Louisiana at Large

Coming up roses

At the Burden Center in Baton Rouge, this year’s All- America Rose Selection winners, the hybrid tea-style Mardi Gras and the long-stemmed Dream Come True, are on display.

Louisiana State University AgCenter horticulture professor Allen Owings describes Mardi Gras as a novel blend of pink, orange and yellow with a delightful peppery scent.

“Each high-centered hybrid tea-style bloom begins as an apricot-orange bud that slowly spirals open to reveal a 4-inch bright-pink-and-orange bloom with a yellow base.

“Mardi Gras has proven to perform exceptionally well across the country with little-to-no care,” Owings says. “The colorful blooms are perfectly framed with dark-green semi-glossy foliage, and its upright columnar habit makes it an ideal rose to use as a hedge or in a border with mixed perennials.”

According to the AARS Web site, Dream Come True “is a stunning sight of catchy colors, which lures the likes of even non-rose-lovers to its side.

“This rose produces flawlessly formed yellow blossoms, blushed with ruby-red at the tips, all set amongst abundant matte-green foliage.”

Owings says the big, bushy, vigorous plant yields long-stemmed, long-lived blooms with a mild tea fragrance, making it lovely in the landscape and a great choice for bouquets.

AARS is a nonprofit association of rose wholesale growers. Both amateurs and professional growers submit entries.

Dream Come True, hybridized by John Pottschmidt of Cincinnati, is only the third amateur hybridizer to win the AARS Award in 67 years.

The Burden Center, an LSU College of Agriculture research facility, is one of 20 test locations used nationwide by the AARS. The roses are grown and tested for more than four years prior to AARS contest selection.

The Burden Center maintains an inventory of 1,500 rose plants representing 150 varieties, including past AARS winners dating back to 1946.

The 2008 winners currently are available for purchase at local nurseries, Owings says.

The Burden Center provides information on all aspects of growing and caring for roses as well as other ornamental plants.

Hot on the trail

Louisiana’s Department of Tourism is about to tap into one of its greatest natural resources – food, glorious food.

The Louisiana Culinary Trails program, launched this month with the completion of a food-destination-focused Web site, is a marketing campaign that takes food from the “added attractions” column to the forefront.

The site, and later a guide, offers information on popular dishes by region, the names and locations of restaurants where dishes can be found, and suggested scenic routes for getting to and from areas of the state. 

Food history and explanations on how similar foods differ by region are included at last, making it clearly understood that all gumbos are not the same –– nor should they be.

A host of travel writers has researched and compiled information from Natchitoches’ meat pie to Ponchatoula’s strawberry shortcake for inclusion on the site and in the guide.

Backing up the state’s reason for the initiative is Louisiana’s ranking as one of the Top 15 world destinations for food-related travel. That ranking resulted from a study conducted by Gourmet magazine, the International Culinary Tourism Association and the Travel Industry Association.

Laura Roach, communications manager for the Louisiana Travel Promotion Association, says the program is a three-year public-private partnership that includes the Louisiana Travel Promotion Association, TABASCO and the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board. The state has invested $300,000 of the more than $600,000 committed to funding.

Along with Web site development and guide publishing, there will be costs for promotion at trade shows and for advertisements in travel and cooking magazines.
“Until the state completed a cultural-economy study, no one realized how big a market there was for Louisiana to promote itself as a culinary destination,” Roach says. “I guess it was just one of those simple things you always overlooked and took for granted.”

According to the National Restaurant Association, Louisiana restaurants are expected to contribute $4.8 billion to the state economy this year. Although a large portion of those dollars are supplied by out-of-state visitors, Louisianians do their fair share of dining out.

The Louisiana Culinary Trails program’s intent may be to bring more tourists to the state, but Roach says residents will find the information invaluable for day or weekend trips throughout the state. “Even for those who have to travel for business to another area of the state,” she says. “Here is an at-your-fingers guide for eating out so you too don’t miss out on all Louisiana has to offer.”

Katrina chronicles

From every corner of Louisiana, communities personally experienced the story of the New Orleans levee failures following Hurricane Katrina as they opened their arms to an escaping people and then to a homeless mass.

But to have actually lived though the chaos, to sit as the wind tore through the streets, to know the stillness when all electrical power is lost, and then to hear and see the panic of the stranded as water poured in –– this is what Joshua Clark did with tape recorder in hand.

For 10 weeks, he continued to document what his eyes saw. From the French Quarter, he ventured into flooded areas of the city during the day, returning at night as required by a state enforced curfew.

“I traveled from the tip of Plaquemines Parish to Mississippi, all the while collecting those narratives, those oral histories,” Clark says. “Then I wrote it all down.”
This January, Clark’s book, Heart Like Water: Surviving Katrina and Life in Its Disaster Zone, earned him recognition as a finalist for a 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award.

National Public Radio commentator and Louisiana State University professor Andrei Codrescu, describes Clark’s book: “In the growing constellation of Katrina stories, Joshua Clark’s masterful tale shines brightest. The Apocalypse destroyed a city and ripped to shreds lives, but the legibility of its profound inner impact had to wait for this book, which is a love story.

“Clark’s book is our Love in the Time of Cholera, but, even more than (Gabriel García) Márquez’s novel, it is immediate and wrenching and true, while its rhythms, like Márquez’s, are nothing short of majestic.

“Joshua Clark has written the great nonfiction New Orleans novel, a book that’s here to stay.”

Clark’s choice of title for his book is a story in itself, a serendipitous find.
“I went down to the [Ernest N. Morial] Convention Center about two weeks after everyone had been evacuated,” he says. “There were only about 500 people left in the entire city at that time.”

The lack of any life, human or animal, gave the place an eeriness, Clark says. “The area around the convention center was strewed with human leftovers from the thousands who were there: chairs, mattresses, clothes, shoes, food, whole packs of cigarettes. Who do you know smokes cigarettes would leave unopened packs? It was like God had come and just took everyone away.”

It was then, while alone and walking through this sea of discarded possessions, that Clark stopped to look into a window of the center, and there, pinned against the glass by a soiled bed pillow, were two pages torn from a Bible.

“The words were from the Book of Lamentations,” he says. “I remember it described a city that was once full of people but now ruined and forgotten. There was a line telling the last inhabitants to ‘Arise, cry out in the night … pour out your heart like water.’”

Winners of NBCC awards were announced March 6 in New York City. For more information go to www.bookcritics.org.