After several years in the coffee shop, Didee moved to a little restaurant just off the courthouse square that quickly became known across the nation.
According to food writer Calvin Trillin, who wrote about the place in The New Yorker magazine in April 1978, "In those days, the main highway between New Orleans and Houston ran straight through the courthouse square and serious Louisiana eaters who weren't going to either of those places found some other excuse to get to Didee's."
Folks said everything on the menu was good, but there was nothing better than Didee's baked duck.
Didee ran the restaurant until he died at the age of 75 in April 1947. His widow "Miz Anna" ran it until 1970, when she died. The Opelousas restaurant closed for a few months after her death, but was reopened as "Dee Dee's" by Thomas and Tony Blouin, who had worked in the old Didee's.
The Blouin brothers said they chose "Dee Dee's," to show that it was "the same, but different." It was apparently not enough of the same and did not last, but a Didee's that had been opened in Baton Rouge continued to cook the famous duck and other recipes. The Baton Rouge restaurant was run by Didee's daughter, Clara and her husband Arlington Perrodin. When Arlington died in 1976, his son Herman took over. He sold the restaurant, the Didee's name, and his version of the duck recipe to a New York conglomerate in 1978.
I say "his version" because Tommy Blouin, who was cooking at another restaurant in 1978, claimed that he had the original duck recipe -- and it could have been that neither cook had the original.
The late Opelousas newspaper publisher John Thistlethwaite once tried to get the recipe from Anna Lastrapes, who told him, "Recipe? I'm all the recipe there is. When I die, that will be the end of it."
Some years ago Judge Edmund Reggie and I began a quest to find the real recipe -- and ended up gathering a half dozen versions from people claiming theirs to be the "real one."
Here's the one that came closest to the "real thing" in our estimation. It's probably not exactly the old recipe, but it's close. It's likely that Miz Anna was telling the truth and that the original recipe went with her to the grave.
3 two-pound ducks split in half
1 cup of cooking oil
1 1/2 cups of water
2 medium onions, chopped
1 bell pepper chopped
Juice of one lemon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Clean the ducks thoroughly. Season the halves with the red pepper,
salt, and sprinkle with paprika.
Place them skin side up in a large baking pan. To this add the oil, water, onions bell pepper and lemon juice.
Cover and place in 400-degree oven for one hour.
Then remove the cover and increase the oven temperature to 500 degrees to brown, basting every five minutes for about 35 to 40 minutes.
Pour off the excess fat leaving about one-fourth inch in the pan.
Lower the temperature to 400 degrees. Re-cover the pan and bake another 30 minutes.
To serve, carefully remove the ducks from the pan, otherwise they fall apart.
You can contact Jim Bradshaw at email@example.com or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.