Monday, September 24, 2007

Quin in the Big Easy, III

Things you see and do when you are back home.

Lovebugs~ How could I forget lovebugs? They swarm this time of year, settling in your hair, the bushes, filling the air like black soot... sacrificing themselves like miniature kamikaze pilots on the fronts of cars and trucks everywhere, lost in their lust. You swat and move your hand in front of you, and spray the front of your car when it rains to remove their squished little bodies... squished, yes...but, smiling in their death.

Cannolis~THE best dessert in the world. A pastry tube filled with flavoured cheeses and dipped in chopped pistachios. from Brocato's on N. Carrollton's. They are worth every calorie filled bite. Nothing was better as a child or as an adult than to see that string wrapped box with the Brocato's name on the top. Sure, you can find them frozen in some stores... but, it's the fun of seeing them fill the tube and dip the end that makes up the joy of eating the pastry with a nice hot cup of coffee and chicory.

Coffee and chicory~New Orleans in a cup. Strong, black, something you won't find anywhere else. You have it with cream (evaporated milk) and sugar. To try it without, well, you are a tourist or stupid. You have it in the morning, in the afternoon and at night. As a child, you have coffee milk, 3/4 milk, 1/4 coffee with lots of sugar. I started having this in a bottle. I think it's why I can drink coffee and go off to sleep with no problem. You never end a meal without your coffee and chicory. CDM is found everywhere for around $2.50 a pound. I will be getting it in my care packages.

French Bread~Sure, you can find it in every city, but, it doesn't have the crisp crust or the soft insides you find in New Orleans bread. It's the humidity, the altitude, the brick ovens... all of it combined make this bread you use to smear butter on and then dunk in your coffee (see above) or hollow out to put your red beans and rice into (see below). You make po'boys out of this staple in the kitchen, and when it's stale the next day, you make lost bread or bread pudding.

Red Beans and Rice~This means it's Monday in New Orleans. Back in the day, women put this dish on when they started their laundry. You had to soak the beans, then cook them all day with a ham hock and sausage and some spices, and so, it was the perfect thing to cook while you boiled and washed and rinsed and hung and ironed the family laundry. Today, most restaurants, especially those in the Quarter, offer this on their menu on Monday. I grew up with it being cooked on Monday, and it's what I had today, along with some french bread and butter.

Flora and Fauna~It took a year, but, it's green again. Bushes, flowers, trees, grass, azaleas, huge oak trees with spanish moss hanging's green, red, yellow, purple, yellow, orange... every colour you can imagine here. Add to it cranes wading in the swamps and hummingbirds and mockingbirds and bluebirds and you are surrounded by life. A nice change from the dry flatland of Utah and the stark concrete canyon lands of New York. I know you can find things there, but, here, I only open the front door...

Bugs~Big ones, small ones, middle sized ones. Bugs you don't want to ever see again in your life. Roaches the size of toaster ovens. They fly. They talk to you. Bugs that walk on water, and they aren't even Christian. Bugs that climb over fences and go though solid walls to get to you. Spiders that make webs that catch Boy when he runs through the jungle to escape the bad guys. They laugh at pesticides. DDT? Please. They cut their eyeteeth on DDT. I don't like the bugs, and, it's why I always tap my shoes before I put them on (ever squish a roach with your toes? I have) and always put my cups and glasses open end down. We once gave my Uncle G a cup with a ceramic roach on the bottom. Oh, how we loved giving that to people with coffee in it... to see their faces as the little ceramic head would slowly appear on the side of the cup, and they'd realise it was a roach. How we'd laugh as they screamed!

Deaf Family~All of my family is deaf, except for me. Therefore, they all speak at FULL VOLUME. Even their spouses, who have grown deaf from osmosis. At the end of four days, I, too, SPEAK AT FULL VOLUME.

The Saints~Brought New Orleans back from a deep depression by going almost all the way to the Super Bowl last year. Are slowly driving them back to one by going 0-3 this year. Still, we loves our Saints.

Mardi Gras~Except for 1977, when the police went on strike, has been around since Noah. Almost all of my male cousins and their sons are in Krewe's. Mardi Gras throws abound in these households. Mardi Gras was far different when I was little; we costumed and treated it with reverence. Now, you get throws for showing your bits. I'm pretty sure I'd get them for keeping mine covered. People wore great costumes, and then, as now, the French Quarter gave the best shows.

Bayous~Nearby is Bayou Liberty. We take it with the boat, and go slowly though the backwater to Lake Pontchartrain. You pass over Irish Bayou to get here to Slidell. There is a camp (a fishing place) on Irish Bayou... the huge surge from Katrina didn't take all of the camps out... and my favourite one, the Castle, is still there. They are slimy, full of cedar trees, the every present spanish moss, snakes, turtles, and the occasional alligator. They stretch from New Orleans down south to the Gulf.... and make up much of our culture.

Mosquitoes~Nasty flying bugs that love the taste of Quin. I am allergic to these beasts, and swell up where they bite me. Currently, I have 10 bites on each foot, and I absently scratch the top of one foot with the heel of the other, reminding me I also need a pedicure.

Bread Pudding~Made from left over french bread, you mix it with cream, eggs, raisins, sugar and bake it. Then, you pour a sauce made from whiskey, butter and sugar. Then, you eat it. Can't get much simpler.

Seafood~Crawfish, shrimp, crabs (both hard and softshelled), snapper, catfish, oysters in every way. You fry, boil, saute.... have it in salads, main courses, on a po'boy. Dip it in sauces, eat them without. Peeled, eaten on newspaper, with a cold beer and/or sweet tea.... it's all good.

Family~Hearing my name said in that accent. Knowing they've known me forever, and love me anyway. My cousins and their spouses and their kids and what they are doing and how easily I fall back into my place here. And my Aunt A.... she's always there.

There is so much more I'm not thinking of, stuff I'll think of later as my Aunt A walks around fussing right now. Tomorrow, I'm going from one New to another.

But, that's a different tale....I'll get to it later.


Mrs. S. said...

How could I possibly be homesick for new Orleans when I've never been there? I'd say it's a case of reading some powerfully descriptive writing.
Thank you, Quin?

Peter Varvel said...

You're the first person to make me want to visit N.O. (Mardi Gras? don't drink, not into ogling women's bits, don't drink).

Ha ha!--I want a coffee mug with a ceramic roach in it! Wish I'd thought of that.

This entry made me hungry, and I just ate dinner!

Anonymous said...

I have a mustache mug from N.O. that a coach of mine brought to me once upon a time, but it has no roach in it, nor an attached mustache

modelbehavior said...

I totally forgot about the amazingness of bread pudding. And my grandma used to make it all the time!

Amber said...

Thanks for making me hungry!


I guess I'll go have a "yummy" Slim Fast shake now, haha.

Glad you're getting to experience home sweet home again :).

Safe travels tomorrow!

golfwidow said...

Now I'm not sure about wanting to go to NOLA. Too many bugs. And we have fresh cannoli here.

Quin said...

mrs s~i'm getting a group together, i'm not sure aunt a will survive, or if we will survive her.

peter~you would LOVE it here. trust me.

anon~i'm not sure if i should say 'sorry'. the roach cup remained a big hit until it was finally broken.

mb~i will remind you, i am the best bread pudding maker in my family. booya.

amber~you know how it is go to 'home'.

gw~no, you have cannoli. i've never tasted the likes of these cannoli. ever. it's worth the bugs. wear a safari hat.

Bud said...

I do love most of that stuff. Not love bugs, of course. We have those fuckers too. What about benets? Is that how you spell that?

Rebekah said...

I'm sorry that dealing with your dad was so rough.

1 Dead In Attic was in today's mail.

IS there a NOLA district in NYC? If so, let's go for dinner. (OR canal street for Dolce & Gabbana bags...)

Quin said...

bud~beignetsb are flat pieces of dough fried, then sprinkled with powdered sugar.


r~i laughed on the canal street thing. you got it!

Anonymous said...

Miss Quin,
I LOVE your blog. My grandparents were from LA (Monroe) so even thought I grew up in AR, my childhood was spiced by them. My first cup of coffee was coffee milk (made with Community, I imajine) I was maybe 5 or 6. Reading that made me smile, because I too can drink coffee and go right to sleep.

Quin said...

i love monroe, and have family there.and i love community coffee... glad you like the blog, come back. one of my bestest people in the world is a cl.

Bob Clay said...

That lovebug ? How does it know if it's walking forwards or backwards ?

Quin said...

bob~they are doing the deed.. i don't think they care.