Tuesday, April 18, 2006

FOOD, deuxieme etage (part deux)

So, as I was saying...

I grabbed those excess uneaten crawfish from the ex-boss' birthday boil and didn't get around to crawfish pie-in' them until the day before we were slated to go back to New York to visit family and friends for Passover. I peeled the suckers, whipped up the roux, added the veggies and rolled up some pie dough and cooked up enough for a couple of armies only to place most of them in the freezer for consumption apres Pesach. They beckon to me longingly whenever I open the freezer door to get something else out. Two more days, little pies...

It's times such as these I am grateful for the existence of places such as the Kosher Cajun Deli and Grocery in Metairie. Passover shopping went a little by the wayside this year, as we are still unpacking some and, well, I must face it, I was also a bit of a lazy bum. The Kosher Cajun was actually open yesterday, when I did my shopping and had lunch there, and today, keeping the kosher for Passover mid-holiday shopping fires burning. The selection was all right, considering it was mid-holiday, and my son and I sat down to a nice lunch of hamburger with the fixings, minus the bun, some pickle slices, and a piece of matzah. As I told my friend Edie when her daughter complained about her made-from-scratch Passover brownies, I've learned over time to expect only so much from Passover food. It's a time of affliction, folks...be grateful that God and tradition didn't mandate eight days of fasting. It's times like these, though, that one realizes how pervasive bread and yeast and products that look like they rise when cooked have become in our food culture as a nation...forget the two challah loaves one is supposed to have every Shabbat.

No wonder my husband wants to be an honorary Sephardic Jew when this time of year comes around - Sephardim can eat more stuff!

We made our way to New York for my grandparents' seder nights and got to see a good amount of my family in the process. For twenty-three years now I have been co-leading the seders with my grandfather, so Passover in New York is a requirement. Now that we are down south, Passover is an absolute, on pain of death requirement because everyone has to see my son and give him gifts such as a toy Home Depot brand chainsaw, additions to his Fisher-Price train set, sets of Hot Wheels cars and other tchotchkes. I would have loved to see the TSA screener's face when he/she saw the outline of the chainsaw in my bag on my return trip. My parents' sense of humor is quite bizarre.

Another funny committed by my family? My father and grandmother go shopping in a gourmet kosher grocery store on Long Island, and my father stands there at the meat counter exclaiming over the size of the lamb chops there. "They look like pork! They're thick just like pork chops!", my father says, loud enough for most of the store to hear. An orthodox Jewish fellow nearby overhears him and says, "You came to the wrong place, buddy." Oh, well. At least they came back with some fantastic cranberry granola snack mix.

We got to see lots of family and friends on this visit, and we saw most of them at Shabbat services at our old synagogue. We even had lunch with one of the families we knew when we lived in the area and attended synagogue functions regularly - all because I ordered Passover candy from one of their kids before we moved and had to pick it up. We talked of New Orleans and of goings-on in their neck of the woods over matzah and cold cuts, and then we went to a local park we used to frequent and ran into more people we knew there, as my son demonstrated, hands-on, to those assembled around the water fountain how it can be turned into a sprinkler. From there, we went to my grandparents' for dinner and made it an early night.

I missed seeing a good friend of mine in all this, however - she is exiled from New Orleans and living in Astoria now with a primo job. We talked over the phone before my trip up north of catastrophes and their revisitations. "Picture, if you will," I told her, "a channel on TV that broadcasts pictures of the 9-11 sites and their destruction from every conceivable angle 24-7, with interruptions in the form of relief postings and pertinent phone numbers. Replace the WTC, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, PA, with pictures of the levee breaches' aftermath and multiply it by three, and that's what we have going down here."

Her beef was with the release of the recordings of the distress calls to the 911 operators from the WTC during the attacks. "Give me some good ol' Louisiana political scandal!" she said.

If we're not careful, there just might be the beginnings of one this Saturday, when the first of the post-Katrina city elections occurs. Us yutzes have missed the boat, however, at least for Saturday's election. I myself will be able to vote in the runoff on May 20, and there will definitely be a runoff. If I were voting for mayor in the primary, however, it would be for either Boulet or Landrieu. They seem to be concerned first and foremost with getting this city back on its feet, minus the axe-grinding most of the other candidates seem to have demonstrated towards each other and state and federal government. Watching the first of the nationally broadcast debates kind of bore this out, to me. When Rob Couhig bulldogs his way through the debates, Peggy Wilson stutters her way through answers to questions she is clearly unprepared for. Ray Nagin gets a burr up his butt for thinking a candidate's line of questioning to another candidate is a set-up that is meant to make him look foolish, and the Reverend Watson implies (and apparently said outright in the following debate) that Nagin's embarrassment is really the wrath of God being visited upon him. Ron Forman gets a great deal of support himself, but I think he has stepped on too many toes as a developer in the private sector - visit www.saveaudubonpark.org to see what I mean.

The part that nearly brought me to tears, however, was when Norman Robinson asked, with the wrath of God clearly channeled through his voice, what each candidate would say to prospective and returning residents about the safety of living in the flooded areas when even now, bodies are being found in houses slated for demolition, in many cases by returning family members. Would candidates recommend relying on levee protection once again in these areas? Wilson was called on first to answer, and she evaded the question, causing me to want to reach through to that studio and slap her upside the head. The last thing that is needed in this election is the same ol' political bull. Yes, there's still going to be a certain amount of it, but that, too, could be put to better use than to deny what's going on around here.

This is still going on when it comes to big issues here, such as child care. Once again, I can only direct everyone to the Gambit website for more info, since they seem to be the only ones consistently addressing what everyone else doesn't want to fully acknowledge:
Since Katrina and its aftermath, almost 80-some-odd % of the child care options that once existed are gone, and it kicks some New Orleans recovery prospects right in the teeth. Those who think women don't wield much in the way of political or economic power ought to try on the effective elimination of half of a prospective workforce for size. If there aren't any child care options, and soon, this city will be reaping that whirlwind for sure...

And there ends my rant for the day.

As we drove around New York in our rented car, Dan and I realized we had grown accustomed to the place, to mangle My Fair Lady and Rex Harrison a bit. I'd recommend to any new New Yorkers to give the place some time, some good care and feeding, and get to meeting some people and making connections, and it will all grow on you. We were on the verge of living a New York life for sure. Then again, we were probably caught up in the euphoria that comes with visiting a place that hasn't changed much in the few months since we left, and is not going through the same sort of turmoil we've been in the middle of.

We encountered a returning New Orleanian on our flight back home who was craving a good pot of gumbo on his return, but whose favorite hot sausage place in the Ninth Ward had succumbed to the floods. He asked us where good hot sausage could be had now, and all I could think of was someplace on the road to Picayune, MS, that may or may not exist anymore. Dan mentioned a place in the CBD the fellow had heard of and tried, and they both let out a hearty "MMMMMMmmmmmm" at the thought of the sausage.

Being Jewish, and carrying around some lessons gleaned from a people with a history of exile, all I've got to say is this, and I mean it in ways aside from the culinary:

If you feed them, they will come.

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