Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Unnecessary Rudeness

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
City News
Unnecessary Rudeness
            Headline: “Piglets That Are Saved from Burning Barn are Served as Sausages to Firefighters”. Think about it. You might say that that’s rude on so many levels; but, that’s who we are; we live in a very disparaging and insensitive world, it’s self preservation, self meditation and self medication.        
Should we be ashamed? Not at all; it’s part of our DNA, it’s in our blood. We make fun of the ridiculousness of life. By overtly and/or covertly disregarding the feelings, interests and well being of others-- concentrating our attention on our own well being-- we keep the: “I’m alright, so I don’t care; I don’t care, so I’m alright” machine well oiled. It’s so Jake Paul (and his 10.5 Million subscribers), it’s so… us. For example:
            Alrighty, you’ve read the article explaining that the Millennials vote could make political policy here? Yes/no? The Millennial population in New Orleans is approaching six figures and if they all voted for the same agendas, the city government would be run the way that suited them best, they could accomplish policy like legalizing marijuana or raising the minimum wage. Survey says; Millennials don’t vote. The same people, who do vote unfailingly, unfailingly vote for the same candidates; it’s like the winners of reader’s choice votes in publications that always go to the same faithful ‘favorites’. We need to raise the voter turnout to more than 40% to be able to move forward.
Onward.  It’s positively a rumor that a great American highfalutin grocery store with the bins for trash, recycle and compost throws everything in the same dumpster (except cardboard boxes) and continues to wear the green halo with their higher prices, non GMO stickers and a social scene reminiscent of that Safeway Grocery Store in the marina section of San Francisco.
            Stop me if you’ve heard this: You live in a nice neighborhood; you have great neighbors; your rent is reasonable; you have a decent landlord; the place isn’t in great shape; but all things considered, you count your living space a blessing. If something minor needs repaired, you fix it yourself and call upon the landlord as seldom as possible; you pay your rent on time and there’s been no significant raise for the number of years that you’ve lived there. In short you’re happy; been happy, want to stay happy. A property down the street goes on the market and is snatched up. The construction, destruction, demolition and rebuilding of the structure goes on for months complete with dumpsters, port-o-lets and worker’s double parked trucks. Granite counters are loaded in, lawn service, security systems, paint, pavement and minimalist foliage are appointed; there’s an apartment in the back that’s worked on and gussied up.
            Dust finally settles and an ‘Apartment For Rent’ sign goes up. The price-- on the sign-- is asking for three times the rent that you’re paying! It’s the ultimate ‘bend over and grab your ankles’ kick in the rear for you and your neighbors; you fanaticize that when your landlords see a sign like that they might wonder why they’re being so lenient on you. It’s evident that the new owners are either going to use the rent to pay off their note and contractors or they’re gonna flip the place. Kiss your mule goodbye; your hood has been infected with the germs of ‘repurposing’
Cold business: A streetcar stops at N. Carrolton and Orleans Ave, disgorging six passengers, four of whom spot their bus on the opposite corner; it happens that these four are of a certain age and cannot move as spritely as they once did. They wave, they yell, they cross against traffic and without any concern for personal safety. The light changes. The bus pulls off leaving them breathless and frustrated by life. Probably the bus driver didn’t see them and everyone else on the street did? Unlikely.
Questions:  Besides being razor close to no basis at all illegal; how about a street camera citation sent from the City of New Orleans from Tempe, AZ. whose penalty needs posted to Cincinnati, OH? This benefits our city… how? And, how does raising our sales tax help the working poor?
            Winner, winner, chicken dinner: A car pulls up in the parking lot. The motor continues to run. The car door opens and closes and no one gets out. The car pulls out. You look over and see that they merely wanted to deposit on the asphalt: a. the contents of their ashtray; b. drop off their fast food Styrofoam cups and containers; c. dispose of their kid’s dirty diaper or d. all three. Or, how about that mystery canine (hopefully) pooper that was not followed by a human scooper that leaves the droppings of the animal in path’s way? Where’s a Block Captain when you need one?

            What about the personal insults that we take every time we take our automobiles for a spin? Being cut off, boxed in, blown at, stink eyed and tail ridden. Try getting from here to there without talking to yourself. That oversized load in front of you that slides in and out of its lane and when you speed up, pass and get out of its way (because they might be inebriated), find out that they’re on their phone, yelling at the kids in the back seat and/or putting on eye shadow.
            And on and on and on; you’ve probably got hundreds like these and I’d like to hear about them; either for commiseration or just to let me know that I’m not nuckin’ futs.  Seems to me, empathy and compassion are rationed and rationalized; and the world, by and large, is ready to put egocentricity first at the expense of other’s feelings; we’re all ready to laugh at the pie in the face, the slip on the banana peel or eat sausages made from rescued piglets.
            Write me.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Restauran Tissue

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Restauran Tissue
Chez Wha?
            Welcome, my friends, to the show that never ends; 1500 restaurants and counting in New Orleans, and not counting filling stations, bars, convenience, Mom and Pop and grocery stores that sell food. Restaurants come and go here, sixty-two new ones in the last twelve months; and they go out of business just as fast. And as one goes down in flames, a new one rises from the ashes; the Phoenix Factor. A New Orleanian would have to dine out every night to support them, lucky for us that we have visitors; if the visitors stopped, the restaurant industry would be in the creek, not just up it.
There’s no end to the uninitiated that believe that they can buck the odds and open a successful restaurant that will stand the test of time; also there seems to be no end to the successful owners of places like the Petite Elite Sweet-treatery, Tiny Toney’s Taco Takeouteria or Nunzio’s Newfoundland Noshemporium to try their hand at opening locations two, three or four. Been there, done that. When a person(s) decides to try their hand at making a living feeding people they are in, basically, for a life without a life. Restaurant work doesn’t end at the closing of the day; it’s a twenty-four seven occupation on the scale of walking up to your neck into oncoming surf in Murphy’s ocean. Whatever can go wrong… will. I happen to love the business.
Many establishments host run-of-the mill self-aggrandizing owner/operators with authority issues and indecorous countenances who act like sandbox intimidators when things go awry and effectually unsettle everyone around them when things don’t go their way. They place ‘managers’ in charge and motivate them using a self perpetuating corporate inspiration/submission system, wondering why good people leave and rationalizing that ‘quitters’ cannot take the pressure (that they have created), this is the best way to success: spend your time perfecting surreptitiousness, stay alert to discrepancies in productivity and rationalize that if one site is working up to expectations, two or more would be better for you financially, if not spiritually. Make sure that your staff never work unprofitable schedules, avoid offering benefits and never shy away from terminating the weaker links. To some this is de rigueur.
            Sometimes a person will ask me if I ever miss the work of owning or Cheffing in a joint, Bistro, low brow or high end Gourmangerie, and I tell them yes; that’s because the work is the easy part, it’s all the rest of the stuff that goes along with being a conductor in this field of dysfunctional cacophonic Merry Melody orchestras that tests.
Basically--at the beginning-- passion is its own reward until the challenges start to fly at you like an octopus pitching bedlam fastball in an asylum world series.
            Numero uno, though, is that to be successful you have to be able to pay the bills, the twenty-seven different baseballs that you have to knock out of the park each month to stay in the game. This of course is relative to the dollars you take in and how creative you are at spending them; if you want a pretzel logic, Chutes and Ladders exercise, try conceiving how a sixteen dollar pizza cut twenty ways is divided financially for any culinary entrepreneur.   Slice one goes to the rent; slices two thru five pays the waiters, dishwashers, busboys, bartender; six thru eleven pay for the cost of the pie (averaged out over the whole menu); so now you have nine slices left. Telephone, electricity, gas, water, trash, insurance, linen, alarm system, computer, booze, office supplies, paper goods, taxes and workman’s compensation: munchers in a Pac-Man game eating into your cash flow--- and then the ice machine breaks; the drains back up; a rain storm floods your business closing you down for two weeks.
            The work is the easy part: you get up, suit up, show up and never give up; you become defined by your work and you try to balance empathy and discipline with your staff, knowing that you can never pay them a decent wage and realizing that few of them will ever reach their potential. You try to lead by example, admitting when you’re wrong and having that ‘Come to Jesus’ talk when you have to; you fight your demons on your own time and leave your other life (if you’re lucky enough to have one) at the door, you have a job to do. And you mistakenly expect everyone around you to live up to your standards.
            And then there’s the food and that’s what it’s really about; that’s why you’re here; working ‘the product’ so that your customers are whelmed, the critics approve of you and some crumbs hit the bottom line. And then the dishwasher shows up drunk on Saturday night and passes out in time for the seven-thirty rush; you find out that the cleaning crew is having surf and turf while working; the bartender is giving free drinks to his friends and big tippers. 
            The best thing about working in a restaurant is that you can take your craft with you anywhere in the world; the worst thing about running a restaurant is knowing that this is going to happen with your most talented staff and while the worst of your people will fade away (hopefully before damage occurs) what you’ll be left with will be mules that you can rely upon to do their job but not much more and all the hopes that you have for making a mark on the world will be forgotten as you row, row, row, that boat.
                        Having been around this block more times than I can count, I’ve seen it all from the inside; now, instead, I cook at home every night and leave you with the last line --which is also the first line-- welcome, my friend to the show that never ends.

How to host your own New Orleans parade

How to Host Your Own New Orleans Second Line
Phil LaMancusa
            You’ve seen them in the streets of the French Quarter; anywhere from two to two hundred; they’ve got a band, stilt walkers, jugglers, clowns, drinks, smiles, they’re dancing, throwing beads and waving handkerchiefs to the astonished onlookers who wonder at the banner that reads “Welcome Home Sonny!” or whatever you can imagine as something that a person would want to have a parade for: birth, graduation, Patsy’s divorce or (in many cases) just for the hell of it. Did you know that you can DIY? You can, and I’m going to walk you through the process of giving/having your very own customized Second Line procession, or as we commonly call it: ‘Takin’ It To The Streets!’
            First of all, you could call a service that can provide you with all the bells and whistles including a restaurant destination for an après marche celebratory banquet, they will handle any permits, escorts and accoutrements for your event. Or you can continue to plow ahead on your own; and, by now we’ve all seen the Hannibal Buress stand up routine about having a parade in the streets of the French Quarter and how easy it is to organize and pull off. Well, surprise, it’s a little more complicated than the three minutes or so of humor that he uses and although it isn’t rocket surgery, it’s not like me, cheap and easy; more like a full time job for whoever chooses to take on this challenge.  I did try to follow his directions: “First you go down to the police station and get a permit” he said; to which the answer is: no, you need to get a permit from City Hall (1300 Perdido St. 7th floor) in person or online at The permit is $100.25 for non profits and $200.25 for everyone else (why the .25? Who knows?).
            Next you’ll need to choose the date, time and route for your procession (at least 15 days in advance of the occasion) because you’ll, obviously, need a police escort to assist you in impeding traffic while you parade worry free (drinks and all). The cost for the police starts at $384.97 for the first (minimum) two and a half hours and goes up; you pay that $384.97 whether you use them 2 ½ hours or not. Your route and size determines the amount of police necessary and for this you will consult with a Special Event Commander. They will have you fill out two forms with your intentions including who you have hired to clean up after you. You can find out more about police pricing at:
About that marching band (remember them?); if you go to you will find that there is a plethora of street savvy brass bands ready to take on your group’s event. They will range from $400.00 to $1,200.00 (and up) for an hour and a half (plus tip) depending on size, experience and date of the adventure; again, more time means higher fees.
            Okay, so here’s the scene: say you and your entourage of twenty want to meet at Pat O’Brien’s on St. Peter St. (for drinks) and dance down Royal St. to Toulouse St. over to Chartres and across Jackson Square and end up at Muriel’s for burgers and more booze or a little further to Harry’s Corner for just a throwdown. Swell, that’s a twenty minute walk at most. Figure it will take at least an hour and a half. It’s gonna be like herding cats to get from there to there; alcohol, which many people want for this occasion ( while making most of y’all more jovial) will slow things down more than a tad.             You also need to consider whether you want to have all those accoutrements mentioned above, where and how to get them; did I mention that this will be a full time gig to get your ship off the ground? It will be. You’ll need two people, one who does all the running around grunt work (get Cousin Vinnie) and the other who will hand over their AmEx card and look the other way (Uncle Vito).
            So now, face it, this is not something you want to subject yourself to; I mean, yeah, get Vinnie to do it and Vinnie will have a great story to tell and you’ll have someone that you know that you can blame for any of the components that go awry, of which there will be many possibilities.  Orrrrr… call a company that handles these, and other functions, on an everyday basis. There are a few and I randomly picked (855-353-6634) from the Destination Kitchen site and queried them.
            I was told that because of the myriad of details that need the attention that will avoid mishaps, and the need to eliminate any level of stress, inconvenience or confusion that may occur, PLUS the absolute necessity to have this occasion not only go off without a hitch BUT keep things as light hearted and above all FUN for all involved, you NEED professionals who have knowledge and understanding of what it takes, how to do it and how to be virtually invisible to all but the hosts of any event that they’re involved in.  These people offer to take care of every detail of any celebration from greeting your people at the airport (with a band) to sending your guests out to the swamps on tours or to dump a body (just kidding) and in our case, organizing a second line parade through the streets of the French Quarter. They advise me that not only do they know how to spend a person’s hard earned, but also where they can save money and/or get the most bang for the buck.
So, my advice is: get the AmEx from Uncle Vito, give it to Cousin Vinnie and have Vinnie decide to either schlep it himself or “call some people”; relax, come on down to The Big easy, have a few drinks at Pat O’s, and act surprised and thrilled when all of a sudden twenty of your closest friends show up with a band to take you to lunch, ya know what I mean? Who doesn’t love a parade?


Po Boy views
Phil LaMancusa
Billy’s Blues
Lonely at the Top
            It sucks being a giraffe, it’s got to be the worst job on the planet; worse than a donut fry cook, scrap metal junk collector or a manic mechanic on cars. I know it is because I spent a few early morning REMs being a giraffe and I can tell you that I didn’t like it from the beginning until the time that I woke up.
            “First of all, giraffes give birth standing up, so a newborn calf is literally dropped from a height onto the ground where they’re pushed to a standing position and told to get the hell moving before they become some lion’s hors d’oeuvre; father is called a Bull (which he likes fine) while mother is called a ‘Cow’ (fighting words where I come from). The whole gang of ‘em is called a ‘Tower’ as in: “hey Clem, there goes a tower of gy-raffes, must be six or eleben of ‘em!” I’m telling you, it ain’t easy.
            Next, it’s almost impossible to have a dialogue with more than one giraffe at a time, all that head turning hurts your neck, and brother, there’s a lot of neck to hurt. Also, it’s hard to get a decent drink from the water hole without all the other animals making fun of you, you have to eat what’s at the top of the trees and be satisfied with it and monkeys think that your appearance is hysterical and throw things at you. Conversely, giraffes are very good at one on one, giraffe to giraffe, conversation and this sometimes leads to romance and another calf being dropped from a high place to continue to cycle of life, to which I say: thanks… for nothing.  
            So, there you are or more precisely, I am (giraffe-ly speaking), one day, minding your/my own business, swapping jokes with the chimps, and Uncle Ralph says “Okay let’s mosey on”; actually he doesn’t say anything because giraffes don’t talk (imagine having vocal cords that long?). Uncle Ralph, who’s the ‘lead’ bull, just gets a bug up his butt and starts ambling and--what do we know—we can’t see what’s going on, so we follow him; off goes the ‘tower’ all six or eleven of us.
            BAM! There goes a noise and what do you think it is? It’s some pale, hairless biped who has just shot me with a needle and down I go unconscious to be ripped from my family and friends, shipped off to a zoo where there’s not enough room to scratch my assets and I’m put into an ‘enclosure’ with others of my kind and expected to eat dry grass and iceberg lettuce, drink from a water fountain that’s twelve feet in the air, and make nicey nice for the gawking dressed up humans that look to us more ridiculous than an orangutan’s back side. I have nothing in common with any of this.
            Sure, there’s a cute little giraffe heifer from Uganda or some place and she’s giving me the eye; and, I’ll tell you, when a female giraffe starts batting those eye lashes… boy, howdy! But hey, you’re wandering around on packed dirt all day and then enclosed in a dark barn all night (albeit with high ceilings) and face it, how are you going to pitch some woo with a bunch of long neck geeks snoring and snuffling (giraffes snore loud enough to rattle window panes) and wanting to get up into your grill because you accidentally stepped on their hoof or passed gas?
            Okay, so the sweetie sweetie preliminaries between Mary Lou (the heifer) and I are completed in the dark of night and next day she starts nuzzling up to me—in the ‘enclosure’—on the packed dirt—water fountain twelve feet in the air and you/I drop all of your/my reserves and composure and go for it. Suddenly you hear: “Hey Clem, come quick, them gy-raffes is f*kkin’!”  Talk about a bliss buster, total deflation, and you know that your performance will be dudsville and you’ll be the laughing stock of the stockade and you have to live the rest of your days with the shame. And the keepers wonder why you look depressed. Depressed? You don’t know the half of it; don’t get me started on the artificial insemination process.”
            I start to black out, my head is spinning, there is a rushing sound in my ears and a banging, banging and that’s when I wake up; it takes me a minute to get my bearings. I’m in a strange bed, it’s Tuesday and the garbage men are on the street with their usual hullabaloo and cacophonic city wake up call.
            Back to my life and reality; drillers are drilling, billers are billing, killers are killing and the swills are out in force, swilling; if it was a thrill, it would be thrilling…but it’s not.  I need to get up, shower, shave and get to work on time, I need to find water, a clean shirt, and my razor has become dull over night. I have bed head, bags under my eyes and I realize I just screwed up a (giraffe’s) wet dream; I am such a loser but…  I smell coffee.
            And I wake up again, this time for real. The dog’s licking my face, the mug of coffee is within my reach and her voice is saying “good morning, how’d you sleep?” For a minute I’m not sure whether I’m a giraffe having a dream that I’m a human or if I really did have a dream about being a giraffe; but, I reach up and touch her cheek and decide that I’ll be satisfied with what I’m seeing, what I’m feeling. I stretch and say “fine Honey, but you know what? It would really suck being a giraffe.”

Monday, August 14, 2017

Harissa 2017

Harissa 2017 By Philipe LaMancusa
2 medium to large red bell peppers
1 ½ tsp coriander seeds
1 ½ tsp cumin seed
1 tsp caraway seed
5 cloves fresh garlic
½ medium red onion
2 ounces dried ancho chilies
2 ounces dried guajillo chilies
½ c. Aleppo pepper
¼ c. olive oil
1 medium to large red tomato or 2 Tbsp tomato paste and 1/3 c. water
½ c. red wine vinegar
1/tsp salt
2 Tbsp fresh mint (optional)
1 large pinch ground cinnamon (optional)
2 Tbsp smoked paprika (optional)
Roast and peel and seed the red peppers
Toast the seeds lightly and let cool.
Seed, stem dried peppers, cover generously, moderately hot tap water 30 min drain.
Peel the tomato by blanching in boiling water 90 seconds and seed
Now put everything in a food processor and blend until smooth but still chunky

Let cool then jar and refrigerate. Keeps well.
Serve with pita and hummus or use as a rub or a marinate of fish or chicken. 
Pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, rose water more cumin, olive oil, add more garlic, hotter peppers, go CRAZY, man!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Creole Meat Loaf

5lb ground beef (chuck)
6 oz catsup
2 Eggs
1 ½ C bread crumbs (we made our own)
Sauté until cooked, cool before mixing w/ other ingredients
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 ½ c. chopped onion
¾ c. chopped celery
½ chopped green bell pepper
½ bunch chopped green onion
1 (‘3’ crossed out) shots Tabasco sauce
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2tbsp black pepper
½ Tbsp white pepper
½ Tbsp salt
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cayenne

 Bke at 350 until done (firm) about 45 minutes to an hour. Serve slices (about ten) smothered with the gravy that you made from the pan juices, smashed potatoes and any vegetable that you can think of. Oh, I don't know how to cut down this recipe.

Twelve Years Later

Twelve Years Later
 Debbie Lindsey

            Every day I pass her signature, stubborn and indelible, an autograph deeply imprinted from the added force of incompetence and malfeasance.  Katrina the hurricane, not The Flood, seemed to be saving her brute force for others and would have made her debut in New Orleans somewhat unremarkable if only the levees had done their job.  But they didn’t and I am reminded of this when I walk next to the three foot plus water line that remains on the glass door and its curtain that has hung stained since that August day.
            Every year, the anniversary of Katrina and the levee failures is met with diametrically opposing emotions and attitudes.  There are those who choose not to dwell on it and those (like me) who have trouble letting it go.  Some lives were damaged beyond repair and others whose lives were lifted up.  “Survivor guilt” is felt, to varying degrees, by those who lived on the sliver by the river and escaped the waters.  But no one, absolutely no one, was spared the pain.  And there is the collateral damage to families and friends who sat helplessly watching it unfold on televisions across the world.  Sometimes I think my sister, high and dry in Birmingham, was more frightened than we were here in the midst of it all.
            You learn quickly who simply can’t talk about it and respectfully change conversational course; but, most folks seem inclined to swap “war stories”.  Yes, it can be equated to having gone through combat and surviving in a war zone. As with war veterans, there is often that bonding, the camaraderie of commiseration that comes from shared dangers and the experiences of living through something historical.   And historical it was.
Katrina most certainly is something for the history books, and I say “is” as it cannot be placed in the past tense of “was”.  Much of this saga belongs to yesterday, however, we live in a landscape—organic, political, economic, and societal—that is forever changed and/or evolving as a result of Katrina and the levee malfunctions.  There were fifty-three breaches to our various canals and levees.  To date this is the largest residential disaster in U.S. history.  A major American city had its population reduced by half.  This natural and man-made catastrophe stands as this country’s costliest hurricane costing 135 billion just for NOLA.  And to this day these stats differ with a multitude of other sources yet all are shocking and admit to be record breaking.  The death toll will never be certain.
Much has been reported, rumored, and recounted about what took place during those days after the flood waters filled our city.  A great deal has been discredited, such as alligators and sharks swimming about.  Why the media wanted to dismiss this as urban myth is beyond me.  Certainly there were alligators—did they think that the gator was going to stay in Bayou St. John as its waters mingled with lake waters and not crawl or swim beyond some invisible boundary?  Heck a gentleman I knew was hospitalized at Lindy Boggs hospital at the edge of Bayou St. John and told of a rather large alligator in the building’s flooded lobby. As for sharks—well I know a very credible source in Gentilly who watched a fin gliding past his flooded home (just a bull shark perhaps).  When simple over-lapping of nature in otherwise urban environments becomes a “tall tale” you can see how easy it was for people to discount the truly shocking—things that folks simply could not wrap their heads around.
It truly was the wild, wild, west.  Anything could and did happen.  Heinous crimes and heroic deeds.  There was no precedent for the days and weeks that’s followed and certainly nothing was even remotely normal for the next year; and even as a rhythm reminiscent of life before Katrina slowly began to take root it would be years before significant reparations and restorations would outnumber the look and feel of a war zone.
            Lessons were taught and lessons were learned.  We know now to assume the worse from a storm and from our man-made protections.  But, and this is serious, we can never become complacent.  Have a plan, whether it is to stay or to go.  If evacuation is not possible then have every possible safety plan in place along with provisions. Stock non-perishable foods, a can opener, first-aid, pet supplies, solar or battery lighting (never candles—we nearly torched our house during Katrina), have prescriptions filled and zip-locked, and know that those cell phones will not be reliable for extended power outages.  Consider keeping or getting a land-line touch tone phone.  If totally dependent upon a cell then have an external back-up battery, a car adapter to plug in and charge from your car’s cigarette lighter.  Before a possible power loss charge phones, reduce to the cell phone’s lowest power mode, and then back away from that device until truly needed for life-saving communications.
            Also stock-up on lots of water, Pedialyte for hydration (my nerves and tainted foods wrought serious diarrhea), moist-toilettes, bleach, and heavy-gage garbage bags. And remember, that toilet ain’t gonna flush after several days (this is when those garbage bags in addition to cleaning out your refrigerator will be needed).  If you stay for the next flood you must remember what it was like twelve years ago.  And for the many new residents too young to have the Katrina Debacle in their memory’s reference--read about it now. I suggest: Chris Rose’s Pulitzer prize nominated “One Dead in Attic”, Douglas Brinkly’s “The Great Deluge”, and Google “17 of the Best Things Ever Written About Katrina” (HuffPost), for more informative reads. 
I often wonder how many folks I crossed paths with during those couple of days leading up to Katrina’s landfall that are no longer with us.  We were the lucky ones, the fools who rode it out.  And, for no good reason other than sheer luck am I able to sit and write about it today—twelve years later.  Consider this a cautionary tale.


Six Pack Spice Info

We ship. Place orders and payments on our website,  or call 504-528-8382
Joe’s 2017 (Taco Magic)
Ingredients: Kosher salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, arbol chilies, granulated garlic, onion flakes, Spanish paprika, smoked paprika, leaf oregano, cumin seed.
Uses: 3 tablespoons will well season a pound of meat (fish, chicken) for tacos, enchiladas etc, also good in beans, empanadas, ranchero sauce. Dust on stuff to grill
Greek Fisherman (Lemon Pepper Blend)
Ingredients: Organic lemon peel, black pepper, kosher salt, granulated garlic, dried onion, leaf oregano, dill weed, fennel seed
Uses: Any seafood, salads, shellfish pasta dishes, baked potatoes, cream sauces.
Summer Pie Spice Blend
Ingredients: Allspice, cinnamon, cardamom seed, cloves, ginger, nutmeg
Uses: use on heaping tablespoon for apple peaches pumpkin pies. Use on baked sweet potatoes, candied pecans and mulled ciders
Creole Crack Blend
Ingredients: Kosher salt, paprika, granulated garlic, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, leaf thyme, leaf oregano, leaf basil, cinnamon, and nutmeg
Uses: THIS is the spice to use on everything! Red beans, gumbo, as a blackening, French fries, mac and cheese, avocado, popcorn rims of bloody Mary glasses
Killer Griller (meat seasoning blend)
Ingredients: Kosher salt, smoked paprika, granulated garlic, onion flakes, cayenne pepper, black pepper, crushed red pepper, white pepper, leaf oregano, leaf thyme, leaf basil, peppermint leaf, rosemary leaf, celery seed, yellow mustard seed, cumin seed, coriander seed, allspice berries, seed fennel Uses: Braising, roasting, smoking, grilling beef, pork, ribs, chicken and fish. Use as a rub and in your BBQ sauces.
Ras al Hanout (Moroccan spice blend)
Ingredients: turmeric, cumin seed, ground ginger, Spanish saffron, black pepper, cardamom, seed fennel, mace, cubeb peppers, cayenne, white pepper, cloves, yellow mustard seed, poppy seeds, fenugreek seeds, star anise, granulated garlic, cinnamon bark, mint leaf, allspice, lavender flowers, organic rose petals, nutmeg

Uses:  Any dish that needs a curry like flavor, tagines, roasted cauliflower, sprinkle on fresh melon or mangoes, grilled vegetables and lime in the coconut milk sauce. 

New Orleans Olive Salad

Kitchen Witch New Orleans Olive Salad
2 medium carrots
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 small red bell pepper16 large green olives pitted
2 cups medium green olives pitted
1 cup brine-cured black olives
1 ½ cups extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup brining juice from olive jar
6 cloves fresh garlic minced
4 ribs celery
¼ cup (1 small jar) capers
10 sprigs flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
2 tsp dried leaf oregano
1 tsp dried basil leaf
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Reduce all pertinent ingredients to proper sandwich salad size (dice real small)
Mix well and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and enjoy!

P.S. Feel free to play around with ingredients i.e. use pimento stuffed olives and eliminate the small red pepper etc etc. 

New Orleans Vegan Red Beans and

Kitchen Witch Vegan Red Beans
Thanks for asking; here’s what I do:
The day before, I put on a pound of Camellia brand dried red kidney beans (2 ½ cups) to soak 12 hours at least, preferably over night; I use 3 quarts of water at least for the soaking. After soaking, I throw the soaking water away and rinse the beans in a colander with cold water; then I put the beans in a heavy bottom pot on the stovetop, on medium heat with 6 cups of water and bring up  to a boil. When they reach the boiling point, I transfer them (and the hot hot water) to a Crockpot and let them cook, covered on the ‘low’ setting, all day while I’m at work, or all night while I’m asleep; what’s that, 6-8 hours? If the beans set up some foam in the ‘up to boiling’ stage, just skim the foam off and toss it; however make sure that you keep the 6 cups of hot hot water.
When I get back to the beans I give them a good good stir aiming to break some of them up to form that good good gravy. Meanwhile I sauté 2 cups of diced onion in 2 ounces of vegetable oil, up with 6 ounces of Field Roast brand chipotle sausage, also (a larger)diced; this product has the advantage of having enough sodium, spices and heat to where I virtually need no other seasonings.
When the onions are sautéed translucent and the sausage is well heated (it’s already at a cooked stage when you buy it), I mix them in with the beans and serve them with crusty French bread over cooked rice (I only use brown rice, but you can use whatever rice you like). AND don’t forget the hot pepper sauce on the side (we like Crystal or Louisiana brands). Serves 6-8, leftovers are yummy and the rest freezes well.
Now, you can gussy the dish up with other ingredients; but, to me that’s like putting a suit on a monkey: you can certainly do it, but why would you want to? Advice? Try it my way first before you decide to confuse the dish. Thank you, Philipe

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

                                                               C. Ray Nagin
Phil laMancusa
He came on like gangbusters. Native son of the seventh ward and Treme who went to college on a baseball scholarship, took a BS in accounting and became a CPA. He took jobs around the country and landed with COX communications where he rose, at thirty three years of age, to Vice President and General Manager in 1989 with a pay of $400.00.00 a year.
He was active in city, state and national politics as a lobbyer and functioned well at the local level, performing with many civic organizations; he also had irons in the fire in many local business deals, a shrewd operator. At forty-six years old entered the New Orleans political scene by announcing his candidacy for mayor. He touted himself as a poor son, born amongst us in Charity Hospital and as a business leader would take the city to a new level. He was elected mayor in 2002.
Katrina came in 2005 and the mayor lost his effectiveness. He holed up at City Hall and rarely ventured out to see to his constituents well being. He did make a forceful rant against the Federal Government on WWL radio with an impassioned plea for help and a demand for assistance.
He narrowly won a second term with two thirds of voters still displaced and helped to contribute to the city’s slow progress on a path of recovery. However, it appears that he was working both sides of the street; wire fraud, conspiracy, bribery and money laundering got him a trial and a sentence in the slammer where you’ll find him today. He remains a lesson in greed, ineptness and showmanship bravado. His release is scheduled for May 25, 2023

                                                 Mitch Landrieu
Phil LaMancusa
            What can you say about Mitchell Landrieu? Politician and lawyer; son of a mayor, brother of a senator, one time deputy Governor and State representative; present mayor of New Orleans. First ran for mayor in 1994, narrowly lost in 2006 and took two thirds of the vote to win it in 2010.
            The city was left with a hundred million dollar shortfall thanks to the previous administration (C. Ray Nagin). He placed a hiring freeze on the police department and crime rates rose as police ranks dwindled.  He did things to beautify the city that our visitors will notice and left other parts to wither. He over saw the removal of city monuments (statues) that represented personages that were pro slavery and a minority of radicals on both sides of the argument disrupted the city with protests that took an additional portion of our police department from other duties. His infrastructure projects have cost money and have inconvenienced citizens. He is very adept at using federal monies for city projects and one of his gaffs is known as the ‘streetcar to nowhere’ on Rampart Street.
            Landrieu is a career politician and is a staunch advocate for juvenile justice system reforms; he also is a fiscal conservative actively working on and repealing an Orleans parish ‘amusement tax’ (2% of gross sales) and as a career politician is widely regarded as someone who has his eye on Washington D.C.
            He has reached term limits as a mayor and leaves the city with mixed viewpoints of his legacy. As mayor, he has done nothing wrong.
                                                            The Next Mayor
                                                         Phil LaMancusa

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Tattoos then and now

Tattoo you
Phil LaMancusa
      I don’t mind that they hurt like the Dickens, like a shard of burning, jagged broken glass being scraped into your skin with a feel and sound of an electrically short circuiting combined buzz saw and drill bit, and the blood that’s being wiped away signaling the permanence of that ink as it’s buried beneath and on your skin…forever. You walk in, flashing virgin epidermis and walk out with the Chinese symbol for “Light Starch” tattooed to your chest; it sounded like a fine idea at the time, you dreamt that you’d be reincarnated as a shirt and didn’t want the world to be too hard on you.   
        Physical evidence going back over five thousand years has shown us that there’s not much new under the skin, as far as inking goes; or the variety of people who adhere to the processes. Priestesses and pirates; soldiers, sailors and carnival workers; criminals and tradesmen; Samurais and slaves; religious pilgrims and whores all have had something to show on their skin that set them apart from the unadorned. Headhunters and circus showmen; Popeye the sailor and Lydia the Tattooed Lady; The Illustrated Man and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The Rose Tattoo, The Crying Heart Tattoo. From Siam to Siberia and Samoa; ink under the skin set sects apart --from ordinary citizenry --bringing luck and the protection of the Gods. 17th century seamen used tattoos as identifying marks to avoid unlawful impressments and as body identification in case of shipwreck. “Songs are like tattoos, you know, I’ve been to sea before”.
          When I was a kid in the fifties, we had fake transfer tattoos. I got my first real tat in 1962 in Hamburg Germany, another in the shadow of the Panama Canal; a Janis Joplin Rose from Lyle Tuttle’s studio in San Francisco; the word ‘Mentirosa’ (Liar) on one shoulder  to commemorate love lost; my daughter’s name on a forearm and yes, I’ve got “ROSIE” on my chest.
       Back in the days of my youth, it was the bad boys, the tough guys, the outlaws that sported ink; men got them in the military, women had showpieces in special places and --unspoken but understood-- all tattoos stayed clear of the face, neck and below the cuff line; a man with a tear tattooed to his face is said to have killed someone (two tears… two some-ones etc.), LOVE and HATE on the knuckles signified someone ready to use their fists, my mother’s first husband had FFFF on his knuckles signifying the Four F (Find ‘em, Feel ‘em Fu*k ‘em and Forget ‘em!) club. Back then, you could read a person by the pictures they had on their body because, yes, it hurts, it’s permanent and most times semi-thought out, but, your tattoo then became part of your identity and persona. I have my initials on my wrist from the needle, thread and India ink method used when I was incarcerated once; jailhouse tats are notorious in their complexities and stories.
         Back then a tattoo parlor had books of pictures that you could have put on your body and they charged by the illustration that was chosen; today, tat artists will charge by the hour and are capable of Michelangelo grade work in scope and concept plus there is an epidemic of amateurs that just need some friends to practice on. Ink has gone from Subculture to Pop Culture and it is a lot easier to get inked today; also, in some cases, a lot more expensive. Some of the better artists can cost between $300.00- $500.00 an hour (and up), in some parlors there’s an apprentice standing by to take the overflow just for the practice. In all cases you get what you pay for and then pay for what you’ve gotten.
       It is said that getting tats got goosed in 2005 with a TV show called Miami Ink and was further propelled into mainstream with social media , tattoo artist super stars and super stars that started sporting tattoos, but, I’m not quite sure if that statement is completely accurate; I was kinda busy with hurricanes that year.
         Putting aside deviance and decoration, today’s tattoo cult got its start in the 60’s with the Hippie and Biker cultures and went into full bloom with young women in the 80’s having lower back and nape of neck decorations, quite sexy at the time. Sports stars got into the act and younger kids wanted to emulate their heroes. And then it happened that bigger and more better became better and more bigger.
          That’s not to say that there aren’t a myriad of unprofessional (bad, naïve, inexperienced, homemade) tattoos out there that have a body wondering what a person must be thinking, or not thinking, to have something silly or less than wise permanently put on their skin such as the folks that look like someone has taken a Sharpie marker and doodled on them, or a name or saying that will mean nothing to the person five years down the road or that person that had neck and facial ink that will be a logical cause for limited employment opportunities.  
         Be that as it may, personally, I love tattoos, on myself and on other people; when I spy someone with tattoos, I want to go up and find the story behind them. Unfortunately, with the plethora of ink on bodies, I have this pessimistic fear that some people get inked ‘just because’. Perhaps they become addicted to the experience; perhaps they have too much money. I myself have a story with each of my renderings; they’re like pieces of art hung on the gallery of my body and I want more, except, I find that I can’t afford them.
       Would I recommend a person getting a tattoo? Yes, but with the caveat issued by Carlos Torres, a world renowned ink artist: “Think long term.”  (I say: “think nursing home!”) So, I’d shy away from Zombies, Herman Munster, a portrait of someone you (believe you) know/love, cat butts, Jesus playing basketball, ANY politician, sex organs, anything in old English lettering or above your collar line and for heaven’s sake, check all grammar and spelling so you don’t wind up with “Never Don’t Give up!” or “No Regerts”.       

Greek Festival in New Orleans

The New Orleans Greek Festival
Phil LaMancusa
            The New Orleans Greek Festival is held on the Memorial Day weekend May 26th -28th,  2017  and presented by the Holy Trinity Cathedral located at 1200 Robert E. Lee Blvd and that’s the first thing that you need to know. The second thing that you need to know is the word Efharisto (eff-kaar-EEs-toe!) and you need to be able to say it all in one breath; repeat after me Efharisto!!! The word is Greek and the meaning is “Thank You!” and you’ll want to say it often and with vigor as you attend New Orleans equivalent of the painting ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte’ by Georges Seurat (g’wan, look it up). It’s a family thing, an eating, drinking, dancing, milling about, lounging, laughing, smiling music thing.
For the kids there is a playground with a climbing wall, face painting, crafts and one of those bouncy tent things where you allow the little darlings to work off all of the extra steam that they seem to wake up with. Kids twelve years old and under have free admission (the rest of us kids pay $7.00).
There is live (Greek) music and dancing in the Hellenic step/style; you can come and show your stuff, learn or just watch and be amazed by what you see. There is free offsite parking, about a half a mile down the road, with shuttle buses to and from the event or you can park on the roadway to get in closer.

You can rent canoes for bayou cruising, there are contests, raffles and even a ‘Toga Sunday’ pageant with prizes. There are tours given of the Cathedral that allow you view artifacts of the faith. 

Gospel Tent

Under the Gospel Tent
Phil LaMancusa
Probably the oldest and very first attraction at The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is the Gospel Tent. At the first Jazz Fest in 1970 at Congo Square, where the tickets were $3.00, there were four stages and the Gospel Tent; many of the acts did not even have microphones. One of the first performers at that festival in the Gospel Tent was a woman names Mahalia Jackson, possibly the greatest gospel singer of all times and she was, as they said, returning home to perform. Forty-seven years later, as you know, the Fest has grown; but one rock that has remained steady is our Gospel Tent, the first you hear as you arrive and the last to sing you on your way when you leave.  
Anyone with the sense of a sea urchin knows that New Orleans is a spiritual city; scratch the surface of any folk here and they will assure you that they are “blessed to be alive” to which the proper response is: “I know that’s right!”  Why few white people here under the age of forty does not carry this message in their daily life, this is a mystery to me; I reckon that once you reach a certain age or if you were brought up singing the praises of the Lord (instead of petitioning the Lord with prayer), you naturally feel blessed every day, faithful and grateful.
 Be that as it may, I and my peer group count our days on this mortal coil as gifts from a higher authority, and praise be to whichever power that that may be. It’s really really easy for me to worship the thousand faces of God/Goddess that have granted me my life because I believe in them all; I am a Christian, Jew, Agnostic, Hindu, Buddhist, Baptist, Bacchus, beer drinking believer in the benevolence and bedlam of being.  Every Jazz Festival at the Gospel Tent my belief in Lord Jesus is super jump started again, with a charge strong enough to carry me through the year, you might say electrified. Every year when I go to the Fest, I know where to find Jesus and how could I not pay a visit, in fact several visits?
The advantage of being an all believer (from atheism to Zoroastrian) is that I can wander down any path and find my higher power ready to give my soul the strength that it needs to survive the weakness of my reserve, give me reserve to challenge my temptations, courage to fight my demons and put some gut in my strut; and when I walk into the Gospel tent, any hole in my soul is filled with the power of the people, performance and pure joy in the Lord. The music, the singing the spirit is infectious and I find myself swaying, singing, clapping and snapping with the holy, yes holy, atmospheric pressure.
Fair to say at this point that by in large were talking about an African American spirituality experience, for while I understand that white folks can have soul, they are (by in large) not as rhythmically inclined to belt out their raised voices in the adoration to one who can and truly does save. The music and songs are spiritual, Rock, Rhythm, blues, gospel and the primitive African call and response audience participation occurrence rolled in to one glorious exhausting heart expanding happening.
I have been floored by four glorious goldenrod gowned fully grown women; I have witnessed Blind Boys and Zion Harmonizers and by far I am carried away when a choir of fifty or sixty voices, in agreement and five pert harmony, lift their right to be heard unto the Lord. Can I get a witness?
And then there’s a slight pause in the music where Brother Love steps out with the microphone and challenges the audience that he has accepted as parishioners: “have you heard the word of God here today? (YES!) and do you feeeeeel the grace of the Lord (YES!) and do you believe that you have come to a HOLY place, a place of worship, THE HOUSE OF THE LORD?”  (YEEEESSSSS!) “then I want you to look around you and pick up all that trash that you brought in with you because this IS the house of the Lord and we do NOT leave trash on the floor; if you brought it in with you, then take it back out and dispose of it properly. “I WILL NOT HAVE TRASH IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD! Can I get an Amen?” “AMEN!”

free people of color in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Free People of Color
New Orleans’ Third Society
            It might be important to note, as we reach our three hundredth birthday, that New Orleans is not, what can be considered, an old settlement/colony and that for over two hundred years before us the societies that fashioned our world here were in full swing; long before Sieur de Bienville brought the first two slaves (George and Mary) into the French outpost that was in the crescent of the river that the Ojibwa Indians called misi zibi or Father of Waters.
            The period of exploration and land grabbing was pretty much a white man’s undertaking and the subjugation of ‘primitive’ peoples (indigenous American, African) for pleasure and profit was part of the modus operandi of the male Anglo explorers and exploiters. It goes without saying also, that a shortage of European women did not deter the conquering heroes from exercising their sexual impulses with whatever female happened to be on hand; Indigenous Americans were harder to handle and soon were either displaced or destroyed, however, the slave trade was well established and provided ample opportunity and supply of feminine companionship. As a result, Africans, as time went on, were subjected to a genetic melding with Europeans, these mixed blooded Africans multiplied in numbers and became a new culture and class of citizenry; and they needed to be reckoned with, much for very practical purposes.
            Exploring and evidencing was part and parcel for this third race of peoples to fit into Anglo/Afro society, and the complexities of this racial bridge had astounding consequences. From the beginning of our French and Spanish occupation-- with the occurrence of manumission and the outright ability of an enslaved person to purchase their freedom-- a class of peoples did arise throughout our colonies and was labeled Les Gens de Couleur Libres--- Free People of Color (FPC). As time went on, classes within this class gave rise to definitions and labeling concerning the degree of proportion of blood—Black compared with White--that these Creoles of Color had running through their veins. Mulatto (50% African); Quadroon (25% African); Octoroon (1/8 or less); “not all Free People of Color were Creole and not all Creoles were free people of color but over time there has been some tendency to conflate the two, or use the word to refer to people of mixed race, which many but not all free people of color were” (LSU libraries).
Generation after generation, through the systems of outright taking of concubines and the more formal Placage arrangement, placed women of color into the arms of European men--perpetuating the systems themselves.  And, with the rearing and educating of the resulting offspring and subsequent societal mobility as a side effect, not only was eventual freedom a likelihood but, the ensuing possibility of economic security and solidarity from this closely knit society (FPC), as well, was practically guaranteed.  Against all odds the FPC actually thrived and prospered. ‘On the eve of the Civil War (1862), in New Orleans alone, there were 18,000 FPC owning and paying taxes on $15,000,000.00 worth of property.’ (Le Musee de f.p.c.) That’s literally between ten and fifteen percent of the population working in professional capacities, as artists and artisans, opening businesses, owning land and in some cases purchasing slaves for personal use.
            As first generation American and a northerner to boot, the scope and importance that FPC had that influenced not just the United States in general, but New Orleans in particular is somewhat beyond my ken (and possibly yours); however, I can tell you from what I have read and can understand, if you are going to understand this city to any degree, you need to know how FPC formed the foundation of our world here; the very fabric of our Joie de Vive.
            That being said, me expounding what I know about the FPC would be like you listening to a child trying to explain what’s inside a book by looking at the cover; however, I can tell you how to find out the whole story of the FPC from the people who study and live this historical American phenomenon; they are here in New Orleans and hold the pieces of the puzzle that make up who we are, where we came from and where we’re going.
            For sure you could just go to Professor Google and that would end up with inaccuracies, confusion and besides it would keep you from discovering the real deal. There’s a place that you can physically go to and have an immersion that will leave you wiser in spirit and intelligence while opening up your heart and your mind. It’s Le Musee de f. p. c. at 2336 Esplanade Ave. New Orleans, La. open Wednesday through Sunday; call for times and to book a tour 504-323-5074
            Book a tour? Yes. Situated in a wonderful Greek revival (I call it a) mansion are documents and photographs and art work and a knowledgeable staff that gave me more information in forty-five minutes than I could digest in weeks. From the French Quarter it’s about a twenty minute walk or bus ride or whatever, past stately large homes and shading oak trees where at one time many FPC had homes. The neighborhood is called upper Treme, where also, FYI was an enclave of Greek, Lebanese and Syrian peoples; but that’s another story. Heck there are more stories here than you can shake a stick at.
            So, there you have it (or as much as I have room to spill out to you) for those of you that want to know more about this city than red beans and rice on Monday and where to find a decent happy hour; know this: unless you learn about our heritage (s) here, you will never fully understand New Orleans.