The East Bank based “Oldies but Goodies Dance & Social Club” is taking their pot-luck dinners to the next level with the release of their first cookbook, “From Our Mamas an ‘nem …”.
The book presents a collection of recipes, culinary customs and traditions from Acadian, African, Creole, French, German, Italian and Spanish ancestors – the original settlers of the lower Mississippi River coast.
A new club begins
In 2006, Pat and Erick St. Amant had a vision of creating a dance and social club, which would provide a safe setting for the local senior population to gather for an afternoon of socializing and dancing to their favorite music.
The couple realized that the organization would require several factions: organizational skills, music, equipment, funding and an appropriate location.
Determined and ready to proceed, their next step was the music. They asked their cousins Marie and Gary Matherne to join them, knowing Gary’s passion for collecting and preserving music.
If anyone could provide the music that would appeal to the crowd they had in mind, they knew that it was Gary. He and Marie embraced the idea immediately, and invited his sister Cheryl and her husband Stan Weber to join in.
With the core members in place, the next task was to find the equipment to play the music. Marie’s son, Kelly Buckwalter, came to their rescue, providing the amplifier and the speakers.
The first dance took place at the original VFW home in Norco, with about 30 people in attendance. Everyone agreed that a club of this type would be quite popular, and decided to go forward with officially forming one.
A contest was held to name the group, and Jimmy Terrio submitted the winner, “Oldies But Goodies.” Thus, the “Oldies But Goodies Dance & Social Club” was born.
The Knights of Columbus home in Norco was the setting for the next dance, with a larger crowd and newly purchased musical equipment, thanks to a loan from Stan and Cheryl.
Soon, the club raised enough capital to repay their equipment loan in full. As their community involvement increased, they hosted various functions including New Year’s Eve Dances, and Gary came to be known as “Dr. Music.”
His personal collection of music, comprised over many years, is impressively large and comprehensive and it is amusing to watch the surprised expressions on the faces of those who request a rare recording, and hear it only a few moments later.
Gary and his assistants volunteer their DJ services for events at the Evangeline of Ormond Nursing Home, the St. Charles Parish Council on Aging, and the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program of the River Parishes.
This ministry is the exact vision the core group had when uniting to form the club.
Their collective desire was to provide a bit of pleasure and entertainment for the single, widowed and older citizens of our area.
As the club gained popularity, and the attendance grew, Cheryl and Eldon Matherne volunteered to take photographs and videos at the dances.
They created a club Web site to display these memories, which are viewable immediately after each dance.
They also arrive prior to each dance, offering their expertise in teaching line-dance lessons for all who are interested.
Today, the dances have evolved into monthly potluck “themed” dances, where members may choose to dress or costume in the spirit of the theme, such as Mardi-Gras, Crazy Hats, St. Patrick’s Day, Favorite Team Colors, 50’s, Hawaiian Luau, and Red, White & Blue.
The delicious food that finds its way to the buffet tables is a testament to the fine cooks in the area, and because there were so many requests for the recipes, the idea was born to publish a cookbook.
Deciding on a theme was easy for the cookbook committee, St. Amant said.
“We all agreed that the old, traditional recipes of our region might possibly be lost in our generation if we did not make an effort to preserve them,” he added.
The club’s desire was to highlight the intriguing history of our culinary evolution.
The title is a humorous take on a popular expression heard in our area.
In other parts of the country, you may hear people ask “How’s your family?”, but here in our region, you are more likely to hear, “How’s ya’ Mama an ‘nem?” or “She lives over by my Mama an ‘nem.”
“Since our cookbook was to be filled with old family recipes passed down from ancestors, some even from many generations back, ‘From our Mamas an ‘nem’ seemed like a fitting title,” St. Amant said. “It matched the theme of the book to the origins of the recipes.”
But cookbook aside, St. Amant said that the club is lucky to put on the dances that they have become known for.
“We are blessed with a wonderful crew of volunteers, who are as fun to work with as they are efficient,” he said. “All of the efforts of our crew and members contribute to the fulfillment of our organization’s mission.”
That mission includes to advocate awareness and respect for the contributions of the parish’s elder generation by providing a safe, uplifting environment for fellowship and creativity.