Guest Blogger - reprinted with permission from Richard Bienvenu who blogs on everything New Orleans. Check him out!

This question I got from Yahoo! answers.

The short answer is no. Most New Orleans food is not spicy.

I am assuming you are referring to New Orleans food as being full of cayenne pepper and such. Most New Orleans food is not this way. That New Orleans food is spicy hot really is a fallacy.

Just How Spicy is New Orleans food? Is New Orleans food spicy? Depends on the dish and who is making it.

Then there is the confusion between what is New Orleans food and what is Cajun food. There is a cross over, to be sure.

This is something that has happened with restaurants across the country making dishes full of cayenne pepper and then calling them Cajun or Creole.

That just ain’t the way it is. To be sure, a lot of Cajun food can be spicy. Crawfish are usually that way, some batches being spicier than others depending on who makes them. I’ve eaten some crawfish that were so hot with cayenne as to be inedible. Some Cajun sausage is hot but not all. Boudin is usually not spicy but Andouille is.

Now, getting back to New Orleans food. You might find some Creole dishes, like shrimp Creole, to be a little on the spicy side but you can always ask and request that they lay off the cayenne.

Gumbos can be spicy as well. Not always though and again it depends on who makes it and how heavy their hand is with the pepper. If you are in a restaurant and want to order gumbo just ask if it’s spicy and ask them to bring a sample. They’ll be more than willing to oblige.

But what makes New Orleans food the way it is is not how spicy it may be or not, but the blend of vegetables and herbs that give it its flavor. An addition of cayenne is just a way to, as Emeril says, “kick it up a notch.”

And I make gumbo a lot and rarely put cayenne in it. That’s something I leave up to the eater to do.

So as far as the constant “fire poo” as you say most food here just is not that spicy to cause that. You’d have to add the extra hot sauce or cayenne to have that wondrous experience. And, again, when you eat out just ask about the spiciness. Most of it, I think, will be to your liking.

Guest Blogger - Jim Riley, Author

Do you want to win a trivia game with your friends?  Ask them this question: What type of Louisiana farm has over four hundred farmers, has an economic impact of over $7M to the state, but is virtually unknown?

Give them  three guesses.  Below are your answers to the three guesses.

1. Nope
2. Uh-uh
3. Good guess, but it’s wrong

This farming industry is on the verge of exploding into one of best kept secrets known to anyone with a few acres and a lot of patience.  Your friends might have guessed one of the crop farms such as cotton, corn, wheat, soy beans or sugar cane for south Louisiana.

Give them three more guesses.  Your answers are:

4. Get real
5. Getting Closer
6. Not even close

Your friends probably decided to switch to animals to try to find the answer. They may have come up with cows, chickens, goats, rabbits, sheep, horses or swine (that’s pigs for those of you from out of state), all great industries that contribute to our state’s rich heritage, but not the answer we’re looking for.

Three more guesses?

7. Is that legal?
8. You’re kidding, right?
9. You need help.

Your friends went to seafood, thinking there is plenty of seafood farming in Louisiana.  Farmers make money growing catfish, oysters and alligators.  They even make money growing bait for the seafood industry such as crickets, shiners, goldfish and worms.  But none of these are the right answer.

Three final guesses.  Your answers are:

10. That’s not farming
11. I won’t tell anyone you said that
12. Relax, it’s only a trivia question

I know.  Your friends decided to try fruits and vegetables.  While Louisiana farmers grow some of the tastiest watermelons, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, pecans, lemons, limes, Satsuma’s, grapefruit, kumquats and navel oranges in the world, your friends still haven’t guessed the correct answer. 

Okay.  Tell them to remove their fingers from around your neck and you will reveal the answer to them.  Are you ready?

Deer Farming!

There are more deer farms in Louisiana than ever before.  Of the four hundred farmers in our state, approximately one-third of them are “hobby farmers” and two-thirds are “Commercial Farmers”.  What is the difference.  The hobby farmer does it for fun and hopes not to lose too much money in the process.   For the commercial farmer, it can be a very lucrative business.

How much do you think a good whitetail doe is worth?

A. $100
B. $250
C. $500
D. $1,000
E. $5,000
F. More than $5,000

The answer is ‘F’.  A good whitetail doe is worth more than $5,000 in today’s market.  What defines a good doe.  She must have the bloodlines on the sire and the dame side that have produced good fawns.  A buyer is looking for does capable of producing bucks with great antler length, antler mass and width between the antlers.  Those are the characteristics that most hunters desire. The hunter is the ultimate demand side of the equation for this industry.

Besides selling does, the farmer also sells his bucks to other breeders or to commercial hunting preserves.  These bucks can range anywhere from $500 to more than $15,000 depending on the number of antler tips (known as points in the industry), height, mass and width.  A great breeder buck is worth several hundred thousand dollars.

A third product available for the hunter to sell is the semen from the buck.  The semen is sold in a straw containing either one cc (cubic centimeter) or one-half cc each.  A single buck can produce more than two hundred cc’s of semen each year.  How much is it worth?

A. $100
B. $250
C. $500
D. $1,000
E. $5,000
F. More than $5,000

Answer:  All of the above.  Again, it depends on the bloodline of the buck.

There are many other advantages to raising Whitetail deer, but the best one is not economic.  If you’ve never had the pleasure of bottle-feeding a newborn fawn, you’ve missed one of the most fulfilling joys of life.  Once you try it, you’ll be hooked for life.

If you are interested in learning more about this industry contact Whitetails of Louisiana, an organization dedicated to providing information and education to its members and the public. The web site for this non-profit group is  Go to their site and find out 
how you can get involved in this exploding farming industry in Louisiana.

Guest Blogger - Angie with Although this wonderful teacher teaches out of Louisiana, her insights into GT education can be translated to our needs as well.

I believe that we should be doing more to inform and support the parents of our newly identified students. I came to this realization during a recent encounter at, of all places, a car repair shop. I was passing the time waiting for my car to get serviced by playing a game on my iPad when a mother and her two elementary aged daughters walked in. It didn’t take long for the oldest girl to casually take a peek at my game. I noted that she was intensely interested in her surroundings and, like most children, she was seeking out mental stimulation in a boring place. I mentioned to the mom that I was a teacher and shared one of the interactive books that I had downloaded onto my iPad. Soon, mom and I were in a discussion where she shared that her little girl had been recently identified as a gifted second grader.

What happened next formed the inspiration for this post. Within minutes of telling the mother that I was a teacher of the gifted, the questions came pouring out. “My second grader was just identified at the end of last school year, what should I be doing now?” “Should I have known she was gifted before she was identified?” “Was there something that I wrote that might have hindered or helped my child during the process because I felt like I was being tested, too.”

These questions indicated to me that this parent 1) was probably not given any information other than her child’s test scores 2) doubted her own parenting skills since she didn’t know that her child was gifted before testing 3) and she wasn’t informed of her role in the identification process. I believe that all these questions symbolize the lack of information and support that should have been provided by the school staff or private testing service to the parent before, during and after the identification process. This interaction led me to reflect on what I do to inform and support the parent of a newly identified gifted child.

In the qualification letter that I send home to the parent I include links to my district’s resources and my own online website. This assumes that the parent has time to look at these resources. I am hoping that they do because there is an incredible amount of resources online which was not available 20 years ago when my own children were identified. I also ask the parents to tap into my News Flashes to keep abreast of the next parent support group meeting or seminar offered in the area. I had four successful parent support group meetings last year and a local college hosted a parent’s seminar partnering with TxGifted. We discussed things like perfectionism, making friends, academic achievement (or lack of academic achievement) and opportunities outside of school hours. I hope to continue offer these discussions again this coming year. But is this enough?

I tried to assure the mom at the car repair shop that she may not have known that her daughter was gifted before she was identified. Parents know their child very well but may not know how they compare intellectually to other children. It’s likely they see some characteristics about their child that are different but ‘chalk it up’ to individual preferences, not giftedness. I look back at my own experiences with my son and daughter and I recall some characteristics that might have indicated giftedness. Maybe I will spot them in my grandchildren but I’m guessing that I won’t. Many times, it’s not until the child is placed in an environment such as a classroom where their characteristics and behaviors become evident. This is where the professional educator comes in. We have to rely on testing and observations by a professional who is trained to identify the gifted learner to confirm that we are dealing with a gifted learner.

This brings me back to the setting that inspired this piece. The guys who service my car are professionals who are trained to determine whether my car is functioning at its peak performance. I have to trust that they are qualified to do their job and that they are reliably informing me what needs to be done to meet this goal. It’s the same with the job of the professional educator. Educators are professionally trained to determine and should be meeting the needs of each child whether they be special needs, on-level or above level.

The mom at the service station was concerned that something she wrote about her child during the identification process could have hindered her child from getting “accepted into the gifted program.” She felt like she was the one being tested. I first heard a similar comment during one of the parent support group meetings that I held last school year. I remember being asked to write about my children during their identification process over 20 years ago. I was just happy to let someone else know all about the wonderful things my children were doing at home. What parent wouldn’t want to do this? I didn’t even think about how it affected his or her acceptance into a program. I know that today’s parents need and want more information so they can “do” the right thing for their child.

I decided to ask one of my parents what she needed but was not provided during those first few weeks of finding out that her child had been identified as a gifted learner. I appreciated her honesty and perspective and found her suggestions very enlightening. Her first comment was that “both her and her husband are college educated and she has a teaching degree” and yet she didn’t truly know what the test scores meant and what should she be doing now for her child. Sound familiar? I loved it when she wrote, “I didn’t know what I didn’t know.” Some of her other suggestions included an initial conference to explain the results of the testing, a book list of recommended reading and a mentor-like seasoned gifted parent for exchanging parenting stories. These are all things that I can implement easily next school year.

My encounter with the mom at the repair shop in a way parallels my experience as an educator of gifted children. I understand that those who know how cars work are better equipped to service and maintain them. They give me advice on how to make my car function at its best. Likewise, parents of gifted children would greatly benefit from understanding the identification process and how to support their gifted children throughout their school years. As ‘mechanics’ of a sort, gifted educators are a vital part of equipping the parents of identified gifted children to service and maintain their little gifted engines so they obtain peak performance in the classroom and throughout their educational careers.

Guest Blogger - Reprinted with permission of Stacia Taylor at

I often find myself listening to conversations about talent development for
gifted children. Now, I actually believe altruistic talent development is a
great thing for kids: take their areas of strength and help them grow. What’s
not to love, right? As with any altruistic notion, implementation and the need
to pay for said altruism often takes away from the vision. What troubles me most
is a sense of entitlement society seems to feel toward a child’s brilliance and
how this entitlement infects the idea of talent development and twists it. I
don’t mean holding high expectations of meeting your potential. I have high
expectations for my girls but I don’t have expectations of what meeting their
potential looks like or how they will “owe me” for supporting and helping them
develop. I mean the notion that society feels ownership toward an individual’s
intellectual gifts. For instance, it makes me pretty crazed when people tell my
eldest daughter, ”Don’t be a philosopher. You are so smart, you should be a
doctor and cure cancer.” As her parent, my first thought is, ”Have you ever seen
her artwork or listened to her music? My goodness, I wish she would quit taking
art off the table of viable career paths.” My second thought runs along the
lines of, ”You don’t own her intellect. Why are you telling her what to do? You
don’t even know her well.” This is followed closely with the thought, ”She has
never been on the path to be a doctor and has shown no interest in medical
research. Is she smart enough to pass the courses? Sure. Does she have the
passion for medicine? No.” These “well-meaning” adults don’t realize the
damaging message they have just given her: “What you want to do is meaningless. You owe us a cure for cancer because you are wicked smart. Any other path is a waste.” Now, if this had only happened once, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post. It has happened a countless and depressing number of times. This brings me to my worry about the movement toward talent development with gifted children. If I felt like we wanted to develop talent because supporting and encouraging our children is beneficial for society then I would be the first passenger on the ship. That isn’t what the conversation has been, in the United States. The conversation is, ”If we develop the talents of academically gifted children, imagine what they can produce for our society.” It is subtle but the message is, ”In return for developing your talent, you owe us.” Our society has also begun to send a second message, ”Artists and philosophers are not as important to society as scientists and mathematicians.” I beg to differ. There is balance in all things. The great minds of science and mathematics were often also philosophers and artists. We can’t separate out talents like we are separating the wheat from the chaff because art and philosophy are not chaff. They are wheat just like science and mathematics.

Here is my opinion: We should develop talent because it is the best practice
for growing well-rounded children. It is the fertilizer for the seeds. We should
be ecstatic for the wheat we receive but not become angry with the seed if it
didn’t produce enough wheat or maybe wasn’t the variety we thought we wanted. We enjoy the wheat we have and are grateful. The same holds true for talented children. They don’t owe society their gifts and we should be grateful when they share their great gifts with us in whichever form those gifts take. My daughters don’t owe society another *Sputnik moment. Society owes my daughters the support needed for their growth with no expectation of what that result will be. When support is freely given, people feel more inclined to give back. When support is given with demands, people feel protective of their gifts.

Think about it. Won’t our society be better for creating happy, supported
children over creating the next Sputnik moment?

 *This post is somewhat in response to Paula Olszewski-Kubilius’ opinion piece
in The Hill on May 13, 2012 but it is mostly an aggregate of things I have
pondered over the years. The article can be found here:

Guest Blogger: Jim Riley is an aspiring author with two novels under contract and a third in progress. These pro-Louisiana novels are unique among the books being published today.

Louisiana: The Best Specialty Grocery Store

Specialty meat stores are becoming more and more popular.  Franchises of this ilk are popping up faster than crab grass and red ant mounds.  The grandest of all of the specialty meat stores is the state of Louisiana, Sportsman’s Paradise.  The aisles are a tad messy at times as the groceries walk on all fours or dart in and out of the saline marsh or the boggy swamps and have fins, feathers and scales. 

The big box stores have nothing on Louisiana.  For the relative cheap price of a hunting and fishing license, it takes longer to stand in line at most of the box stores than it takes to harvest some of the freshest and tastiest seafood and nutritious game known to man.  What a small price to pay to have access to the biggest specialty grocery store in the world with the widest variety of game and wildlife available even to the most casual of outdoor enthusiasts!

Some of our specialties on Aisle One have become world famous:  crawfish, oysters and alligators come to mind.  These ingredients are most requested by the majority of our visitors to the Crescent City or our Red Stick capital.  They may be mixed by some of our home town condiments:  spices (Slay ya’ Mama or Tony Chachere seasonings) and hot sauces (Tabasco or Louisiana Hot Sauce)  in a gumbo, jambalaya, or pastalaya, but everyone visiting the Sportsman’s Paradise considers the trip incomplete without tasting at least two of the three more famous specialty groceries from our market.

On Aisle Two, we find an amazing array of seafood:  catfish, crabs, shrimp, red snapper, black drum, tarpon, speckled trout, bass and sac-a-lait (at the other end of the aisle in north Louisiana, these are called white perch).  Whether fried with Louisiana Cajun Crispy Fish Fry, blackened, thrown on a plank and roasted or tossed in a pot of boiling water with some Louisiana Fish Fry Crawfish, Crab and Shrimp Boil, these ingredients are best served with plenty of neighbors and friends to share with. Nobody needs to hoard these specialties like the gold in Fort Knox.  Have seconds.  There is plenty for everyone.

On Aisle Three, we find our feathered friends:  mallards, teals, geese, turkeys and doves.  Our grocery store sits in the middle of the migration zone for the northern birds headed south for the winter.  They stop in to feast on our wonderful plant life in the shallow waters in the swamps and marshes.   Our Cajun ancestors created feasts from the same winged favorites that we enjoy so much today.  The holidays would not be complete without the Thanksgiving Turkey or the Christmas Goose.  We’ve even found a way to combine three of our feathered fowl in a turduckin, a drooling combination of turkey, duck and chicken that is moving up the national charts in recognition.

On Aisle Four, we find our lesser known exotic offerings:  alligator snapping turtles, raccoons, nutria, swamp rabbits, and gar fish.  The market for these exquisite edibles is in its incubator stage, but when the folks in other areas find out just how tasty they are when properly prepared, there is no limit to the demand and our store will have to re-stock on a continuous basis.

The most fun with the Louisiana Grocery is the shopping.  Take a kid fishing or hunting in this Sportsman’s Paradise and you will have a friend for life.  While some folks may enjoy the drudgery of standing in line for a can of microwavable porridge, I prefer to do my own shopping for the boundless bounty in the great state of Louisiana.  The tug on a fishing line or lining up the sights on a mallard veering into the decoys gets your heart racing like no other shopping experience.  Try it.  You’ll like it.


Just like everywhere else, there are four recognized seasons in Louisiana. Unlike everywhere else, the seasons in the Sportsman’s Paradise are crawfish, oyster, deer, and football. The fourth one never really seems to go away thanks to anticipation, recruiting, and did I mention anticipation?

Much has been written about football in the South: It’s a religion. People are fanatical about it. If you get married between September and December, don’t expect a large crowd to be at the church that day. It’s all true. Putting it mildly, football here is a birthright and a rite of passage.

Regardless of the colors one wears on Saturday and Sunday, at least in self-proclamation, those same hues of blood flow through his or her veins. In fact, we’re all red-blooded. Our passion runs deep, our loyalty even deeper. Like our families, it’s okay for us to curse and criticize, but criticism from the outside is unwelcome and ill-advised.

Football is back. Enjoy it.

At the start of next year, teachers will be given individual value added scores for your child. These scores are intended to help teachers figure out where your child is starting out at and where they should end up at academically. Teachers will use this data along with standards and assessments to set learning targets for the coming year. To request your student's individual value added score contact your district's point person.

Acadia   Ellan Kay Baggett
Allen   Diane Marcantel
Ascension   Gwen Price
Assumption   Tootie Hock
Avoyelles   Thelma Prater
Baker   David Grisby
Beauregard   James Herrington
Bienville   Bill L. Davis, Jr.
Bogalusa   April Nobles
Bossier Janiene Batchelor
Caddo   Charles Lowder
Calcasieu   Johna Rion
Caldwell   Robin Nelson
Cameron   Robert Kimball
Catahoula   Gwile Paul Freeman
Central Community School System   Gavin
Claiborne   Dr. Janice Williams
Concordia    Ann Sandidge
Desoto  Noel
East Baton Rouge   Beanka Brumfield-Williams
East Carroll   Jo Ann Thompson
East Feliciana    Knight Roddy
Evangeline   Michael Lombas
Franklin   Lanny Johnson
Grant   Paula Crawford; Becky Reeder,
Iberia   Suzanne Whitaker
Iberville   Brandie Blanchard
Jackson (Option 1)   Sam Strozier
Jefferson   Katie Coburn
Jefferson Davis Brian M. LeJeune
Lafayette   Karen Williams
Lafourche   Bernita Deville
LaSalle Parish   Tish Budemer
Lincoln   Paula Pardue
Livingston   Dawn Rush
Madison   Clara Durr
Monroe   Teresa Foreman
Morehouse   Prince Ella Williams
Natchitoches Parish   Linda Page
Orleans   Dominique Wilson
Ouachita   Don Coker
Plaquemines   Alberta Cousson
Pointe Coupee   Lisa D'Aquil
Rapides   Emily Weatherford
Red River Parish   Alison N Hughes
Richland   Harold Gallman
St. Bernard   Charles Raviotta
St. Charles   Frederick Treuting
St. Helena Parish   Sonia Fields-Guiterrez
St. James   Carol Webre
St. John the Baptist   Dr. Leigh Ann Beard
St. Landry   Matthew Scruggin
St. Martin   Kellie H. LeBlanc
St. Mary   Ricky Armelin
St. Tammany Teacher's local leader 
Tangipahoa   Ron Genco
Tensas   Bobby Blount
Terrebonne    Carol Davis
Union   Cynthia Gatson
Vermilion   Mr. Jerome
Vernon Parish   Mike
Washington   Trisha
Webster   Charlotte Dean
West Baton Rouge    Annette Mire
West Carroll Parish   Mark Bowman
West Feliciana   Steven Comfort
Winn Parish   Al Simmons
Zachary Community Schools   Yolanda Williams