They say the past is a another country. New Orleans is a country with another present. There are old buildings but there are odd ways; the second line, the cemeteries, the crews, the parish system, the city accent. There is history preserved and it is beautiful but much of the beauty lies in strangeness, the alternate, a glimpse of the ways things might be done. These things have developed in their own way in New Orleans and while many find it quite literally alien to their concept of America, it has been quite successful. It has made two major contributions to world culture – cuisine and jazz music – which is something that I think no other US city can claim.
NOLA is from an alternative history of the United States, a parallel reality in a multi-verse. This world had fewer Anglophone victories and more for the French and Spanish, more emphasis on culture and family, slower economic development with a greater respect for the past. It is a Caribbean or South American city, a more Latin way of approaching the fleeting pleasure of life than the Protestants and the Puritans. For the person attempting to write the history, maybe the departure point from our plane of reality starts before the civil war: the Creole culture. After all, an octoroon was not a slave. Regardless, subsequent interventions, attempts by the larger culture to bring it to heel and into line made most things worse.
So when you can go and visit an alternate reality, you go. I dream up ways to get to New Orleans. I spent 48 hours in the city beginning of this month with the worst kind of people – people focused only on food, drinking and fun. We ended up over-served generally. Because of time constraints, we spent almost all our time in and around the Quarter. Did a little work, had 7 meals, hit 9 drinking establishments and headed to the airport. I got a Campylobacter infection that laid me low for several days which is why I am only posting now. I wouldn’t change a thing.
A quick list
Best thing I ate: Rabbit livers with jalapeno jelly and mint leaves at Chocon, which was also the best meal… Most fun thing I drank: Absinthe at the Old Absinthe House which is a tradition and the first place I ever had a drink in NOLA….Best location for a drink: Carousel Bar in the Monteleone – if I have been there before I don’t remember but it was great and the Hotel Monteleone – above in B/W – was beautifully decorated for Christmas… Coolest location generally: Napoleon House. Went for the Pimm’s cup but it remains the most romantic and lovely of all the settings in the Quarter. Best in warmer weather when you can spend time in the tiny garden…
Best new (to me) thing in food:
Willie Mae’s Fried Chicken. Great Chicken. Get the sides. Yes, all of them…
Most raucous time: LaFitte’s Cabin. Details extremely fuzzy… Place quickly evolving into favorite go-to comfort (hangover) food: Ruby Slipper… Worst thing I put in my mouth: Test tube shot (There was a lot of drinking involved beforehand)…Disappointing Meal and Tourist trap experience: Acme. There was a first timer and I thought it would be a good experience. It wasn’t. And the food wasn’t very good. And I passed up Drago’s oysters to go there. And it is probably where I got food borne illness. Because you can never get sick from a great meal. Thus spaketh Bacchus….Best tourist trap experience: Pat O’Briens. It’s always just the beer garden for cigars but we always have fun. Waiter Robbie was a great kid.