Wednesday, December 12, 2018

February 2019

Po Boy View
Phil LaMancusa
Gung Hay Fat Choy
Nguyen Ever

Cats and Hats: It’s February! Happy New Year! Wherever you are, whoever you are and whoever you want to be, New Year’s Day on this planet is like Happy Hour in the French Quarter… there’s always one going on somewhere.
If you are Christian countrified you’ve already celebrated your New Year’s Day on January 1st   and are pretty much done with it. What rubbish. If you don’t approve of the previous New Year’s celebration (that you probably screwed up somehow), pick another and do it all over again! Who said that the first day of your calendar year had anything to do with what space (and other people) believe is the first day of the year. What(?), the beginning of a year of the cycling of this globe that we live on that’s shooting through space at 67,000 MPH, while spinning at 1,040 MPH, going around a Sun that’s orbiting the center of the universe along with the rest of our galaxy (100,000,000 planets or so) at 480,000MPH? I’m dizzy all the time; it’s always friggin New Years!
Jewish calendars have four New Year’s days (Nisan, Elul, Rosh Hashanah, Tu B’Shvat); Islamic folks have Al-Hijra/Muharram starting on the 31st of August and is celebrated for 29 days. The Hindis have at least eight New Year’s days (mostly in mid April) depending on what part of India you’re in; Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Laos are also celebrate mid April.  Celtic New Year (Samhain) is November1; Thailand has Songkran (twice). My astrologer tells me that the New Year begins at the Spring Equinox March 20-21. She says “it’s lunar, fool”.
So, missed any New Year’s celebrations? Maybe you were busy slinging drinks for drunks? Well you’re in luck because; here comes another one, just in time for the February edition of Where Y’at; Chinese and Vietnamese (Korean and Tibetan) New Year, February 5th! Rock on with your Bad Self!
For those that might be unsure and possibly insecure, Asian cultures celebrate a twelve year lunar cycle and each year is symbolized by an animal; we’re just coming off the Year of the Dog and going into the Year of the Pig. Other animal years are horse, rat, snake, ox, dragon, monkey, goat, tiger, rabbit and sheep; their outlook on animal attributes are completely different than you might think and the best way to start understanding this  form of astrology is to find out which sign you are and what it means (talk amongst yourselves). For an example, if you were born in the year of the pig, you fall into one of five categories of pig corresponding to the five elements (metal, water, wood, fire and earth). Pigs are considered a wonderful astrological sign (what’s yours?) they are generous, diligent, loving and giving; compassionate and entertaining. It’s a good thing to be a Pig Sign; if you are one, this is your year!
As you know (or should) we have a generous Vietnamese population and this New Years promises to be big; it promises to go on for days.         Last year, Mary Queen of Vietnam Church, 14011 Dwyer Blvd, was the location for a weeklong celebration with dragons dancing, wishes granted, flowers, parades, fireworks and festivities that thrilled throngs. This year is gonna be more of the same--- family friendly fun and participatory events, activities and games will abound. And there is no admission; it’s all free to attend but be sure to bring some spending for souvenirs and the delicious treats: Ban Mi, Pho and spring rolls supplied by vendors!
Now, those of you that have watched David Chang’s Ugly Delicious will already know this; but, for you others—let me be the first to clue you in--- Viet Cajun Food.
This is a twist on our local fare that has not caught on in New Orleans, they say, because we’re too steepid (combination of steeped and stupid )in our traditions to adapt or change our tried and true what works for what may be something that will possibly blow our minds with its uniqueness. Viet Cajun--consider this--suppose, just suppose, you take five pounds of our spicy boiled crawfish in the shell (yum) and you put them in a sack and add ginger, lemongrass and lots of butter and eat them like that. Yummer, huh? But noooo, according to folks in Houston, where this adaptation is going strong, us folks in New Orleans are stuck in our ways.
            Tell me this: how come when you go into a convenience store operated by people from other cultures (Asian, Islamic, Mediterranean) you really only find fried chicken, ham hocks, beans and rice? Why can’t I find Ban Mi or Shwarma in corner stores? Is it because the citizens of my ward and precinct are too thick to try something in their bowl other than gumbo?
            Let’s make a New Year’s resolution this February 5th: ask that Vietnamese counter clerk that makes that dynamite shrimp po boy to put some pho on the menu; in the same vein, find out from that Islamic guy at Brothers by the overpass where they keep the Harissa to spread on your fried chicken. Dammit, I want some gochujang available as a condiment; is that so wrong?
Granted, there are a handful of ethnically run small convenience stores and filling station outlets that have fried rice or egg rolls or even a few with Ban Mi sandwiches; but, by and large, if I want non mainstream Saigon selections (my favorites or new ones to try), I’ve got to drive out to Dong Phuong (which James Beard Foundation calls “a vital part of the local culinary landscape”). Do you know where Dong Phuong is? Well you had better find out before February 5th because that’s where the festivity epicenter  for our own Vietnamese New Year’s celebration is gonna be. Chuc Mung Nam Moi!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

New Religion (needs editing)

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Original Whim
Amen I Say
            Oh God, I think that it’s time for me to start my own religion; I’ll call it New Orleans Culinary Pagan Buddhist Hokey Pokey (that’s what it’s all about!) or Children of a Lesser God LLC Inc. (CLG). It’s high time, high time I say, for the children of a lesser god to band together and take their place among the Big Boppers With Beards that haven’t done squat except foster hatred, fear, war, oppression and persecution. Can I get a witness? Add to that misogyny, prejudice, environmental destruction and slavery (get the picture?). They’re generally subject to a dreadful fashion sense and eat questionable food products; with that, you have pretty much all the world’s major religions in a nutshell; as we (CLG) say: “how sick is that?        
We (CLG) are better than that. The first thing we’ll do is eliminate the death penalty; no, not the abominable retribution penal system archaic “get even” approach to crime, although that will have to go as well. I’m talking about the life sentence we get the moment we’re born; every minute after birth becomes: us heading toward our own future tombstones. I say “Screw that!” If indeed life is too short, why bother to die? The way I see it, the concept of Heaven and Hell are simply a way to keep us in line by promising an afterlife in which we will have to pay or play because of our behavior on this mortal coil; why buy into that if you’re not going to pass? Believe what you will: I aint dying, I will live forever until I make a liar out of myself. My God, although a lesser one, does not have death in store for me; rather, a life of friendliness, craftiness, irreverence and gumbo. I don’t need an incentive to be good; lord, I’ve been told enough times that I’m good for nuthin’ so I’m goin’ with that.
Next: we’ll find a cure for bacon or for pork in general. Oh, I know it’s the tastiest food product ever invented; but, hogs are fine sentient beings that we over feed, keep in  unsociable living conditions, slaughter (against their wills) and stuff their own flesh into their own intestines, smoke them, grill them and put them into our own bodies; how sick is that? We say: leave that piggy to go to market, stay home and eat what they damn well please before going “wee wee wee (all the way home)”! I realize that smoked dead pig will be a hard habit to cure; but, folks, we gotta do it!
Speaking of smoking: “take finely shredded vegetable matter, roll it into a tube of paper, light it on fire and stick it in our mouths and suck that smoke in” --- and it doesn’t get you comfortably numb like marijuana--- how sick is that? NO SMOKING TOBACCO!
We will also observe a Monday Sabbath with the blessed sacraments of red beans and rice with our holy water of Crystal Hot sauce. We cannot help that the rest of the world takes Saturday and Sunday as days of rest; we’ll take Mondays as well and have a religiously sanctioned three day weekend—every blessed week!
We’ll build an altar to patience which will take a longer time than the construction on Louisiana Avenue; have an anarchists mass (which no one will attend) and sing hymns according to the Gospels of James (Brown) Nina (Simone) Frank (Sinatra) and Stevie (Wonder or Nicks, take your pick). We’ll create the creator in the image of an eight month old child; you know, the age when wisdom is ours, we communicate in coos and cries are gender neutral and have no facial hair.
An eight month old is the perfect image of a lesser god; those of you that have had children know how perfect and knowing they are at that age before they forget all the wisdom that they learned in their last life. All hail Eight Month Olds! When life is as simple as mother’s milk, and the changing of a diaper is a major event; plus, eight month olds have reached a plateau where they sleep the night through and are just learning to get upright, after that they become prejudicially influenced by their environment, it’s all good at eight months.
Each Monday service will be an adventure of discovery: avocados, chocolate, breadsticks, applesauce and finding our big toes. We’ll meditate on the meaning of meanings, the in between of the in between, the sounds of silence and the wonders of cookie dough; we’ll play nice, share and won’t abide by anything that can hurt another person.
Holidays: Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, all the solstices and Santa’s Birthday… the Easter Bunny will officiate and we’ll all have deviled eggs with Jam.
 However; being children of a lesser god does not exempt us from working for the common good; we’ll teach our children well, give comfort to the sick, feed the hungry and learn the words to Village People songs. We’ll dance the Funky Chicken, Pony, Surfer Bird, Monkey, Jump Back Jack and See Ya Later Alligator. From the gospel of James we’ll sing “I Feel Good (“cause I Got You!) and “Papa’s got a brand New Bag”. No one need die for our sins because we won’t accept any doctrine that defines sin; being good for goodness sake and being harmlessly crazy but not stupid is our lane and we’ll stay in it.
We’ll wear mismatched socks, play with jacks and yoyos and avoid social media (we’re sociable enough without media). We’ll spend our off time shopping at farmer’s markets and cooking things that are good for our bodies and spirits and sharing them with our brethren (which is everyone).
There are no dues or tithes, we’ll worship wherever we are, each body a temple and every home a church; we’ll change the world and WE’LL DO IT… OUR WAY!

New Years 2018-9

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
New Jeers
Guy Friday
            I’ve decided for 2019, I’m gonna put myself up for adoption; it’s the only way out of this mess and I think that it would be mutually beneficial for me as well as my new family. Of course, we’ll have to set some ground rules and conditions; that would be as simple as knowing what would be expected of me balanced by what I would expect from my new family.  Believe me. I am a catch and will be an asset to wherever I land and to whomever I land on. I travel well and can learn languages… but I don’t do windows.
            First of all, you (whoever you are) would have to be able to afford me; I am not going to trade poor for poorer and if that doesn’t make sense, you can stop the application process right here. In return for my services which include cooking, simple errand completions and maybe a little light housework, I definitely need some financial stability in my life. You can be singled, coupled or nuclear familied in condition or number; although, I don’t do well in crowds or Eight Is Enough type situations, so, size does matter.
            Picture it: you get up in the morning, your coffee is made just the way you like it; I’ll know what you like for breakfast, I will have picked up your clothes from the cleaners, sorted your mail and have your newspaper ready at your place at the table. POINT 1: there will be no electronic devices at mealtimes, AT ALL (deal breaker). If there are dependents involved, whether they be four legged or bipedial, I expect that you will already have housebroken and trained them; I don’t mind reading to them, helping with studies, walks or chauffeuring them to their sanctioned outings. POINT 2: I don’t change diapers, clean up after or take crap from your kids.
            As you return for the evening after you’ve busted your hump for the man, I’ll have your favorite beverage on hand, dinner will be in its final stages of preparation and softness and peace will prevail in your household; your mail will have gone out and your expenses analyzed and laid out on your desk for your consideration in your short ‘attention to life’s details’ time in your office. At this point I will ask you if you’d like a bath drawn, then if nothing else is required of me I’ll clear the table, lock down the kitchen and retire to my quarters. POINT3: I fulfill a finite function in your life and am not on call 24/7, after all I am human (or so I’d like to believe) and need some down time of my own.
            Imagine: I will do your shopping, I will remember birthdays, special occasions and make reservations and such; I’ll take care of (getting someone else to do) your laundry, carpets, windows and heavy lifting.  I’m not sure who’s going to make up your bed (it’s not me) or clean your toilet but we’ll find someone (else). I am a quiet person who likes things organized and neat and intend on maintaining that sort of life and environment for you. I ask nothing in return except one day off a week, a stipend of a reasonable amount, and perhaps my own wing of your castle. POINT4: Sanitation of your area is your responsibility, I am your functioning ward (for life) not your husband or your wife.
            Reflect that now you will have time to do all those things you’ve been trying to fit into your ridiculously mundanely cluttered and busy life; you now can exercise, read, paint, study piano, go sailing and/or binge watch the Blacklist while drinking beer and eating potato chips. Relax, I’ll pick up the (reasonably mild) debris and make things comfortable for you. Tobacco use is NOT allowed ever in your life (or any other self destructive influences).  POINT 5: You will not jeopardize my tenure by screwing up your health and well being; if you feel the need to talk things out, I’ll be in the kitchen doing the dishes, grab a towel and I’ll impart some life lessons.
            Well, you say, if I’m going to live by all those rules (POINTS) why the @#$!%&# do I need you? Well, I say, you’ve obviously got money but no time and I offer you a way to have both. Who’ll keep the pool cleaned while you’re on vacation? Who’ll take charge of the floors being done for the holidays; hell, who’s gonna make sure you have candy for the Trick or Treaters, flowers for you anniversary or getting your bills paid on time--YOU? Oh, and speaking of my living arrangements, I come with a couple of critters and a mate (she likes to clean so perhaps a package deal?), so, I’ll need room (I’m also thinking a little garden space as well).
            Seriously, don’t you (or someone that you know of means) need an older (wiser) more organized than you (clean shaven with minimal tattoos) music loving (no rap or twerk stuff), educated and personable live in Mister, who is non combative, emotionally stable, politically correct and a fabulous cook to boot? Listen, all you’ll have to do is make some dough to support us all and I’ll take care of everything else; kind of what you’d expect from a clone of yourself. If you’re independently well off or just some Dude(ette) that wants to focus on your own egocentric driven existence, you need a guy like me OR someone like me; for goodness sake, I need someone like me, except, I can’t afford me!
            So, I have a passport, a set of knives and the ability to prepare virtually anything that suits your palate; and, oh yes, I forgot to mention: I will polish your silver (as long as he’s not your horse).

Friday, October 19, 2018

More or Less

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
            Hey, hey hey! Welcome to the December issue of Where Y’at which, as you know, will encompass Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza and Festivus for the rest of us (I think I might have not made that up). I’m partial to the fat man coming down the chimney and this year we gonna have a talk. If it takes a bottle of tequila, some of Holly’s Tamales and even some Peruvian Marching Powder, we have to get this year’s gift straight. I want my illusion back; right now I’m so disillusioned with New Orleans I could kick sand. I’m tired of pretending that we have sweet pretty party people instead of seeing that in actuality they are wet brained functioning alcoholics who live in their own subjective reality. Don’t stop me now.
            I am weary of seeing the ‘homeless’ fly cardboard on most intersections telling me that “anything helps/God bless” as if my donation to their existence comes with a benediction; or watching the same scammers fleece a new crop of tourists, the same scam artists that I’ve seen  ply that trade for fifteen years with impunity. The second-line that passes, weaving music and frivolity on their way and leaving a trail of littered bottles, wrappers and plastic cups enough to choke an elephant.
            It’s all fun and games until it’s your bike that gets stolen; your car that gets broken into or you’re the one face down on the pavement being mugged; wouldn’t that tend to take the sheen off your brogans? It’s done that to me and if it takes Santa to bring back the love… so be it.
Yes, if you were passing on the nine hundred block of Dumaine St. at two O’clock in the afternoon last Sunday that was me yelling for help as some stranger on a bicycle tried to part me from my hard earned; that was me waiting for the police that didn’t come; that was me the next day getting a CT scan of my head and X-rays of my foot and ribs. Just some guy on a bike who believed that what I had should be his and decided to take it. Where did he come from and what created that thought process in the year 2018 in a ‘great American city’? You tell me.
            It does not fail to flummox me that I witness sexism, ageism, racism and speciesism coming from all hues of complexion. Pick a color, pick an ethnicity or social strata and sure enough you’ll find an exclusiveness in their attitude and make up that just doesn’t like, trust, respect or downright give a shyte about anyone that is not  just  the same as they are. Covertly AND overtly.  And I’m not against looking at that man in the mirror to see if I’m not resembling that remark myself.  And don’t get me started on inconsideration.

            Vehicles that weave in and out of traffic ignoring safety and turn signals now royally piss me off. People that leave dirty diapers as they drive away from city parking spots madden me; I’m getting incensed when someone loads up their groceries and leaves the shopping cart in the middle of the parking lot. How about making groceries and the checkout clerk wants to put your purchases in fifteen additional plastic ocean clogging wildlife strangling bags. You’re killing me here.
            My neighbor wants to use RoundUp on his weeds, the guy across the street is scraping lead paint from his shutters into the street, the worker down the block is cleaning his paint brushes into the storm drain and the kids walking home from school are throwing candy wrappers and drink cups like they’re Mardi Gras float throws. My ex-landlord decries the outlawing of DDT to kill termites. Somebody is spraying my Cheerios with cancer causing chemicals and that hippy dippy grocery chain has been taken over by Amazonians.  Can I get a witness? I’m supremely disillusioned when I realize that this is a microcosm of the city, state, country and world that we live in. Please, somebody, give me back my Grace; and while you’re at it, where is my Sewerage and Water bill--eight months now and NO bill?  
            There are too many good people here to put up with that pre-Katrina nonsense; do we not know what year it is? Wasn’t there some rumor way back that this was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius? No, this is the age of poverty, substandard education and a lapse of any moral compass in our elected leaders. Mass shootings.  Global warming. Poison in our drinking water.
            I hate it when anyone says “affordable” anything. Affordable housing means subsidized rent. Affordable healthcare means the government is paying for it. Affordable groceries means: reading the sale fliers and shopping at five different stores; varying your eating habits to whatever is on sale that week. Prices go up, wages stagnate and the powers that be tell us that the economy is booming; for whom?
            On a personal level, the city that care forgot is the city that forgot to care; unable to raise the minimum wage and BTW when you do see wages go up, it’s a sure sign that hours are being cut. Do you find it amusing that most family providers have to work more than one job; that there are no longer any stay at home Moms and Louisiana leads other states in obesity, teen pregnancy and infant mortality? 88,000 city service workers mean that we’re sending our kids out ignorant to become dishwashers, porters and garbage collectors; great, legitimate employment for sure but with what future? Have you considered renter’s rights or rent control? Don’t, there is no such animal.
            Man, I can’t wait to catch that red suited, bearded, “Ho Ho Ho” yelling jerk and have him dig deep in his bag; he aint leaving without me getting my Mojo back. Happy Holidays

Friday, October 12, 2018

Cats and Dogs

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Cats and Dogs
            “Dogs are like people are and cats are like people want to be”. That’s what Nonna LaMancusa told me so many years ago; before I could understand what she meant by that statement, I became it. Observe your critters and see for yourself.  Cats and Dogs.
            It’s been a long day; a long year, a long life; you drag yourself home dog tired (no one ever gets ‘cat tired’) and count on the solace of your pets. You open your door and there the pup sits, wagging and gazing into your eyes with nothing short of unconditional love and admiration. The cat wants to know where dinner is and why it’s late. The dog has chewed up your favorite unfinished novel and/or your leather skirt/baseball glove and looks ashamed knowing that they’re in for some “BAD DOG!!” discipline. The cat has just peed in your fresh laundry and try, just try, to correct its behavior and you’ll get hissed at like a snake and clawed into shredded wheat.
            It’s time for medicine and you reach over to Fido’s mouth, pry it open and in goes the meds; try that on Tiger Lily and be prepared to get that Tetanus shot, seriously. Good Ole Rover will happily go to the vet, he’s cool as long as there’s treats; will endure any embarrassment or invasion. Weigh him, spray him, spay him, prod and poke him; it’s all good as long as something that tastes like bacon is on the other end of where the thermometer happens to be lodged. What treatment does Little Mittens get? A carrier with a towel or blanket, catnip and maybe a favorite toy and you stuff her in like toothpaste back into a tube; get to the clinic and you have to dump her out (you dare not reach in) in the manner of the trash pick-up guys with the Doc and two Vet Techs ready to hold her down by whatever appendages are the least likely to end in human bloodshed. The growl that she emits will chill you to the bone, there is no reasoning with that feline.
            Off to work you go in the morning, leaving Boomer with sad eyes slowly wagging his tail and getting ready for another day filled with separation anxiety and sadness, while Fluffy and MiniPuss are planning a day of sleeping, grooming and possibly a little Oprah watching; perhaps they’ll shred the curtains while Pluto pines. While you’re gone Scooby Doo will hold himself until his bladder bursts while Mistress Taffy can saunter to the litter box, relieve herself and then scatter the litter like confetti for you to step on in your bare feet.
            It’s a NoNo for Deputy Dawg to jump on furniture and the most he can hope for is to be able to sneak up onto the bed after you’ve passed out; try to keep Sylvester off the top shelves in your kitchen, the dresser drawer that you left open or taking up a perch in front of your computer screen (while you’re working) and witness attention spans in nanoseconds as he resumes the examination of his domain, top to bottom with impunity.
            Huckleberry Hound will bark at a branch rubbing against your window or the mailman or that new person in your life and hide and wet himself during a thunderstorm or fireworks; cats will hide under the bed or in the closet and let burglars strip your house as clean as Thanksgiving turkey in the home of starving Armenians. It’s true, a dog will give its life protecting you and yours; a feline will run like a rabbit and contemplate where the next meal will come from. There are stories of canines visiting gravesites and waiting at train stations; there are stories of cats that will travel for miles after being separated from their territory. Dogs are ready to destroy their enemies on sight, on the other hand, cats like to torment their prey, sometimes for long periods of time, watching them suffer futilely the ping pong batting that leads them to their personal circle of heaven.
            There are exceptions to all this; a dog that seeks spiritual enlightenment, a cat that doesn’t already have it. There are cats that can be trained (even herded) and dogs that don’t pick up chicken bones on their walk.  There are outdoor cats that wait for the sound of your car and will purr for you as you feed and love on them, sitting on your lap drooling in ecstasy. There are dogs that will run as far and as wide away from home (and you) at the drop of a hat like Io being chased by gadflies; open the door, off they go.
            Very seldom do you hear someone say that they want to come back as a dog; it’s a dog’s life, they do the work, pull the sleds, herd cattle, jump into cold water to retrieve that duck that you shot; cats are definitely not of that ilk. Yep, we want to come back as cats. Cats create territory, nest, pick their caretakers (no one ever really ‘owns’ a cat) and settle in until death do you part; if you cross a cat, they will drop you faster than a hot potato and find greener pastures. A dog will keep coming back for more of whatever treatment you give them, returning unconditional love and loyalty without question.
            Of course, the biggest suckers are the bipeds that love, care, clean, feed, and pay the veterinarian bills for these creatures that we take in as our surrogate children and mourn inconsolably when they cross that Rainbow Bridge; you know who you/we are.          

Thursday, September 6, 2018

How's Bayou (Road)?

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
How’s Bayou Business
The Road
As they say on the block: “if you don’t know, you betta ask somebody!”
So, you wanna know? Come down my street; come visit, come set a spell. Come with me down Bayou Road, the oldest road in New Orleans. Venture into the enclave of a real Chickaen Geau-Geau New Orleans fiyo by the bayou melting pot gumbo salt and peppa with some chicka ma cranny crow thrown in turkey neck of a street.  A corner of our city getting along quite nicely without you for three hundred years; stretching, growing, contracting and stretching out again, behind your back, in plain sight. Welcome to one of the mostly overlooked secrets of New Orleans.
            At the confluence of Broad Street, Grand Route St. John, Gentilly Blvd, Seventh Ward, Esplanade Ridge and Mid City; Bayou Road is generally part of everything but, uniquely and independently a world apart. From when the indigenous peoples showed Bienville how to get from Mobile, Alabama to the trading markets of what is now the French Quarter to when we (now) stroll up in the spring to The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, opening day at the racetrack, back down again for Mardi Gras madness or caroling at St. Louis Cathedral at holiday time this magical street leads us from where we want to go to where we want to be. Many times, travelers, blasé and half blind to the folks that have chosen to remain and dig in small business roots here, promise themselves to ‘check it out later’. Well, it’s ‘later’ now.
            Starting with McHardy’s Fried Chicken, Pirogue’s Bar and Bistro, The Broadview Crawfish House and Journey Allen’s Sip and Paint Instruction Classes; follow the red brick road to Miss Emma’s Nail Studio, Bayou Road Justice Center, Domino Sound Records, The Dufresne House, Saint Rose of Lima Church (the new home of Southern Rep), Kitchen Witch Cookbook shop, The Community Book center, The Half Shell and Coco Hut Restaurants, Material Life Gift Ship, The Cupcake Fairies, Whiskey and Sticks and EGOS Men’s Spa across from King and Queen Emporium and Pagoda Coffee and Eats; you can’t swing a stick without hitting a hot spot
            Club Caribbean hosts nightly live music performances while food pop-ups flourish with alacrity; Artistry For Her and Keyes To Beauty salons are there to get you in style and keep you in the mood to celebrate life. There’s even a $6.99 all you can eat Cajun buffet if you’re so inclined and Joan Mitchell’s enclave of artists to round us out.
            These are who I call my Neighbors and call them out by name; Albert at Pirogue’s is gonna have the game on tonight; there was just a birth in Ms Emma’s family and yes, the Justice Center has a notary. Sister Bonnie at Dufresne is hosting a group of volunteers for Habitat and Sergio has discovered a feral chicken in the yard. Matt at Domino Sound has a vinyl sale coming up; is it Taco Tuesday already? Ask Debbie.
            Vera and Jennifer are having a book signing at Community Book Center with fried chicken from Mr. Kermit at McHardy’s; Mark at Half Shell has icy cold oysters and fried catfish waiting for me and at Coco Hut there’s that vegetarian Jerk dish as well as meaty ones; mild, medium or hot. Ms Jenny’s getting things organized for Southern Rep’s maiden voyage at their new digs; Whiskey and sticks for the discerning imbiber;  cupcakes from the fairies for the kids, café au lait at Pagoda and fresh fruit cups from Manny. Get it all on Bayou road.
            They’re sprucing up our appearances, sharpening up our minds, filling our bellies and our souls and saving seats for performances in a grand century old church; yes, while you weren’t looking… they’ve been cooking!  Domino Sound has 10,000 LPs, while kitchen Witch has the same number of cookbooks and we’re wishing Southern Rep that many shows with lights, action and “places everybody!” Ten Thousand instructions for our kids will be imparted, that many meals will be served and consumed here in our future and I’m looking for that many lights to brighten The Road this holiday season; and as we know, in New Orleans, it’s always holiday season!
A book by Ron Fisher, Mid City Errands talks about Bayou Road in the 1950s; the landmarks and businesses have all changed but the vibe remains the same. You would think that, what with a stretch of two blocks  of  shoulder to shoulder, in a virtual mélange of independently owned businesses (as diverse and varied as they are), smart money would garner odds against their concert; not true, a few years back the gang of them formed Bayou Road Business and Merchants Association and with the aid of Jeff Schwartz at Broad Community Connection and the guidance of Beverly McKenna and her group at Le Musee de f.p.c. (Free people of color) acting as cohesive mentorship, they are indeed, in harmony. The shops and folks on The Road have mapped out a pathway to success without the aid of big business or box stores and have been patiently building a solid foundation, including periphery businesses and organizations supplying support and shine. Jewels in a necklace of local flavor.
With Southern Rep’s opening performance on October third this year, the street will come alive for the 2018-2019 season and for many seasons to come. Heck, you could write a whole theater performance about us!
All of us on The Road do what we do in style and in stride; we keep regular hours, close on regular days and pretty much are as normal as our identities allow and foster. We’re a sleepy little shop small neighborhood bunch who support and cheer for each other’s successes. The best thing about opening a small business in a community is…. the community. Y’all come on down; and, while you’re here, ask for the map. Yep, we got a map.


Sunday, August 5, 2018

Not Today Seitan

Not Today Seitan
Waltzing Wheat Free  
            Back in the mid 1800s, Madams Begue and Tujaque cooked for New Orleanians of every stature and circumstance. Their specialty was five course meals that you could have one of two ways: take it or leave it; that’s mainly because, back in the day, we were Roman Catholic Glutarians (semi-religious people who ate whatever was put in front  them). We had no dietary restrictions and we would eat virtually anything that was available. No vegans, paleos, vegetarians, ketos, pescetarians, non pork and/or beef, gluten intolerant or food allergy sensitive persons survived; back then it was ‘eat anything (edible) or die’.
            As usual, I got to thinking, since the majority of the above dietary concerns would be a hardship to me, I thought of trying out the only one of those diets that I would have a challenge with maintaining: gluten free. I decided to give up gluten in my diet for two weeks and see what would happen to me. I’m not gluten intolerant, quite the opposite, I have a gluten addiction; so this experiment is the only diet discipline that will cause me any discomfort (unless I went on a chocolate free diet—then I would probably throw myself into a well).
            Gluten addiction? Yeppers. I read a book called Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD that explained how it’s the way that we have genetically manipulated the grain that gives us the reaction from a person’s bodily revulsion of gluten to an actual dependence on it and I pondered that I may exhibit all the signs of addiction on gluten products (and possibly to yeast as well). On a daily basis I want bread, pasta, cereal, cake; I prefer beer to wine; cookies to ice cream; malted milk to ice cream sodas. I adore thickened soups, sauces and lick my lips at a fragrant roux in gumbo. I crave Couscous, flour tortillas, crackers, barley, brewer’s yeast, donuts, beignets, stuffing of all kinds, breaded and fried anything and pastries in general. I judge a sandwich by the bread; a pie by its crust; a hot dog by its bun.
            Naturally, for this exercise, I take the most immature tack: I substitute non-gluten ‘alternative’ products that imitate gluten products instead of just religiously not eating gluten; but… I have to start somewhere. I also ease myself into this thing by eliminating wheat first just until I get the hang of it and then eliminate the world of foods that still have gluten in them. Naturally, I drag Debbie into this experiment, misery, can and will accept all the company it can get. Non-gluten bread, pasta and pastries (waffles) are a no-brainer and whatever I can’t purchase outright I can make. Mostly make because if you think that Vegans have a hard time eating out or buying prepared foods, being gluten intolerant with a fistful of dollars to spend will get you precious little on the open market. Plus, when you do find gluten free products, either they are so mundane that they’ll drive you to distraction or they taste like caca, plus they are more expensive than their glutinous counterparts.
Eating as a gluten free vegetarian or vegan? Quit your day job because it will take your entire waking hours not to starve to death; hunched over, muttering to yourself on the side of the road munching dandelion weeds and thistles.
            Some say that there are a lot of non-gluten foods already out there and basically it’s only a matter of eating what you normally eat and just eliminating the gluten stuff; e.g. meatballs and spaghetti: use a different binder for the meatballs and sub non-gluten spaghetti which tastes nothing like pasta.  You could opt for a Mexican diet: rice, beans, corn tortillas, carne asada;  Asian dishes that use rice and rice noodles; or, avail yourself to the myriad of products that now proclaim their non-gluten status: Cheerios, potato chips, canned vegetables, wine, salmon, broccoli and I just bought a liquid dish soap that proclaims itself  “Non Gluten” (go figure).
            Basically, I can eat non-gluten all I want; however, if I carry my gluten heart to the dinner table, I will never be satisfied, let alone satiated, with what I’m eating. It’s a whole new mind set. It is healthier, and it’s also healthier if you watch your cholesterol, saturated fats, and sodium intake; get plenty of exercise, cook at home and drink distilled hooch, but who (aside from the ‘drinking hooch’ part) does that? Eating out takes being ready to give the waiter the third degree and wind up with boiled vegetables and a baked potato; other people will not share their dinners with you and they want none of what you’re having. You will continuously be explaining your ‘affliction’.
            Many food companies are currently getting on board now that they’ve realized that gluten intolerance is not a fad and that market shares are to be had by getting out ahead of the pack.  As it stands now, at a ball game, your once frank (hot dog) and stein (beer) is now replaced with you only being able to have, with certainty, the yellow mustard on the back of your hand, as paper napkins may contain traces of gluten and even some toilet tissues are suspect  (I kid you not).
            For sure there are a number of GF cookery books, but sadly most focus on desserts; what we need are books that tell us how to put GF meals together, some pretty pictures and a hundred and one ways to make quinoa and millet not taste like birdseed.
            At the close of two weeks I can tell you: I can’t do it! I’m addicted to gluten and I LIKE IT! Gluten intolerants… I salute you, yours is a hard (buckwheat) row to hoe. Good luck.