Grace and I are just returning from a long, restful week in my hometown, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. We were under the great care of my most hospitable mother. She fed us, entertained us and sent us off well rested and spoiled. A new grandmothers job right? Bay St. Louis takes its’ influences from the nearby city of New Orleans, with creole style cottage homes and restaurants serving scrumptious seafood. It’s hot the majority of the year, but especially in July. It’s a small coastal town, where the water is murky and the people are funky. Many of the residents have never left and might benefit from a trip outside of Mississippi. There are more antique stores than grocery stores. Yet aside from the quirks, I frequently find myself needing a visit and never wanting to leave. There is art in some form or fashion everywhere you turn. I love the handful of restaurants who know me by name and the mass amounts of Spanish moss that hang from the live oak trees. The Gulf of Mexico provides residents who live near the water a warm breeze and salty scent in the air. In July, while the days are long and bright, it’s a great place to celebrate Independence Day. See why below.
Bird and fish watching from the Jimmy Rutherford Fishing Pier.
Peaceful early mornings from the Bay St. Louis Municipal Harbor.
Ripe, sweet figs in whose ever yard you can snag them from. There are at least 5 fig trees in my mom’s neighborhood. It’s residents versus birds on who consumes the most. The hot climate and humidity make the Mississippi Gulf Coast ideal for figs. However, speaking of humidity, with that comes mosquitoes that can make foraging figs a pain. Note to self: never again pick figs after rain. You will pay.
The main reason for our trip home for the 4th was for our families, 25th annual Pops Picnic. Our big crazy family gathers for food and fun. My mom is one of nine. So was her father. Needless to say, there are a lot of us. I’ve lost count. There are more than 20 first cousins, many of whom are married with their own litter of children, and then an entire other group of 2nd and 3rd cousins. The group shot of us below is missing at least 10 of us, not including the little ones. Grace sure enjoyed seeing everyone, some for the first time. She especially loved my cousins who were sneaking her samples of ribs and baked beans. The girl likes to eat!
Every July 4th weekend, Bay St. Louis becomes the hot spot of the Gulf Coast. People flock to attend Crab Fest, a three-day celebration of seafood, music, art and more. The star of this festival though, is the beloved blue crab. Visitors can indulge in practically any form of crab, including fried crab claws, stuffed crabs, crab biscuits and crab stuffed potatoes. Of course the best seller is the classic boiled crabs. Thousands of pounds of crabs (and shrimp!) are consumed each year. People who aren’t fans of shellfish can indulge in homemade items such as muffalettas and fried catfish. The festival is a fundraiser for Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church. However, it’s a real party with live music and people from all over celebrating the food and culture that the Mississippi Gulf Coast has to offer.
The first night my mom sent me with some money (expecting change) to get a few shrimp po-boys. I did return with po-boys, but also a plate of shrimp, a tray of boiled crabs and no change. I couldn’t resist the sight and smell of it all. Oops! Hope everyone had a fantastic 4th!