Lest you think that My Lovely Bride and I have succumbed to the unsurpassed debauchery and gluttony for which New Orleans is known, I’ll have you know that outside of reunion and family events, Suzanne has been giving readings to those on her waiting list. Our spare time has been spent at the gym or running/biking on the Lakefront bike path or Metairie’s Lafreniere Park running path. Rudy and Gretchen, our miniature Dachshunds, love this park for its dozens of Eastern gray squirrels, 14 of which they got to chase this morning alone. They were on lead the whole time, and there was only one very close encounter, with our puppies charging to within a foot of one of the slowest or dumbest, who finally realized that he was about to become a statistic. Several species of flowers in the park were in bloom, which made for a lovely environment in which to chase rodents…
While at the park, I noticed this sign, which reflects some of the shortcomings of the public education system here, and why many parents elect to send their kids to private, parochial or charter schools…
Okay, back to seafood, a subject near and dear to the tummies of residents of New Orleans, as well as the hundreds of thousands of visitors who flock here… yesterday we had dinner at my sister Lynn’s with younger sister Karen and her partner Debbie, where we feasted on homemade cheesy crackers, spicy boiled crawfish, chicken gumbo over rice, potato salad and chocolate cake.
Those familiar with Cajun crawfish (Procambarus clarkii) know that you break the critter in half, suck the head (to get the fat and spices out) and squeeze the tail (to get the tail meat out); after 2 or 3 repeats, your mouth is on fire with the taste of industrial-strength Cayenne pepper. “Pass me a cold beer, please, quickly!” I ate lightly, not even approaching my record of 8 lbs of crawfish, four red potatoes and four ears of spicy corn boiled with the crawfish, along with a six-pack of beer, a record established 15 years ago on a previous visit. That really impressed Suzanne, by the way; we had only been married 2-3 years, and I suspect she was thinking, “I’ve never seen anyone eat like that… can I take this guy back to the Husband Store and get an exchange on one with a more reasonable appetite?”
Another favorite food here is the blue crab (Callinectes sapidus). Because they are running $50/dozen, Lynn decided that we should take her crab nets down to Lake Pontchartrain and catch our own like we used to do as kids. (You can see this coming, right?) Chicken necks are the bait of choice, but convincing the chickens to contribute to this effort isn’t the easiest part of the process. In any case, we set up on Monday at noon on the fishing pier near the Bonnabel Blvd. boat ramp. Rudy and Gretchen weren’t much help crabbing because they couldn’t reach over the railings to drop and raise the nets.
By 1500 (3:00 PM for you civilians), this was the only crab we had caught (and thrown back, of course). My theory is that because the weekend had been so beautiful, all of the crabs had been caught over the previous 2 days. My Lovely Bride suggested an alternative case- that since I was along, we were doomed to come up crabless. Sometimes she astounds me with her poor understanding of the complexities of fishing and crabbing.
As we were driving home from the lake, this was the first house we encountered, a beautiful new home (post-Katrina) that were I interested in living here, I could be quite comfortable in… imagine the hurricane parties you could throw here!
Today we had several more family events. The first was bittersweet – bringing flowers to Hope Mausoleum on Canal Street, where my grandmother and great aunt are interred. An office person guided us to the first crypt, and as Lynn and I were placing flowers, Suzanne asked if we would like a photo taken. Before I could reply, an obnoxious attendant who had followed us in said loudly, “No photographs or we’ll have to escort you out right now!” We were dumbfounded; we were not allowed to take a photo of our relatives’ final resting places because the cemetery considered that a violation of their privacy rights? How stupid and insensitive is that!
We were allowed to take photos at our lunch stop, the famous Camellia Grill, where we had gone for hamburgers since we were little kids. It looks much fancier outside than inside.
Here is one of the Camellia Grill’s waiters transferring ketchup from one bottle to another, without a drop spilling. “Don’t try this at home!”, he warned.
Lynn and Suzanne loved their burgers, and I was impressed by the red beans and rice with spicy sausage. I was also the unintended recipient of a chocolate freeze, like a milkshake, but you could only sip on it because it was so cold that it hurt going down your throat; but it was really yummy, similar to a frozen Newport Creamery “Awful Awful.”
This photo is a portrait of a famous Camellia Grill waiter by the name of Word. He has been a waiter there for 25-30 years, and when you order, he replies, “Word”. That refers to a 1980s song, Word Up. We had met him on previous visits, and the first time we heard his unusual reply, Suzanne had to call back to her assistant at the Pentagon for a translation of the terms “Word” and “My bad”, which made for lots of laughter in her office. Unfortunately, Word was off today, so we didn’t get to renew our acquaintance.
Let’s see… I mentioned debauchery in the first paragraph, and need to follow that thread for a moment. One of the great things about catching up with my sisters in New Orleans is hearing about some of their outrageous friends. Now, you have to put that adjective in perspective. New Orleans is an outrageous city to begin with, so when my sister Lynn told me this story, it had to be amazinglyoutrageous. She was at a nice restaurant in the Quarter with five girlfriends, and one went to the ladies room to powder her nose. She was gone awhile, and Lynn became concerned. As she walked through the bar, there was her friend, with her very ample, thrice-enhanced bosom exposed, having it autographed with a large marks-a-lot by a New Orleans Saints football player… only in the French Quarter, right? Oh, and by the way… the lady in question is married, but hey, it was one of the Saints’ starters, so I guess that’s okay. I asked Lynn if she had gotten a photo of this event; she looked at me kinda funny and said something like, “Brotha, aren’t you getting a little old for that?” “Never, dear sister!”