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  • Ellen Byron

Let the Bontemps Roll!

I’ve written before about some of the dear Louisiana friends who’ve inspired me. Jan Gilbert, the extraordinary artist. Gaynell Bourgeois Moore, an artist-singer-writer triple threat. And then there’s Charlotte Waguespack Allen. Dear, dear Charlotte. We met when I transferred to Tulane University, and even though the ensuing years separated us by thousands of miles, our affection for each has kept the flame of friendship burning.

(Note how I have changed, but she looks exactly the same.)

Charlotte’s roots in Louisiana go back centuries. Even on the shortest visit to Louisiana, I can pretty much guarantee you that you’ll hear the names Waguespack and Poche – two of her antecedents – sometime during your stay. Charlotte’s gentle N’Awlins charm and infectious joie de vivre make any time spent with her pure heaven.

Charlotte has lived in Texas for years. Through the course of life in the Lone Star State, she connected with three other Louisiana ex-pats. They quickly bonded and even came up with a name for themselves: Les Bontemps Girls.

I was tickled by this, and asked Charlotte to share a little about the group. Here’s their story in her own wonderful words. Seriously, just reading this will give you a little insight into the delight that is Charlotte. And perhaps you’ll wish that you were a Bontemps Girl, just like I do.

Les Bontemps Girls are fun, spirited kindred spirits who celebrate, unabashedly, their Louisiana roots. No need for a special event, it’s just that their feet can't help but instinctively tap to the same parade rhythm on any given day, raining or otherwise. There’s a shared "undertow" of purple, green & golden vibes that flow through their collective veins. Twirling festooned umbrellas to dance with are purely optional.

These ladies first met up after church. Not missing a syncopated Mardi Gras beat, a lively non-stop, "gumbo yaya" talk immediately ensued between these carefree, Southern-drawled ladies. Debating over hot topics like "How 'bout dem Saints" and "when's the next crawfish party?" immediately bonded these lagniappe gals together... forever! So.. let's have a toast to the good times. Indeed to "Les Bontemps!"

(Louisiana natives and Bontemps Girls from left to right: Jan Rushing, Grand Isle, LA; Jan Chitty, Lafayette, LA; Darlene McCuistion, Shreveport LA; Moi- Charlotte - N'awlins, LA)

Yes, let's toast! And I’ve got the perfect drink for it. In honor of these “femmes merveilleuses” I invented my first-ever cocktail: the Banana Bontemps. A votre sante', y’all!


2 oz dark rum

2 oz banana liquor

2 ½ tsp. brown sugar

1 cup milk

1 cup ice

1 ripe banana

Blend everything but ½ tsp. brown sugar together. Pour in (highball) glasses and sprinkle each serving with the remaining brown sugar. Garnish the glass with a slice of banana.

Serves 2.

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