3.25.2010

A New Orleans Wedding

Jonathan and I were married at the Peristyle in City Park on Saturday the 20th. Lots of little things went wrong. (For example, it rained all day. Of course it did - it's March in New Orleans. Of course the days before and after were both beautiful.) We're still married. That's the funny thing about a wedding - the whole thing can be a train wreck, and on the other end, as long as you took those vows and signed that license, you're good to go. The rings and parties and cakes and champagne are all just a bonus...

3.03.2010

Chocolate City: rediscovering coffee and chicory.

My dad is a coffee purist, or at least he thinks he is – you should never keep beans in the freezer like that. But my mama, at home she drinks Union Coffee and Chicory. It’s a flavor I’ve known for my whole life, of course, since I was yea high and I’d get a coffee milk after being woken up too early in the morning at my grandpa’s house. And then there’s the cafe au lait at Morning Call – when I was real young I always opted for the chocolate milk instead, but by the time I hit double digits I was ordering “coffee and an order of donuts,” craving that caramel colored drink served up in heavy ceramic.

Once I became an “adult”, though, chicory coffee was just never something I adopted as my own. Hard to say why; frequently it was just a result of being too lazy to even brew coffee at home, opting instead for a medium sized medium roast from PJ’s or Rue de la Course, or the little coffee shop on Harrison that has now, seemingly inevitably, become a Starbucks. Chicory was something I knew about: a root, strong in flavor but lacking in caffeine, a creole classic, bla bla bla; just not something I imbibed. That it was conspicuously lacking in the city’s coffehouses seemed to reinforce my decision to drink “real” coffee.

Funny how leaving a place can make you nostalgic for things you never knew were important to you. On the third anniversary of Katrina, I released a zine called Anywhere I Lay My Head. I had a bit of a release event whereat refreshments were served. Alongside Brocato’s seed cookies, of course I served coffee. And what else would I serve but coffee and chicory? I had my mom send me up a few pounds of Union.

The event didn’t have the largest turnout, and my mom had sent far more than we needed anyway, so a year and a half later there was still a pound hanging around my house. Come this past Saturday, we ran out of coffee – for my fiance, this is a crisis akin to being without electricity or water. And so, on a whim, I offered up the Union.

Of course, at my mama’s house coffee and chicory is drunk with Pet evaporated milk. Jonathan and I do not drink milk. So how to approach the molasses-like brew? He prepared his like he would his regular coffee and got on with his day. For me though, it had begun to become an epiphanous experience, so I decided to go cafe au lait style.

What I’m going to describe next will strike some old school New Orleanians as something approaching sacrilegious, but just bear with me. I took down my oversized Cafe du Monde mug – also sent down by mom – and filled it not quite halfway with my omnipresent almond milk, which I then heated until a bit too hot to put your finger in comfortably. To that I added a small spoonful of agave nectar (I know, I know! I’m just avoiding refined sugars right now). And finally I topped my mug with the coffee.

The substance that filled my cup was a rich, incredibly dark brown color – Jonathan had used as much ground coffee as he would normally, not realizing that coffee and chicory is a different beast. It looked something like chocolate, and tasted something like chocolate too – though of course it has a flavor all its own. I spent the next half hour happily sipping as I prepared a huge pot of butterbeans and set them to simmer for the afternoon, giving myself a warmup every now and then. Late February snowstorm be damned – holding that cup, beans on the stove, my kitchen felt like home.