Long considered the finest collection of Louisiana folk tales and customs, Gumbo Ya-Ya chronicles the stories and legends that have emerged from the bayou country. Originally written as part of the WPA’s Louisiana Writers’ Project, it has endured as a classic of its genre and is again available in a beautiful Pelican edition.
Meet the Krewe of Zulu, New Orleans’ most colorful all-black Carnival club, and the many tribes of “Indians” who help celebrate Mardi Gras with their fierce pageantry. Listen to the street criers entice customers to buy their goods. Produce peddlers hawk watermelon, cantaloupe, snap and butter beans, and strawberries. The charcoal man sells fuel to stoke the washday fires, while the kindling man offers to “saw two cords for a dollar” and dinner. Zabette and Rose Gla dispense the choicest coffee available in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The bottle man collects old bottles, rags, and bones, driving a hard bargain with the children who expect handfuls of peppermints, whistles, horns, and rattles for their hoards of treasure.
Gumbo Ya-Ya (“Everybody Talks at Once”) is a charming look at the legends and practices of Louisiana, particularly New Orleans. There’s no escaping superstition and voodoo in Louisiana. Several sections explain the customs and beliefs that have sprung up over the centuries. Always burn onion peels to ensure a steady supply of money. Sprinkle nutmeg in a woman’s left shoe every night at midnight to drive her crazy. Kiss your elbow to change your gender.
All aspects of society are detailed in this wonderful album of Louisiana tradition: the Vieux Carré Creoles, with their strict codes of family honor; the burly Irish Channel immigrants; the lively Italians who still honor St. Joseph and St. Rosalia with all the pomp of the Old Country; and the fun-loving Cajuns, with their curious family names and spirited fais do do!