22 April 2010
Now that the Saints have won the Super Bowl, thus curing New Orleans of all post-Katrina problems, my folks and I are meeting up in the iconic city to take part in that most joyous of occasions, my birthday. We’re also celebrating my pops’ birthday, which will hopefully distract him, however briefly, from constantly telling me that “the wrong son died in that river.” We chose New Orleans to celebrate our days of birth because when my pops was a younger man, he killed his first drifter there, and it’s always held a special place in his heart. Plus, he really, really likes that song “House of the Rising Sun,” by The Animals. I’ve never been there before, and I’m really excited to totally ignore all the historical sites, local color, and cultural activities, in favor of stuffing my Creole-hole with all the N’Awlins fare I can get my mitts on. As such, I’ve been scouring Yelp to suss out all the places to go and get some good grub. Here are the dishes I’m most excited to eat in Chocolate City. Oh, and that “beads for boobs” thing better be year-round, or I’m going to be seriously pissed off.
No. 5 – Seafood Gumbo
I love seafood. I love stuff made with a dark roux. Throw in some hookers with noticeable bruises, and you’ve got a meal made in my dreams. There are some things I can cook at home and know they’ll be good*. There are other things, like gumbo, that no matter how hard I try, I cannot make well. I’m almost positive that this is due to the inclusion of okra. Okra scares me more than female bosses and that movie Paranormal Activity, combined, and I peed my pants during that movie. What the fuck is that shit? Is it a vegetable? Is it a pepper of some sort? Why the fuck is it slimy? Why does my arm hurt when I raise it above my shoulder? And, as with all things which are hard to do, I simply do not try to make gumbo, anymore. I very much look forward to getting a big plate of this stuff, which, ostensibly, will not taste like burnt roux, slime, and failure.
No. 4 – Po’ Boy
I love sandwiches. I love fried things. Throw in a dog dressed like Hello Kitty, and you’ve got a meal made in my dreams. Aside from the fact that you sound like a complete fucking idiot when you have to say “Po’ Boy” while ordering one, I am so excited to chow down on one of these bad boys. The special Louisiana French bread, the dressing, the fried stuff. . . whoo, boy. I’m dead serious when I say that I will almost certainly order a fried oyster po’ boy with a side of fried oysters. I may even get a fried beer to wash it all down with. Although, even given the etymology of this sandwich, I’m confident I won’t be able to find one for less than ten bucks. BUT I’M ACTUALLY POOR!!!
No. 3 – Oysters
God, do I love oysters. I’m not joking when I say that, if I lived in a place where they were affordable, I would eat them every day. I am joking when I say, “What’s brown and sticky? A stick!” I like to joke. Seriously, though, outside of uni, no one, single bite in the food world seems to capture the taste of the ocean like fresh oysters. That’s why oysters are so phenomenally fucking awesome: they taste like an entire geographic region – the entire, beautiful ocean. This just doesn’t occur anywhere else in the culinary universe: “Here, taste this cactus – it tastes just like the sand and unrelenting heat of the desert! Here, taste this mushroom – it tastes just like the trees and serial killer dumping grounds of the forest!” Not only do oysters pack this amazing flavor-punch, but they also involve eating with your hands, which is the hallmark of most of my favorite foods**.
No. 2 – Muffuletta
If I were to go outside of individual dishes, and judge foods like I judge ethnic groups, sandwiches are Persians – my favorite***. They’re inherently layered with symbiotic, yet diverse layers of flavors and textures, and – of course – you eat them with your hands. I’ve made muffulettas before but, I don’t know, they always seem to be lacking. I don’t know if it was the store-bought giardeniera, the store-bought meat, or the store-bought, processed cheese, but something about them just didn’t seem homemade. If you don’t know, a muffuletta is not just a word I’m getting tired of typing out, but also a giant sandwich made with a large round of Sicilian bread; giardeniera of olives, vegetables and peppers; Italian meats; and provolone. Because the muffuletta is so closely associated with New Orleans, I’m truly hoping that two or more locals will get into a fist fight arguing over which muffuletta shop is the best. I’m also hoping I get to wrastle a gator, but I digress.
No. 1 – Crawfish Boil
True story: I have been actively seeking out crawfish for almost two years, so that I can have a crawfish boil at my house. They’re never, ever available, so I just have to boil dozens of the smallest lobsters I can find, instead. The reason I’m so hellbent on finding crawfish – and the reason a crawfish boil is number one on my list – is because of the nature of the act of eating them. You see, I’m not one to sit down to one big plate of food; no matter how good it is, it tends to get a little boring, and I’m always done too quickly. I immensely enjoy the act of eating, and I like to draw out that act as long as possible. Take perhaps my favorite meal, crab legs: you have to crack the shell, get a little meat, dip it in butter, then consume. You repeat this at least 124 times before you’re finished, thus meaning you just spent two hours eating. Mission: Fucking Accomplished. The same gastro-math goes with crab boils. There’s hardly any meat in those little bastards, and you have to work to get at what little delicious morsels there are. I’m aiming for at least a solid four hours of active eating when I finally get ready to settle into one of these bad boys. Plus, the crawfish’s motto is “Pinch the tail, suck the head.” I didn’t even realize that when I chose it as the quote to go along with my senior yearbook photo***.
**You should see me eat spaghetti!
***Wait . . . what?
****Now go get out there and watch the draft, if for no other reason than to see the Bengals trade up to get Tim Tebow (Gruden’s take: THIS GUY; now this guy is a leader!).