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Final Word: Welcome to Delouisiana

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Illustration by Deanna Staffo http://deannastaffo.com
 

I’m approaching my 12th year as a Delawarean, closing in on the 18 or so that make me a Louisianan by identity. It’s no accident that, of all the places I’ve lived since leaving Louisiana, I’ve stayed in Delaware longest. To me, it has become the Lagniappe State. Back home lagniappe means “something extra,” like a 13th beignet when you buy a dozen. Delaware is like that: It’s got a lot of Louisiana in it, but something extra, too—more than might meet the eye.

First, both are defined by rivers. The Delaware may lack the literary and romantic richness of the mighty Mississippi, but, really, the two bodies of water are only a couple of oil spills apart. Throw in some port corruption and a floating casino, and Wilmington could quickly become the Big Easy of the Mid-Atlantic.

Speaking of corruption, Delaware has produced no political figure as outrageous, tyrannical or entertaining as Louisiana’s Huey P. Long. Delaware has never seen fit to throw a sitting governor into a mental institution (Earl Long). It has not yet produced a governor who stands a chance of dying in federal prison (Edwin Edwards). Nor has it produced a governor who, first, wrote a country ballad, then built a bridge connected to no roads (Jimmy Davis of “You Are My Sunshine” and the Sunshine Bridge).

On the other hand, politics just aren’t as colorful or interesting here. The Louisiana governor who was thrown in the nuthouse prophesied his state would get good government one day, but no one would like it. (That prophecy has yet to be fulfilled, so the verdict is still out.)

I think Delaware has achieved good government, and I kind of like it, comparatively speaking (though I avoided taking the Del. 1 bridge over the C&D Canal when it opened, fearing I might get stuck in the middle of nowhere).

Both Louisiana and Delaware have parlayed an affinity for the oil and chemical industries into two of the most successful cancer-producing states in the nation. Virtually all of my relatives have died of some form of cancer, so one of the benefits I’ve embraced by moving here is that I probably don’t have to worry about heart disease.

Speaking of bridges to nowhere, the highway systems of both Delaware and Louisiana are remarkably similar, though for very different reasons.

Through a mix of political corruption, poor tax revenue and lack of engineering, Louisiana highways are in a constant state of disrepair.

In Delaware, due to political responsibility, excellent tax revenue and devotion to engineering, roads are in a constant state of repair.

The result in both places? Driving is slooooow.

And the roads are no better when you do get to drive fast. Potholes can make driving in Louisiana the automotive version of a Whac-A-Mole game. The “Flagger Ahead” experience in Delaware can make driving here the automotive equivalent of bumper cars, but with dire consequences.

But in the area of food, Louisiana and Delaware part company.

Our very own Philly cheesesteak (ironic, no?) simply cannot compare to the roast beef po-boys and muffulettas of New Orleans. Throw in crawfish étoufée, shrimp remoulade, jambalaya, crawfish pie and filet gumbo. Me-oh my-oh, there’s just no comparison. On the other hand, you can visit the attractions of Delaware over a long weekend without gaining 10 pounds. You can’t do that in New Orleans.

Finally, speaking of overindulgence, no event in Delaware achieves the same level of reckless abandon and debauchery as Mardi Gras, at least in my experience—though I’ve never been to a race weekend in Dover.

D

Reid Champagne eats plenty of cheesesteaks and makes a lot of gumbo in Newark.

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