A full-service supermarket where the people of Port Barre come to buy Cheerios, potato chips, bacon, and eggs, Bourque’s lured us off Highway 190 with a road sign boasting that it was “Home of the Original Jalapeno Sausage Cheese Bread.” It is splendid: a round loaf, available in sizes big enough for two or a family, its gnarled dough chockablock with savory bits of sausage and hot pepper and melted cheese. We ate ours cold, off the dashboard of the car, and loved it; heated and served warm, it’s even better.
While browsing through Bourque’s isles, we were reminded that a grocery store can be a vivid reflection of local taste – especially in this part of Louisiana. Shelves hold store-made roux, countless hot sauces and Cajun spice, tasso ham, giant jars of hog lard, and plenty of chicory coffee. The butcher’s case included an awesome array of such ickies as chicken hearts, hog jowls, a variety of tripes, and one especially fearsome looking heap of animal protein labeled “beef bouille.” We asked the butcher what it was. “Are you sure you want to know?” he grinned back at us. We gulped and nodded yes. “Oh, it’s not really that bad,” he said. “It’s pieces of liver, kidney, sweetbreads, and hearts. For your sausage.”
At the back of the store is a counter where ready-to-eat foods are sold. It’s a fascinating selection, ranging from the mundane (a bland corn dog) to the magnificent (crusty boudin balls with creamy/savory insides and a superspicy afterburn). One of the best treats here are the store-made cracklins: bite-size nuggets of fried-crisp pig fat.