“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.