Friday, March 9, 2012

Another Jazz Fest (2012)

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Circus Overload
Another Jazz Fest
            Half a lifetime ago I got this crazy notion that New Orleans needed a vegetarian restaurant; coincidentally, at  that time, there was a defunct Tastee Freeze on Rampart and Conti St. that still had all of the equipment in it and I came up with an idea: a fast food vegetarian restaurant (!) and I was gonna call it McYogurt’s. This was in 1974. I signed ‘intent to purchase’ papers and then wondered how the hell I would/could come up with enough dough to swing the deal.
            I hatched a plan. My plan was to get a food stand at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and make big bucks… fast. My hook was to be a vegetarian food stand (a first back then) and I was going to sell broccoli and mushroom quiche and mango smoothies (go figure) and rake it in big time, thus securing my scheme and future as a food magnate. It was supposed to be a huge success and I put all that I could, as well as family and friends, behind the project.
            Picture first… McYogurt’s: a fast food emporium where you could get black bean burgers, malts, chili cheese fries, smoothies , greasy Popeye’s mockery chicken and even some killer Q; with all the sensory overload of sin and none of the guilt; in short order and at  reasonable prices.
Now picture a world where dedicated vegetarians with enough disposable incomes to spring for a Jazz Fest ticket and food booth considerations were scarce as soy teeth and watch me while Fest goers in 1974 bypass our stand in favor of Jambalaya, Red Beans, sticky ribs and beer. I was crushed, I was broken, and I was salivating for some dead pig and an ice cold Schlitz. Lesson learned. In 1974 nobody wanted to go to the Fest and eat healthy. Surprisingly, and until relatively recently, vegetarians at the Fest had no other option but to go to the kids area and buy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and lemonade. They didn’t and still don’t allow you to bring in outside comestibles.
            Now, yes now, you can eat to your veggie and even vegan heart’s delight and excess at the Fest.  Me? I lost my shirt and had to leave town until the whole thing blew over and I ain’t eatin’ nuthin’ vegetarian at the Fest (joking). Be that as it may, New Orleans is still without and still needs a vegetarian restaurant. And why is this no-brainer so hard to get off the ground? I dunno. There may not be enough full time dedicated vegetarians to support one; but, I believe that there are enough people that would go meatless for a meal or two every week if the food was of high standards and ‘in your face’ with flavor; and I ain’t the brightest knife in the driveway. (If for no other reason than to claim that they did give their cholesterol intake a break once in a while).
            One would think that all it would take to open such a venue would be inspiration, desire, vision, business acuity, hard work, dedication, ambition, determination, motivation, foresight, hindsight, blindsight, insight, monster cooks and location, location, location, eh? Nope, actually all it takes is looks and a whole lot of money (and monster cooks).       
            Seriously folks, it’s 2012; cannot we do better than that? And seriously folks, I know that there are joints that have an obligatory VegHead addition to their menu; but, don’t you think that it’s about time that we have a restaurant, café, bistro, eatery or joint that can serve; not just good, but, outstanding food at reasonable prices without the crutch of spiritless seafood, bland bird carcasses or zip codes of dead cow taking up the center of the plate? Don’t get me wrong; I applaud all of those fine restaurants that can whip up a brainless Pasta Prima Vera, grill a mindless Portobello mushroom on a bed of super market salad greens and let’s hear it for the famous crudités with spinach and artichoke dip; hell, if one’s really hard pressed for a veggie dining experience you can always go ethnic… perhaps some hummus to make you falafel, an uninspired plain pizza or some chips and salsa with your bean-brained burrito. “YeeFrigginHaw!!”
            I know, I know, rogue nations are building nuclear weapons, the polar ice caps are melting, unemployment is high, gas expensive, entire countries are on the brink of default and you aren’t saving enough for your retirement; but, have you ever seen the mechanically separated chicken that you eat in them nuggets? Do you know what they do to animals that are raised industrially for your consumption? Ever been inside a slaughter house? You have killed your own food haven’t you? I thought not. The pain, the blood, the guts; it’s enough to put you off your feed.
Do you know the benefits of a plant based diet? Sure you do. You also know the benefits of not smoking, the dangers of drinking and dialing, the heartbreak of loving that loser and the futility of trying to remember all the words to Funky Cold Medina. You know, but you’re handcuffed by habits that aren’t beneficial to you and are in fact bad for you. Sometimes because they feel good and sometimes because you just are a tad shy on self discipline.
If you want the joy of animal eating because you are addicted to the taste there are surprises waiting for you. You don’t have to have blood on your hands to have great food. Give an animal a break on one of your Jazz Fest food breaks and see if you don’t feel good about it. And remember… Good Witch Glinda says “soy is your friend”.

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