian Revels in Louisiana's Love for Local

by Intern Vanessa Mejia

Jay D's Louisiana Barbecue Sauce and Blanc Du Bois, displayed at Calandro's Supermarket
I've only lived in Louisiana for the last year and a half, and although Baton Rouge feels like home, I have to remind myself I'm an outsider.

Okay, so maybe using the term "outsider" has a bit of a harsh connotation, but in technical terms it's accurate. Being born and raised in Southern California, it slips my mind more than you might believe.

Now, having interned with Bite and Booze/HugJayD for two semesters, I've got some serious homework: take my last months before graduating to explore the city I'm living in. Challenge accepted.

Part of my role as an intern was to create fun and unique content to describe what HugJayD represents, and in order to do that effectively, I had to see for myself all the local places that carry the products and the places that use the products in recipes to create some seriously delicious bites.

Full disclosure: prior to this internship, the only places I bought groceries in Baton Rouge were Winn Dixie, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and the Neighborhood Walmart (only three of which exist in California). 

I was excited to explore shops that sell local products, like Matherne's, Bocage Market, Maxwell's Market, Calandro's, Red Stick Spice Company, and Tony's Seafood.

You want to know what each of these places have in common? That they make you want to go home and cook a full Cajun spread? Yes, but there's something else.

It's the pride in the products; Louisiana-made products specifically. 

Front and center when you walk into these places, Louisiana products are proudly displayed. Including products like Jay D's Louisiana Barbecue Sauce and Molasses Mustard. (Cue selfish plug. I’m a good intern, what can I say?).

If I'm being honest, I can’t recall a single place similar in California. Yes, maybe those super cliche organic shops and farmer’s markets, but nothing like these local city grocery stores. 

Impressive, Louisiana. That’s pride, and that’s what makes me feel welcome and at home here.

By tagging along on some of Chuck P's sauce deliveries, I wanted to buy everything off those Louisiana product shelves. It made me proud to see Louisiana flavors bottled, bagged, and being shared. 

It's how "outsiders" like me connect on more levels than just purple and gold (Go Tigers!). 

And on the day of my departure, I will proudly stuff the trunk of my car with plenty of Louisiana products, and then search high and low for them in California because you just can’t beat Louisiana flavor.

*Editor's note: We did not assign this piece to Vanessa. She felt compelled on her own to write it. We will miss her when she graduates and leaves us!*