A Visit to New Orleans, Part 1

“New Orleans’ food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin.” -Mark Twain

For the past two years I’ve gone to New Orleans to volunteer with Rebuilding Together. Those trips have been the best experiences of my life. Getting to understand the importance of that city and to help them recover is something I will never forget.

To me the most important thing about New Orleans is the food. I love food and always have, so when it comes to unique cuisine I’m always up for trying anything once.

On my first trip to New Orleans I took a class at The New Orleans School of Cooking. We made crawfish etouffee and chicken and Andouille gumbo. Andouille is traditionally a French coarse-grained sausage made with pork, pepper, onions, wine and seasonings and was introduced to New Orleans by French immigrants.

I tried gator for the first time last year and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it; it was like chewy chicken. I also had my first beignets, deep fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar and a muffuletta, a sandwich layered with olive salad, salami, pepperoni, and provolone. New Orleans food is just as eclectic as their culture! 

Gumbo Tales by Sara Roahen is a book I wish that I read before I traveled to New Orleans, but I actually bought it this year on my second trip. I had already received a history lesson at the New Orleans School of Cooking, but Sara gave me an outsider’s perspective and appreciation of the food the city offers. She explains how gumbo is different everywhere in the city depending on where you are located in its neighborhoods and what has passed down traditionally between generations.

The second most important thing is the music. Smelling gumbo and hearing a second line come down the street tend to go hand in hand.

When it comes to jazz, funk, and soul, I am completely clueless. I know that the music I listen to today has been influenced by these genres. I’m also aware of how the city of New Orleans through the numerous cultural influences in that region birthed jazz, funk, and soul. From the dances at Congo Square to the crowded jazz halls on Frenchmen Street, the music is a treasure for your soul. The music forces you to move … you will find yourself dancing with hardly any provocation. The rhythm and beat of the trombone, bass and saxophone makes the crowd become part of the music.

Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens: The Big Ol’ Box of New Orleans is the quintessential soundtrack to the City of New Orleans. A reputable cheat sheet, so to speak, of the most influential musicians and music that many of us have heard, but never understood its importance to the city itself. This collection becomes a tutorial of the New Orleans’ sound from Louis Armstrong’s raspy voice and stellar trumpeting to the founder of the Rebirth Jazz Band, Kermit Ruffins’ own trumpeting skills.

The Scarlet Letter Revisited

“The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers,—stern and wild ones,—and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.”  -The Scarlet Letter

What I love most about The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is it’s timelessness. It is just as relevant now as it was when it was first published. No matter ones opinion it sparks conversation from all sides. Here are a few items that revisit that theme:

When She Woke, by Hillary JordanThe novel When She Woke by Hillary Jordan gives us a futuristic version of The Scarlet Letter. Hannah Payne’s life revolved around God first and family second due to living in a world where faith and politics go hand in hand. Yet Hannah has always had a slight rebellious side and when the State of Texas deems Hannah a murderer with the victim being her unborn child she finds herself alone in a white room with her skin dyed red. In her society those that commit crimes are dyed and sent out to live in the world. Not willing to expose the man who fathered the child, a respected pastor, nor the physician that helped her she adds more time on to her sentence and will spend the next sixteen years as a red. After being released she begins the process of discovering who she is despite what her crime claims her to be.

Occasionally there is a teen movie that I can’t help but watch over and over again. MyEasy A, a film by Will Gluck secret shame, so to speak, is Just My Luck and 10 Things I Hate About You. My newest guilty pleasure is Easy A, which is a modern high school take of The Scarlet Letter. Olive Penderghast, played by Emma Stone, finds her life, which was normally spent in high school obscurity, the center of a false rumor of her losing her virginity. Unfortunately the rumor was started by herself to her best friend in the bathroom only to be overheard by the holier than thou Marianne. Once this rumor takes off it morphs into a whole different beast and rather than try to dispel them she claims them by wearing a red A. Although she tries to use her new found strength to help those in need she causes more harm to her reputation and it begins to affect everyone around her till she has no choice, but to finally reveal the truth.

Voice on the Radio: Fictional DJs

On the radio we heard November Rain
                  That solo’s really long but it’s a pretty song
                                     We listened to it twice cause the DJ was asleep
Regina Spektor

With a Little Luck, by Caprice Crane.Radio DJ Berry Lambert  lives her life shrouded with superstition in the novel With A Little Luck by Caprice Crane. She avoids black cats and cracks in the sidewalk, her father is a professional gambler who considersBerry to be his best good luck charm, and after two failed relationships she’s sure her next one will surely disappoint her cause after all things happen in threes. When she meets fellow DJ Ryan Riley, their on-air battle turns romantic, but the last thing Berry wants is to fall for Riley since he is number three. While waiting for the bottom to drop out, Berry just might lose the best thing she ever had.

In Life Unexpected — The Complete First and Second Seasons we meet 15 year old Lux who has decided, after years of being in and out of foster caLife Unexpected: The Complete First and Second Seasons, on DVD.re, to file a petition for emancipation. However, she’ll have to get her birth parents’ permission first. Nate Bazile and Cate Cassidy are in for a big surprise when Lux shows up at Nate’s bar and then Cate’s radio show. Although, both are willing to sign over their rights to Lux, the court has a different idea: to grant them temporary custody. Nate has some growing up to do if he wants to be a father to Lux and Lux has tuned into her mother’s radio station when she needed comfort not knowing who Cate was. Everyone will need to change in order to become a family

Charlie All Night, by Jennifer Crusie.Charlie All Night by Jennifer Crusie had more romance than I usually read, but it was still an interesting story. Allie McGuffey has been dumped and demoted from her prime time slot by the radio DJ she produced into a star. Enter temporary DJ Charlie Tenniel Allie’s new project for the night time hour and if Allie can make him famous and also get over her ex at the same time what could go wrong? Charlie is only doing a favor for dad, whose friend owns the radio station, and has no intention of becoming famous or getting involved in any romantic entanglements, but there’s just something about Allie.


They say the first 24 hours are the most crucial when trying to locate a missing person. These stories don’t have that luxury…

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, by Sara GranI was originally drawn to the book Claire Dewitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran because the story takes place in New Orleans and I have a certain fascination with the city. New Orleans is beautiful and tragic, stunning and dirty…everything all at once.  The story and its characters are very much the same way. It’s centered on Private detective Claire Dewitt who isn’t someone you can put in a box; she is anything but normal, and her methods are even more unusual. She takes a case searching in post-Katrina New Orleans for Vic Willing, a prosecutor notorious for getting the bad guys when they go free, which happens more often than not.

In 1991 Charlotte and Nora are eleven years old, they have a babysitter named Rose, and theyIn Search of Rose Notes, by Emily Arsenault are obsessed with the Time Life books Mysteries of the Unknown collection. In Search of the Rose Notes by Emily Arsenault follows the life of these two young girls and their missing babysitter, Rose. The story goes back and forth between the past and fifteen years later when the body of Rose is found. Now in their early twenties, the girls will have to overcome what they thought they knew to uncover the real truth behind Rose’s disappearance.

So Much Pretty, by Cara HoffmanAfter covering the mean streets of Cleveland, newspaper reporter Stacey Flynn doesn’t expect too much excitement in the small upstate New York town of Haeden, but when Wendy White goes missing and shows up in a ditch five months later she thinks for once she might have some big news to write about. In this town though no one will talk to her believing it couldn’t be one of them that did such an awful deed. Stacey does the best she can to bring the community around by exploring the underbelly of the town, but only eccentric fifteen year old Alice Piper really listens.  In So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman we see how ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away, but will continue to spread until lives become intertwined through tragedy.

Baking Day Adventure!

Martha Stewart’s New Pies and Tarts: 150 Recipes for Old-Fashioned Favorites and Modern Classics came in recently and I was shocked to find it had no holds so I snapped it up and promised my co-workers that goodies would soon be on the way.

I had a whole day off set aside to bake! I read through the cookbook and decided on three recipes: Chewy Chess Tart, Apple Butter Hand Pies, and Quiche. After making a list of the groceries I needed to buy I realized I didn’t have a tart pan! And neither did QFC, Safeway, and True Value…dang! Luckily, I was able to find a spring form pan, which would have to suffice. I started off making the dough for the quiche and ran into another problem…I didn’t own a rolling pin either?! After running around my house trying to find a substitute I settled on my crystal vase…sad, but true. It worked out just fine, but so far it wasn’t the easy recipes stopping me, but my lack of Continue reading “Baking Day Adventure!”