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by Gerard DiLeo 3 months ago in travel · updated 3 months ago
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Brain-freeze Alert!

New Orleans, Louisiana, is a very unique city. Being a port city, the accent the people speak is not Southern. It's not even Cajun, which is the cliché always heard on TV--and badly, too. The accent is a port city accent, more related to New York or Boston than it is to the Southern drawl of any city below the Mason-Dixon line.

New Orleans is a fun city, but it is as dangerous as it is fun; those who are dangerous are that way because they are having no fun at all. Best not to cross them.

There is a Jamaican sensibility to industriousness there (or the lack thereof). Don't worry, be happy. It's a wonder anything gets done at all. Yet, efficiency is a charm-killer. If this city were to haul ass and get to everything any city should, the fun would all drain like an unfastened balloon let go into the air. So there's a choice: laissez-faire or get things done. New Orleans chooses laissez-faire. This makes it trying, sometimes, to live there, but so much fun to visit.

The legacies of New Orleans are numerous. Besides the music (e.g., Jazz Fest), Mardi Gras--which is so much more than the beads and doubloons, and the French Quarter and Warehouse District, there is the food. Ah, the food.

Food so good it'll kill you. (AKA, consensual suicide.)

In most French restaurants outside of New Orleans, you go in hungry, you spend $300, and then you walk out hungry. There, you walk in famished (an endemic neurological disposition), spend, well, not that much, and walk out overstuffed, lethargic, and probably drunk.

Alcohol is a staple there. You'll wonder if they teach drunk driving as a part of Driver's Ed. It's the only place where people know how to drive just as badly in the rain as in fair weather.

As dreaded as the winter that's coming to Winterfell in Game of Thrones, there is the summer of New Orleans. It is the trash can for every front, trough, low, and evil atmospheric cell coming from the West; except for the hurricanes that come from the Southeast, targeting the below-sea-level city with its evil Coriolis zephyrs.

It's not the heat, it's the stupidity. Stupidity is synonymous with humidity, because to be there in summer is just asinine. The heat is cemented by a wall of moisture that hits you like a wall. Turn right back around on the elevated jetway and go back to wherever you came from--to bland food and things from the sea that no one where you live has any idea what to do with.

Embrace the wall of heat, meld with it, pass through it. You're now in a place where you cannot find a bad bowl of gumbo anywhere. (Just like, anywhere else, you can't find a good bowl of gumbo; they may call it gumbo, but it ain't gumbo!)

There is more to the crescent city than its famous restaurants. There is a secret delicacy that puts beignets a distant second on the list of guilty pleasures. By the time you osmose through that diluvial humidity barrier, you're ready for it. You need it. You've got to have it. It's an emergency.

The Sno-Ball.

No doubt you've had shaved ice flavored with commercial-grade flavoring of some sort. The difference between shaved ice and sno-ball ice is the same as comparing hail to fine, wind-blown, powdery snow. It's just physics: the smaller the scintilla of ice, the more surface area to bond with the flavoring. Eat one sno-ball, and you'll never eat shaved ice again. In fact, you'll scorn it; you'll condemn it as an insult to ice everywhere.

Ever since New Orleanian Ernest Hansen took his invention, the ice-shaving Hansen Sno-Bliz machine, to the streets of New Orleans in the 1930s, the world of shaved-ice-cum-syrup has never been the same.

Atomized, frozen H2O is drenched over with flavors as artificial as your adult self will allow. (But this is no time to limit yourself!) You don't eat the sn0-ball, you suck it dry. There is a cascade of syrup coalescing at the bottom where your special sno-ball straw reaches, and you draw it up and then savor the flavor. When that makes a rude noise, indicating you got it all, you churn the ice with the straw by repeatedly stabbing into it, and more melts. More coalesces. Suck, churn, repeat.

"Wedding Cake," "Nectar," "Ice Cream," and the others--hundreds of flavors.

And then you don't just order the flavor. You add the prefix, cream, as in "Cream-Nectar," and atop the flavoring will be poured a crown of condensed milk. And then, if you're really an aficionado, ask them to plant a scoop of ice cream (flavor of your choice) into the middle of it, so your pancreas can try to make the mid-course correction, but exhale from exhaustion, and just give up.

Now, it's time for nothing else but that hot summer's day afternoon nap until your insulin levels are re-established. By that time, it's suppertime. Did anyone say "Raw Oysters?" (--Which are nothing more than a vehicle upon which to deliver the spicy cocktail sauce of ketchup, lemon juice, and horseradish.)

Any time is a good time for a sno-ball. Before the jambalaya; after the boudin; or even during the crawfish étouffée. And certainly between the soft-shell crab po'boys.

The people of New Orleans, like those in most American cities, are fat. Hardly a concern, BMI is a four-letter word in New Orleans. But here's the deal: if you're fat anywhere else, shame on you; if you're fat in New Orleans, well, who could blame you? It's called quality of life. And then you die. You die happy.


About the author

Gerard DiLeo

Writing full time now in Phase II of his life. Tangential thinking and hippocampal reality from left to right on the page.


email: [email protected]

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