5.28.2011

But what is she EATING?

So, I know, some of you are thinking, isn't this supposed to be a food blog?

OK, yeah, kinda. :P

I get it. You want to know what I've been eating since I've been back. And the answer is, everything! OK not everything. But dernit, I'm trying. There's so much here that I love. Even just in these weeks that I've been back I've been able to expand my list of vegan-friendly options in Nola. You've seen it, right? (Check it out here!!) I know it's just gonna keep getting bigger.

Anyway. So far, in the short four weeks I've been home, I've eaten at:
Jazmine Cafe
  • Frosty's
  • Mona's (about four times)
  • Surry's (at least twice)
  • Ninja
  • Reginelli's
  • Juan's (twice? three times?)
  • La Thai (at least twice)
  • Brocato's
  • The Creole Creamery...
I'm probably forgetting some. It's kinda nuts. It's kinda a miracle that I haven't gained about fifteen pounds, actually. It's probably only because all this unpacking and re-arranging is keeping me in shape.

What's that you say? I should be finished unpacking by now? I believe I cleared that up about two weeks ago...

5.24.2011

Fest Success

When I went to Jazz Fest and found vegan red beans and rice, I felt like I'd won the lotto. Well, multiply that by about a thousand and that's what it was like to walk into the Third Annual Nola Veggie Fest - the New Orleans Vegan Food Festival. It's really like a festival designed specifically for me, if you think about it. It's refreshing to be in a space filled with like-minded people who have come together to create this type of event.

My duty at the fest was to help the amazing KC of KC's Babycakes sell her delish vegan cupcakes. But before I settled in I just had to make the rounds through the enormous space of the Zeitgeist - which was filled to the brim with fantastic veg organizations and products. Notably, in under an hour I finally became a member of the New Orleans Food Co-Op and met Jasmin Singer of Our Hen House. Not bad eh?

I also sampled delicious vegan foods and beverages like a coconut water green tea cocktail from Super Food Bar. I do believe I'll be visiting him on Magazine Street for another one of those. Most. Refreshing. Thing. Evar! I'm also interested to check out Velvet, bravely located directly across the street from Whole Foods on Magazine. Vegan tea cakes? Yes thank you.

Wayfare Foods, Tofurkey, Whole Soy & Co., Coconut Bliss, and many (many, many) others were in attendance. There was so much to see and do and sample that I could barely keep up with tweeting it all for the Vegan Etsy Team and NOiG - Twitter is a big job when there's so much to take pictures of! Like, for instance, the amazing stacks of BOOKS!!

When I returned to my station, vegan cupcakes were flying off of KC's table. And why not - vegan cupcakes practically sell themselves! It was great chatting with fest-goers, who ranged from dedicated vegans to the veg-curious. That's the beauty of cupcakes (and festivals full of open-minded people): they bring everyone together.

As I was leaving the fest and thought my day was done, I encountered what may have been the most exciting part of the whole day: the food tent for Naturally Naw'lins Vegan Cuisine. This young gentleman, Mr. Timothy Moore, doesn't have a storefront yet. But I do mean yet. His food is amazing! Totally vegan, totally delicious "soul food" style cooking, he is sure to be a rising star in the Nola veg world. I'll be keeping an eye out for him, and keeping you posted!

It was a super fun day, and I made connections with people in the Nola veg community that I hope to see more of in the near future. Who knows, at Veggie Fest 2012 I may have a table of my own. ;)

5.19.2011

Nola Veggie Fest! Cupcake Slinging! I, in the middle.

Yep, it's the Veggie Fest. Veg*ns! In New Orleans! Festing! It's what we call festival season here in New Orleans, and we have a festival for pretty much everything. Jazz, Bayous, Tomatoes, Greekness, and what of course I think is the best one of all... vegetableness! Woot. All manner of tablers, speakers, and fest goers will be present, really living up the joint.

I will be present and accounted for at this particular Veggie Fest on Sunday, helping my dear friend KC sling her amazing vegan cupcakes. In case you were at my vegan wedding last year, it was KC who made those delectable little cakelets that everyone went mad for.

So here's my official cheery pitch, and I mean it!!

That's right! It's time celebrate all things veg at the Nola Veggie Fest! This year the fest is at the Zeitgeist, an awesome multicultural and multidisciplinary event space, big enough for one and all to enjoy all that the fest has to offer. So come Saturday, come Sunday, come both days! Be there and/or be square!

5.15.2011

New Orleans: A Lovesong.

I am living in the chaos of an unpacked house. My clothes are still in suitcases; my food is still in boxes. My books, while not unpacked, are of course easily accessible. Heaven forbid I should have a craving for my Hemingway short stories at 1am and not be able to find them.

It seems like a lot of this putting away should be done already. But it's just not. For this I can make many excuses, and even give some reasons, and a good part of it can be explained by sheer exhaustion. After all, I've been living like this, on one end or the other now, for over a month - it takes its toll.

But at the core of all the excuses and reasons and explanations there is something, some ephemeral thing, some object or concept that I have not yet been able to grasp. This thing called New Orleans.

Yes, New Orleans, I'm blaming you. You are in my heart and head and soul, and yet I don't fully understand you. Like a lover, I don't know that it's possible to know you completely. Just when I think I've got you figured out, you surprise me, thrill me, break my heart, and then turn around and stitch it back together again. Bordering on obsession, I never stop wanting more from you - even when you frustrate me to tears, even when I want to wring your neck. It is impossible not to forgive you, and our scrapes never last long. You are too beautiful not to love, too complex and mysterious not to investigate.

So I will breathe you in, smell you, taste you, listen closely to your every sigh and exclamation. Make you my own and become part of you again. Maybe in the process add something to your rainbow mosaic. And you, in turn, will continue to distract me from unpacking.

5.07.2011

My father, the car (salesman)

On Saturday, my daddy bought me a car. Yes, really.

I have decided I am not above this for several reasons. For one, I need a car and I can't afford to buy one. I was going to lease one, thus jumping onto the same rental merry-go-round that I've been in for the past 15 years with dwellings. Fun!

For two, in a way he's just paying me back for the $240 a month that I've been spending on therapy for the past five years, and will continue to spend most likely until I retire. Because when it comes to crazy, you know what they say: like daddy, like daughter!

But I think the bottom line is that there's really no reason for me to feel bad about it anyway. So my parents are a bit more comfortable in their later years, and my dad made me a rather expensive and very useful gift. So what? He didn't actually buy me the whole car - he just put down a sizable downpayment. I'll be making the payments on the loan, which is in my name. And my excellent credit rating got me a very low fixed interest rate. So take THAT, all of you invisible people judging me!

An interesting thing popped up during the transaction - something I'd forgotten about, or maybe never really registered in the first place. Which is that for several months not long after Katrina, my dad sold cars at a Lincoln-Mercury dealership on the Westbank.

Now, you don't know my dad, so you have know idea how strange this is. My father is one of those men who gets nervous if there are more than three people in a room. Other human beings are not his forte. So that he took employ in a position where communication is everything and personality is key? Frankly I'm a little sad that I never saw it in action, because it's pretty hard to imagine.

You may be wondering, how did that come up? This is the part where you have to understand that for all its expanse in square miles, New Orleans is really just a small town, with every neighbor peering into everyone else's backyards and everyone being somebody's cousin. And so, as fate or luck or sheer Nola degrees of separation would have it, the manager of the Honda dealership we went to was of course managed by the man who hired my father to sell cars back in 2006.

5.05.2011

Great on everything!

My husband believes he's from the south. The thing is, though, that he was born and raised in the mountains of western Virginia. It snows there. You know what I'm saying?

New Orleans seems strange to him. He claims it's not the south because you can't get sweet tea in the restaurant. And he's right, we're not like Georgia or Alabama or, for pete's sake, the Carolinas. But oh, it's the south alright. It's been said that we're really just the northernmost city of the Caribbean, and maybe that's the closest to the truth of the matter. What no one can dispute is that, while we are undoubtedly southern, we are also something other, something different. Something special.

There is much to learn when becoming a new New Orleanian. How to pronounce Treme, Calliope, Tchoupitoulas, and Pontchartrain. How to drive through a map where north and south become "towards the lake" and "towards the river", because two streets that supposedly run east-west can cross at a 90 degree angle. Where to go for the best Vietnamese, what the best coffee shops are, where to get the best sno ball, and what a sno ball is in the first place.

Having grown up awash in the vernacular, it's hard to realize how much that seems commonplace to me is realy regional, endemic. It started to dawn on me when I was excited to pass by the old Blue Plate factory and he turned to me and said, "What's Blue Plate?"

And then there's what to do with Tony Chachere's. First of all, it's pronounced something like "satcherie's". Why? he asks. You don't ask why. Because. Jonathan recently proposed that I start a blog wherein I actually try it on "everything" - ice cream, mango, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, what have you - and report the results. But that's not really the point of Tony's. The point is that you use it when you're supposed to use it, and you know when that is. He'll know soon enough.

He left two days ago, flew back to New York. It seems that the big bad city can't let go of him just yet; Chanel or MTV or some such big fancy mucketymuck just can't get their event off the ground unless my baby is there to make it all happen. And it's good for him to be needed, of course. I need him here, too, but he'll be here soon enough. Until then my heart will ache for him, and I'll daydream of all the things New Orleans will show him. And I can spend some time with my mama n' them.

5.02.2011

We made it through that water

The first time I lived here, I drove around listening to "my" music. This is because I was a silly little fool.

Now I know better. For the last several years, during visits and whatnot, I've listened almost exclusively to WWOZ while riding around town. When I get a car, I will have exactly two stations programmed into my buttons: OZ and WTUL. (Hey, shut up. I am so not too old to listen to "college" music.)

Our triumphant return this week has of course coincided with the 42nd Annual Jazz Fest - which I will go right ahead and call the most important music festival in the country. If you've never been, it's hard to describe the enormity of it. At any given time, there's at least eight or ten bands playing - for eight hours a day, for seven days over two weekends. You do the math.

During Jazz Fest, OZ broadcasts live from the Jazz tent, and also plays selections from the various performers of past and present fests. And one song that I am hearing over and over, that hits me in the heart in a way that's hard to describe, is "We made it through that water" by Free Agents Brass Band. Starting out with blasts of brass and a refrain of "I'm so glad to be back home," it captures the pain and the love and the near euphoria I'm feeling of finally being back in this place.
When I lost my city, almost lost my mind
I'm in and out of hotels,
Feel like I'm doin' time
The song addresses some of the far more severe suffering that went on in the city, experiences that I didn't even get close to - thank/but by the grace of (choose your deity). When they sing "we made it through that water, that muddy muddy water," they don't mean it figuratively. They mean up to the chest. But it also waves rebirth in the face of destruction. You can take our houses, and you can take our cars. But you can't take our music, or our love. YOU CAN'T HAVE OUR CITY. We will take it back. We will always take it back.

You know
Like I know
Ain't no city like
N O

5.01.2011

Homecoming.

I can see the streetcar from my kitchen. I can see my kitchen from the streetcar.

The rabbits don't know what to think. They're just glad to be out of the car.

Everything here is lush and green and ALIVE. Rich green carpets of trees drape over streets, providing much needed shade. The live oaks shelter us all. I've missed the camellias and azaleas, but not the gardenias. And who needs dogwoods when you can have giant magnolia trees, with their dark and glossy emerald leaves?

It's hard to believe I'm home. Or rather I know I'm home, but I don't fully know that I'm not leaving again. For years it's been easy to fully embrace being present here, and leaving has been excruciating. I'm overwhelmed with everything that has yet to be accomplished, but I need to embrace a time-honored New Orleans tradition: worry about that tomorrow. After all, it'll come whether you like it or not.