Po Boy View
Gung Hay Fat Choy
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!