Pronto Cafe, Claudia’s Kitchen, and Cajun Carb Coma: Marathon launch of the 2017 Prairie Lands Writing Project Summer Institute

20180224_162129As is our custom in the Prairie Lands Writing Project, we used a marathon to formally launch our Invitational Summer Institute in June of 2017. It works like a charm to foreground writing, help our writing groups bond, and adhere to the National Writing Project adage that the best teachers of writing are writers themselves.  My group enjoyed coffee at Pronto Café, explored the hidden mysteries of the Buchanan County Courthouse, and enjoyed lunch at the lively outpost of Cajun cuisine in Saint Joseph, Boudreaux’s. Many thanks to my group members, the awesome SI facilitators Dana, Amy, and Elisabeth!

10:20 Pronto Café

20180224_162440Thank you, writing marathon spirits, for a rainy day.  Perfect for taking everyone down a needed notch, a good thing for our frantic nerves and tired souls.  The wall of sound behind me is a bit more than I would have preferred, but the music helps even it all out, Don McClean’s “American Pie” weaving through its endless verses.

The two-top immediately behind me is especially lively. The woman is speaking with an incredible amount of vocal fry, not endearing me to her, but I should not judge.  Too much criticism about how women talk already. Everyone has their own thing and uses language the way they need to in the moment.


11:35 Buchanan County Courthouse

I have gone marathon exploring solo for a bit in the Buchanan County Courthouse to find the famous Claudia’s Kitchen, a lunch spot which we heard about from someone this morning on campus. 

The basement is bizarre. Twin Peaks style bizarre. Everything is a different shade of tan: the walls, the ceiling, the light, the people.  All of it is stained in some way. The walls are rough hewn stone, as in medieval castle, and the effect contrasts sharply with the old school fluorescent lighting.20180224_162539

I’m sitting outside Claudia’s Kitchen, which looks a lot like a church basement dining hall.  The early lunch crowd is slowly filtering in.  I can hear someone I take to be Claudia interacting with her patrons:

“Hey, girlies!” she says to a group. Then, to one of them, she asks, “How’s your mom?”

The simple but appealing menu which includes sausage biscuits and gravy makes me think that we need to come here for lunch one day on a marathon.  It seems perfect.

12:25 Boudreaux’s Louisiana Seafood and Steaks

I spent the last two minute fawning over Boudreaux’s new sign, an impressive new20180224_162915 rectangle hanging out over 4th Ave and Jules St. with a golden spinning catfish atop.  Perfection!  As if this place weren’t beautiful enough.  Inspired, I order the blackened catfish po’boy with seafood mashed potatoes.  Cajun carb comma in…

Saved by the sweet tea! The only thing that could make this place better would be an extra hour or so to process a beer or a cocktail and a big hug from Boudreaux’s famous bartender, Sexy Raz (whose eponymous cocktail is a boozy, Bailey’s-based affair that works well as a dessert). 

Behind the fabulous historic bar (which supposedly was rescued from an attic in western Nebraska), a sign with glowing neon letters declares, “Laissez les bon temp rouler!”  And so we shall, in PLWP SI fashion, of course. I hope the other groups are having as much fun as we are.

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