Yep, it's been a while. And the theme for the past week or so that I haven't been posting seems to have been FOOD.
Went to Russell's Marina Grill in the West End, right in the heart of one of the devastated areas. Lakeview's destruction surrounded the restaurant, but it was good to see the place packed to the gills for breakfast, just like before the storm. Don't know what possessed me to pick the place as our breakfast-out destination that morning, but there we were, waiting on a table. I pulled out the copy of Mark Kurlansky's Salt I'd checked out from the library and immediately sparked a conversation with a woman who turned out to be the curator of the Southern Food Museum here in the city (www.southernfood.org). Took a look at their website later on and found that they are collecting Katrina stories relating to food - cookin' in disastrous times, food you miss now that you're exiled from the area, food that pulled you through, anything related to food. Check it out when you get a chance, y'all.
Later on, we went out to the West Bank of the Mississippi to a new friend's home to celebrate my ex-boss's birthday over boiled crawfish, ribs, loads of snack food, and a chicken cooked with an unopened can of beer up its rear (I kid you not - the fact that it was unopened, however, was a mistake). Once again, we had leftover crawfish to take home (yeah, like we were crying about it...), along with garlic bread and some brussels sprouts that Dan just had to try, since it was our first time having them boiled with the crawfish, spices and all. I declined on that one myself; being the guinea pig for this family's first-ever attempt at a crawfish boil was more than enough adventure. Of our new friends, Mom the animal lover couldn't take watching the live crawfish being boiled, but she would eat them gladly. Dad, however, was cooking the little mudbugs and correcting the seasoning with gusto, but he didn't enjoy a single bite of his creation, since he harbored a lifelong distaste for any and all seafood. Their little girl was inhaling the crawfish that were peeled for her, and my son was tentatively tasting the corn and balking at its spiciness...he's been averse to the spicy stuff for the past few months now. My ex-boss dug in with both hands, grabbing for the larger crawfish first, as is her right as the birthday girl, but we enjoyed the feast with no beer, since she'd given it up for Lent. Stranger food preferences have rarely been witnessed by my own eyes, I'll tell you that...
Part of the conversation involved food in the scheme of evacuation. My ex-boss commented on her weight gain of fifteen pounds while in exile from New Orleans, because so many people insisted on feeding her and the folks with whom she evacuated. The table full of snacks we were noshing on while we were waiting for the crawfish to finish brought back the food memories from the evacuation...and then, after finishing up the second batch of boiled crawfish as best we could, we all went our separate ways, mostly over the Huey P. Long bridge to avoid the filming of a Denzel Washington movie they were doing near the Crescent City Connection that was guaranteed to tie up traffic. I wouldn't have wanted to see a load of fake explosions anyway, since there are loads of real ones occurring in our lives here almost every day.
For instance, our cantor of nearly five years is leaving. That bomb was dropped on the congregation shortly before Dan and I left for a family visit up north for Passover. There has been a load of speculation since as to his reasons for leaving, as there will be when a leader of any capacity moves onward. He'd just bought a house in the Broadmoor area of the city almost a year before the storm, all of his possessions were flooded out, he and his wife are raising a ten month old son, and the storm coincided with the retirement of one rabbi from the synagogue and the arrival of a new one. Stressful situation? Add the loss of his wife's university teaching job to the equation, and it would all be enough to tip anyone over the edge. Wherever he and his family go, I wish them all well. There will unfortunately be large numbers of people here who will think this person is abandoning them at a time of need - but this is someone who is clearly in need of help in the form of a fresh start. Once again, in this case, as I have seen in some other local families in transition to other places, there are other people to consider in the equation aside from himself. I could go on about the whole ministering part of a cantorial position being a tough one to negotiate - after all, more congregations are expecting cantors to be rabbis who sing. Folks in a congregation also need to recognize burnout when they see it.
Yet another bomb to report? Try the mayoral debate being broadcast on national TV, with local anchor Norman Robinson and CNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews doing the mediating. Now the rest of the country - indeed, the rest of the world - can see what we are going through tomorrow night, April 17. Truly an historic event in the making. No doubt the Nielsen ratings will be posted the following morning in the local paper. Stay tuned and hold on to your horses...
More on food in my next post. It's getting late for me.