Residents of Caldwell Parish Struck with Food Poisoning
Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and filé gumbo
Cause tonight I'm gonna see my ma cher amio
Pick guitar fill fruit jar and be gay-o
Son of a gun we'll have big fun on the bayou
Hank Williams wrote and sang those immortal words in 1952. Jambalaya (On The Bayou) shot straight up to #1 on the U.S. country charts and continued there for 14 non-consecutive weeks. It was one of the songs ol' Hank sang on his return to the Louisiana Hayride which aired on our own KWKH radio in October of that year. It was a song about the joy you find on the bayous of Louisiana where cajun music and food add spice to life.
My mother spent part of her formative years in and around Oil City, Louisiana, and has always had a penchant for jambalaya. This savory dish consists mainly of meat and vegetables mixed with rice. Recipes vary depending on the chef, but most contain Andouille sausage with chicken and/or shrimp combined with the "holy trinity": celery, onion, and green bell pepper. It's similar to gumbo, but unlike its more famous cousin, jambalaya's ingredients are cooked together with rice in the same pot, while gumbo is poured over rice which has been cooked separately.
Jambalaya is easy to store and transport, and is a favorite at pot luck dinners all over Louisiana. However, like all foods that contain poultry, it has to be prepared sanitarily. Residents of Caldwell Parish just south of Monroe were singing "son of a gun, this ain't no fun" after eating jambalaya that was contaminated with Salmonella at a charity softball game last weekend. 49 people were stricken with Salmonella poisoning and 31 were hospitalized.
According to the Louisiana Radio Network, State health officials today are taking this opportunity to warn Louisiana residents about the dangers of cross-contamination when preparing food. Dr. David Holcombe with the Office of Public Health says that if you cut poultry up on a cutting board, you shouldn't chop celery on the same board unless you cleanse the board thoroughly.
In addition, all poultry should be cooked to 160 degrees, and not be allowed to sit out for long periods of time without being maintained at the proper temperature. Holcombe also says that another factor that can cause Salmonella poisoning is inadequate refrigeration.
The approaching holidays are prime time for food poisoning when food is prepared for large numbers of people and left to stand for hours. A few precautions can ensure we all have fun on the bayou this year.