you don’t have to ask the waitress to bring Tabasco sauce–a handy bottle is permanently stationed at each table alongside the napkin dispenser with a bottle of Tabasco’s natural

Louisiana condiment partner, a bottle of ketchup.

I took this shot last week at a business “eatin’ meetin'” (another South Louisiana tradition) with friends and colleagues from the Acadiana Writing Project (local affiliate of the National Writing Project). We were fellowshipping and working at a popular Lafayette watering hole, the Hub City Diner.

To show how this South Louisiana tradition is unique, my family visited Memphis last spring for the NJCAA Word Series (that our LSUE Bengals won!). Since our anniversary coincided with that trip, we found a spicy-looking regional food restaurant on historic Beale Street. I ordered fried catfish, which was done to perfection insofar as being fried well, but I had to wait several minutes to begin eating after the waitress served my platter because I had to ask her for Tabasco sauce. (She brought the ketchup with the order. She had that part right.) I eventually got the Tabasco, but I waited for several minutes. The wait was frustrating because a true Louisiana fried seafood gourmand simply does not begin eating without the Tabasco and ketchup tandem. All I could do was sit there and stare at this appetizing plate of food, its pleasing aroma tantalizing my senses, wishing she’d hurry along with the hot stuff.

I’ve actually known Louisiana acquaintances who never travel without their personal bottle of Tabasco. They keep a “private stash” in their overnight bag or purse just so they’ll be prepared if some restaurant in Alabama or Texas or South Dakota or wherever doesn’t respect our regional taste by keeping the goods on hand.

So here’s to the spicy stuff and to another grand Louisiana culinary tradition: Nous-autres, on aime notre piment!