Crossing Bayou Teche book

Crossing Bayou Teche

This book is a deeply personal story chronicling the writer’s journey through the changes and upheavals of her own life, but also of the tumultuous times she lived through along the way, such as the Civil Rights Movement, the Cultural Revolution, and the Vietnam War. The author takes us with her as she navigates her interfaith marriage and raises her three children during a time when the values she grew up with, religion, idealism, and taking care of others, are questioned by the emergence of Feminism and later, the Me Generation.

Photo of Melanie D Grossman

Meet the Author

Melanie Durand Grossman was born in 1946, in St. Martinville, Louisiana. This small, rural town is situated in the heart of Louisiana’s French Cajun country. Raised in a devout Catholic family, she met a Jewish boy at 17 and eloped with him four years later, choosing love and a life of adventure over the life she was born into. Married for 59 years, she shares her Deep South upbringing and interfaith journey in her memoir, Crossing Bayou Teche.


Where is Bayou Teche?

At one time, the Mississippi River ran through the lowlands where Bayou Teche now flows. Gradually, the Mississippi shifted its course, leaving behind a place of scenic waterways, rich soil, lush forests, and swamps filled with wildlife. Today the Bayou Teche begins approximately fifty miles from Louisiana’s State Capital in Baton Rouge, and flows in a meandering, southwesterly direction, eventually joining the Atchafalaya River, to empty into the Gulf of Mexico. Today, a National Wildlife Refuge,  established in 2001, sits along Bayou Teche, and in 2015 the waterway became part of the National Water Trail System.

What makes this location special?

For the first French trappers and traders, the Teche was the primary means of transportation. The French-Canadian immigrants and others fleeing the French Revolution also settled along its banks, creating a unique culture, music, and cuisine. 

There is no one definition of what it means to be a Cajun. Each person’s definition depends on where they were born within the Acadiana area, which stretches west from just outside of New Orleans to the Texas border along the Gulf of Mexico, and about 100 miles inland. But all Cajuns share common bonds when it comes to food, music, family, religion, customs, and traditions.

Here is my own personal view of what it meant to be a Cajun in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s told through food, music, and my own recollections of some of the customs of the time. You are invited to share your own story of what it means to be a Cajun through the Community Page below.

Note: For a less personal and more historic or academic assessment of Cajun culture, go to:

What Does it Mean to Be a Cajun?

Aioli Dinner painting by George Rodrigue

Painting by cajun artist George Rodrigue

Cajun Food

Cooking was a cherished art for the Cajuns. Recipes were rarely written down but passed from one generation to the next verbally or by watching others cook. The first widely circulated Cajun cookbooks were published in the 1970s. Although Cajun food is famous for being spicy and hot, the dishes are delicious on their own, with only a minimum of added spices.  


Cajun songs are traditionally sung in French and accompanied by twin fiddles, an accordion, and a triangle. The music is usually played for dancing and consists most often of waltzes and as a lively two-step. Every community has its own local bands playing at bars, dances, and celebrations. Zydeco music is a more recent offshoot of traditional Cajun music with African American influences including a strong beat and the addition of the washboard, drums, and electric guitar.

join the community artwork

Join the Community

This community group engages in cultural conversations about food, music, family, interfaith relationships and marriages. Join our community to share your stories about small towns, growing up in a large family, Catholic schools, and your own writings, memoir or otherwise.

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