B-52s and Banana Cream Pie — My Visit to Bossier City
Writer’s Note: The World Series of Poker Circuit is currently taking place at Horseshoe Bossier City. So, I’m staying in Shreveport, Louisiana during the next two weeks. Today, I’ll share with you two things that have impressed me most so far about my visit.
It sounded like a screech. A deafening, high-pitched screech. Almost like the scream in a horror movie.
I looked up into the sky. There it was.
A giant B-52 bomber.
If you’ve never seen the breathtaking sight of a B-52 in flight, I must say — even from the ground — the visual is awe-inspiring. Conjoined with its high-pitched eardrum-shattering 120 decibels, the image of the B-52 plowing overhead with it’s beastly eight engines barreling out thick black smoke is a momentous assault on the senses.
Barksdale Air Force Base is located on Bossier City’s east side. Years ago, I remember well the sight and sound of B-52s regularly hoovering over the Louisiana Downs Racetrack off in the distance, which I frequently visited. It’s been a long, long time since I saw this aircraft up close. I had forgotten how intimidating the sight is. Earlier today looking up into the sky, I rekindled that double-edged love affair with darker forces and was once again reminded of mankind’s inherent aptitude for creating marvels of self-destruction.
It was horribly beautiful.
The B-52 is an astonishing image of national power. The fleet carries payloads of nuclear weapons. These are B-52s on high alert — always ready to strike. Prepared for its target like wolves catching the scent of a bunny, B-52s are always swilring around up in the air somewhere, defending the nation. This is intentionally so, as a sort of Orwellian flip-flop of logic manifested by explaining the madness as a ”deterrent.”
Never mind that their constant presence was one of the things which triggered an arms race and ignited the fuse for a lot of bad guys in the world who came to accelerate their own ambitions for nuclear weapons. Even with the Cold War long over, B-52 missions continue around the clock, every day and night of the year. I had just witnessed the conclusion of one of these missions, landing at Barksdale AFB.
But what’s really most impressive about the B-52 is longevity. This year marks the aircraft’s 60-year anniversary. That’s right. America’s nuclear arsenal is hauled around in a fleet of planes that were designed when Eisenhower was President and most the country was tuned into “I Love Lucy.” I’m not sure if that’s more astonishing, or horrifying.
That’s how incredible these planes are. That they have stood the test of time for six long decades and remain just as frighteningly effective as the day they first rolled off the Boeing assembly line as the most powerful fighting machine perhaps that’s ever been designed. Think of all the advances in technology and changes in aircraft design since that time. And yet, the most destructive instruments in the history of mankind are hauled around in the equivalent of a 1952 Chevy.
Which now brings me my second impression of Bossier City — which is banana cream pie.
Last year, one of the WSOP Circuit tournament winners was a man named Wes Gauthier. He’s a local part-time poker player from Shreveport. When I interviewed Wes following his victory, he told me he that and his family owned a small cafe that’s known for making the best pies in the state.
Well, being a true connoisseur of any vice, I had to give the place a try. READ THE OFFICIAL TOURNAMENT REPORT FROM LAST YEAR HERE
What follows is a short review of Strawns Eat Shop, located on Shreveport’s south side.
Strawns first opened its doors in 1944. It’s been in the family ever since. They actually have two locations now. The flagship store is on Kings Highway, across the street from Centenary University.
First impression is — this place is either going to be awesome or a total dive. There’s not much in between. But given all that I heard about the food and after meeting the owner, I had to give this place a try.
Imagine walking into an old-fashioned diner in the early 1960s. Formica table-tops. Bulky sugar jars. Waitresses that call you “honey.” People at tables talking to each other across the room like they are part of the family. Food that comes out quick and hot.
Oh and one more thing — there’s nothing on the menu that costs more than $9. Lunch specials are served seven days a week and include everything. Cost: $7.95
I had to try one of their signature dishes — chicken fried steak, piled high with potatoes, collard greens, beans and corn muffins. Yummy!
After wolfing down lunch, it was time for the shining moment — dessert.
Trouble was — there were two kinds of icebox pies I wanted to try — (1) the fresh strawberry pie with whipped cream and (2) the coconut cream pie.
I couldn’t make up my mind. I couldn’t decide. Strawberry versus coconut.
I ordered them both!
This was the second best coconut cream pie I have ever tasted (only Emeril’s in New Orleans, was better — but it was close). The custard filling was perfect — clearly homemade. Cream was fresh, with generous garnish of fresh shaved coconut. A diet-busting delight!
Round two was the Strawns’ signature dessert — the fresh strawberry pie with whipped cream. What makes this so fabulous is the crust. It’s a buttery flaky perfection that holds a generous amount of strawberries mounted together with cream. The real secret to this winner is, the filling is not some cheap compote (or worse — jelly), which are cheaper short-cuts to real pie-making. These are fresh strawberries laced with real cream served ice cold — which is the perfect palate stimulator.
Which finally brings me to the banana cream pie.
No — I did not order a third desert — though I was tempted.
While scarfing down a second desert, an older lady and an adjacent table asked me why didn’t I order the banana cream pie.
“It’s better,” she insisted.
I had to ask the waitress about this.
To my surprise, the waitress agreed.
“That’s out best pie,” she said. “But we only make one per day. We make more to serve up whole. But if you want a slice, you have to get here earlier most days We sell out.”
The waitress went on to explain that once they cut into the banana cream pie and begin serving, the bananas start to turn and go bad. For instance, the banana pie cannot be left overnight in the fridge. It goes bad, or at least looks bad. So, once that single pie is gone, they are out.
One thing’s for sure. In the next few days, I’m heading back to Strawns for lunch. And, I’m going to get there early. I might even order two slices.