Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hot Stuff!

SWMBO* & I visited Avery Island and the Tabasco factory on Sunday, as I mentioned in the entry below. It was a beautiful day and temperatures were perfect for a road trip.

Avery Island in the distance as viewed across the sugar cane fieldsAvery Island, Louisiana, viewed across a sugar cane field. Photo credit: This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. Source-English Wikipedia, original upload 7. Sep 2006 by Skb8721

From the English Wikipedia entry:
Avery Island is actually a huge dome of rock salt, three miles (5 km) long and two and a half miles wide.[1] It was created by the upwelling of ancient evaporite (salt) deposits that exist beneath the Mississippi River Delta region. These upwellings are known as "salt domes." Avery island is one of five salt dome islands that rise above the flat Louisiana Gulf coast.[6]

At its highest point, the island is 163 feet (50 m) above mean sea level.[6] It covers about 2,200 acres (9 km²) and is about 2.5 miles (4 km) across at its widest point.

  1. ^ a b Tabasco, History of Tabasco Pepper Sauce
  2. ^ a b Inventory of the Avery Family of Louisiana, 1796-1951
  3. ^ History of McIlhenny Company and Tabasco sauce
  4. ^ Shevory, Kristina. "The Fiery Family: The McIlhennys Make Tabasco Come What May," Wall Street Journal, March 31, 2007, pp. B1 and B4.
  5. ^ http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=861201 NPR Morning Edition, November 29, 2002
  6. ^ a b c d History of Avery Island where Hot and Legendary TABASCO Sauce is Made!

The factory building is relatively new and covers more than two football fields in area. My wife's health is such that we are not up for a long walking tour. Tabasco didn't disappoint.
Click 'em to enbiggen...
The oak barrels formerly held Jack Daniels whiskey are what the pepper mash ferments in for 3 years.
Shade is a rare commodity out in the bayous.
A bit of the Tabasco history presented in the waiting room of the factory.

"Guided tours" go off every 20 minutes or so and consisted of a brief explanation of the rules ("No smoking, no photos of the line, please.") history of the facility and island and then it is off to the projection room, where a professionally produced video is shown that details the history of the company and the actual process of making the world-renowned pepper sauce (all you need are red ripe peppers, salt and water and patience - the pepper mash is fermented for three years!). Then it's off to a stroll along the bottling line behind a glass enclosure (the line runs Monday through Thursday so we didn't get to see the sauce being bottled and labeled for distribution to over 160 different countries).

Next we visit the Tabasco store, sampled some Tabasco ice cream (!) and various other concoctions with Scovil ratings anywhere from 600 to over 3000. Hot stuff - washed it down with ice tea and lemon to cut the heat. Tasty, though.

Off to "Birdland" and the "Jungle Tour" -- a self-guided drive and walk through the nature reserve on the island established by the McIllhenny family. We kept a sharp eye out and were rewarded with alligators,

This 3' long fellow was swimming along in the bayou next to the road we were driving on, keeping pace in hopes of a snack when a boat came up very fast and he sank below the surface.

Next stop was the Buddha Garden. The pagoda-like structure houses an 800 years old bronze bodhisatva. Sadly, you can't get in to touch or take a clear photo. But, I did see this four foot specimen eyeing my calf while I was trying to focus:

I failed to oblige him or her by offering it a munch, so it lazily swam away. This isn't a captive gator by any means - the pond is connected to the bayou beyond by large culverts under the road. We then visited the Crater of the Palms.. This is a large depression in the surface of the salt dome which used to be the site of a large number of stately date and fig palms which found the sheltered micro-climate to their liking. Hurricanes Rita & Ike decimated the palm population (Katrina struck much farther east of here).

The Avery Island Trust is working to bring back the palms. starting with this big fellow.

Those Live Oaks that survived the hurricanes' winds are thriving and covered in Spanish Moss.

As any gardener will attest, bamboo is a pest of gigantic proportions. Once established it is darn near impossible to eradicate without resorting to some pretty heavy artillery. Imagine, if you will, importing over a thousand varieties. The stuff is everywhere on the island. It's kinda pretty, though.
Look behind the pagoda - bamboo wall!

"Pesky Bamboo Eats Truck - Film at 7"

More to follow as I find the time.

1 comment:

Robbie said...

I enjoyed seeing these pics and reading your commentary. Keep it coming!