Food history projects preserve the customs that nourish and grow our children, families, communities and culture. The makers of Tabasco Sauce and the Southern Foodways Alliance sponsored the New Orleans Eats, An Oral History Project, documenting an important and delicious part of our lives.
I loved the food, sights, music and craziness of New Orleans when I visited before Katrina. There were sightseers and partiers everywhere with long lines to access restaurants and night clubs. It was great walking around the Mississippi River and stopping for beignets, French doughnuts or fried fritters originally brought to Louisiana by the Acadians, at the Café Du Monde, the original French Market Coffee Stand since 1862 serving the best coffee with chicory I have ever tasted.
The hot crispy doughnuts came covered in powdered sugar that blew all over my black shirt and pants as I tried to eat the delicacy without making a total mess. It was pointless. Part of the fun was getting covered in sugar.
My first trip back to N’Orleans after Katrina was very quiet. Many businesses had closed down. There were still many homes in ruin with big X’s painted across their doors.
It was a sad, empty place but it was rebuilding the culture, music, foods and traditions that made it strong. I checked into my hotel and then walked directly to the Cajun Cabin for turtle soup and gumbo, careful not to overeat because I knew that my next destination, following a quick power walk along the banks of the Mississippi, was Café Du Monde for a full order of beignets and coffee. The sugar covered me from head to elbows. I smiled with satisfaction eating my way through N’Orleans’ living history, past, present and future.