Pie Day

My Rouses Everyday, March/April 2017

My first introduction to sweet dough pies, known locally as tarte-a-la-bouillie (which literally translated means a tart or pie filled with custard), was in the 1960s on Good Friday in Catahoula, a small village nestled along the levee that contains the Atchafalaya Basin in St. Martin Parish. For ever so long, it was customary for Papa and Mama and all the children to spend the Easter weekend at our camp on Catahoula Lake.

On Good Friday, all of us would attend the afternoon services at the small church, then return to the campgrounds for boiled crawfish. By the time we were sucking the last of the heads and peeling the tails, a small entourage of ladies headed by Tootie Martin Guirard (later, Emma Lou Bourque took over after Ms. Tootie passed away) arrived bearing sweet dough pies for us to enjoy.

I remember the ladies telling us that Good Friday in Catahoula was long known as “pie day,” and it was the custom for the ladies of the village to labor for several days making the sweet treats to consume on Good Friday after they recited the rosary at 10:00am in the morning. You see, the Catholic Church deems that on this holy day, everyone must fast and have only one meal. Not wanting to break the religious rule, the innovative inhabitants made sure their one meal was a long and good one.

What our family enjoyed later in the day were any of the pies that were not eaten by the good ladies, and we eagerly waited for them each year since that was the only time they were available. But, thankfully, in later years the ladies began making hundreds of the pies to be sold at their annual spring fair to raise money for their community.

One fine spring day I joined the ladies in the school cafeteria to watch firsthand just how they made these simple but delicious pastries. The group of ladies, each wrapped in aprons, chatted and worked in a steady rhythm as I wandered from table to table. Miss Emma Lou, their leader, scurried here and there, counting pies, checking on the consistency of the dough, and doling out the custard. When it was time to take my leave, Miss Emma Lou pulled me to the side and gave me the recipe for these coveted pies.

  • Photo By Romney Caruso