On this fine Mardi Gras day, I’m reminded of my old stomping grounds in Baton Rouge. The world seems to be thinking about the big partay over there as well, since my beloved “Top Chef” featured a New Orleans finale (part 1) last week. Which reminded me: I need to correct a few sweet, but totally false, myths about New Orleans:
1. The New Orleans accent is not Southern. Not one actor in the history of cinema has gotten it right. It’s more like a New Jersey or Brooklyn accent than Mississippi. Want a good description? Check out Confederacy of Dunces. Well, check that book out anyway, since it’s awesome.
2. Gumbo is not omnipresent. It’s adorable that everyone on “Top Chef” was so worried about how the gumbo they felt compelled to make the Louisianans would compare to local fare. The truth? The guests they were serving probably wouldn’t know. In my eight years there, the most popular/served dishes were as follows: jambalaya (EVERY party has some), crawfish etouffee, boudin (with cane syrup, if you want the down-home flavah), meat/crawfish pies. Sure, gumbo’s around, but I have yet to see a local make/eat it.
3. Not all of Louisiana is composed of far-right Christians. Baton Rouge marks a dividing line between North and South Louisiana, and went blue last election, so
North Louisiana (i.e. Shreveport) is Baptist, conservative, and basically no fun. South Louisiana (New Orleans, Lafayette) is Catholic, cajun, and a hoot and a half to be around. The motto of the old skool cajuns in the South is “Laissez le bons temp roulez,” and they really couldn’t care less how you get your kicks, so long as you get ‘em.
4. Cajun is not Creole. I’m so tired of hearing people say those two words as if they’re interchangeable. They mean ENTIRELY different ethnicities. “Cajun” (derived from “Acadian”) people are descended from French-Canadians and the minorities with whom they intermarried (translation: they’re the po’ folk). “Creole” implies old European (French, Spanish) blood (translation: they’re the bosses). The foods, cultures, and ways of life of the two are different. If you want to learn the hard way, call someone of creole descent cajun, and watch their reaction. As you’re salving the scratches on your face afterward, you can look up the Wikipedia entry on the word “coonass”.
5. Don’t come to New Orleans speaking French. No one will understand you. They will, however, almost certainly loathe you.
Finally, I’d just like to issue a request that Emeril Lagasse be forced to forever leave the state, preferably with some sort of obelisk shoved in an inappropriately-small orifice. That douche doesn’t know how to cook (his sous chef runs his restaurants and cooks for him), isn’t from New Orleans, and his hometown paper (The Boston Globe) even called him out for his over-the-top non-presence in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Also, I’d like to request that, upon shoving said obelisk in said orafice, someone yells “BAM!”
That is all.