Thursday, October 15, 2009

Obama's First Visit to the Crescent City

Wow, two posts in one day. Very impressive on my part, however I'm getting a bit sleepy so this one will be brief.

So Obama came to visit today, for 3 hours and 45 minutes or something like that. I was ensconced in my office for all of that time but RJ tells me it was not fun stuff to drive in.

I will admit I did put myself in the lottery for the Town Hall Meeting--no idea how I would have explained that to my boss, but I thought it was a long shot anyway. RJ was the opposite: rather than crane his neck with everyone else he opted to skip school and avoid "the madness" at the University of New Orleans, his school, and the host of said Town Hall Meeting.

My boss turned up NPR so we could listen to his speech and then RJ and I watched it replayed on TV when I got home from work. I thought it was a great speech and very reassuring to New Orleans. I enjoyed several of the more amusing moments as well, like when the crowd booed Governor Bobby Jindal and Obama sort of had to save the awkward moment.

I know politicians have to act that confident about their plans but it was nice to hear some concrete ideas in areas of concern to the gulf south in terms of recovery, education, housing etc. As usual Obama had a great read on his audience and had just the right touch of down-home charm that a New Orlean's crowd likes.

That's pretty much all the writing I can do tonight but here's a link to the Times-Picayune's main feature article on the visit:

One Book One New Orleans: Dinner at Leah's

Alright. Finally an event to report on. For the month of October, the Youth Leadership Council has been organizing the 5th annual One Book One New Orleans, a sort of month-long literacy festival. Each year the council chooses a single book from a list of books nominated by the community, generally with a local theme or by a local author. The festival consists of about ten separate events, dinners and writer's workshops, during which the book is discussed in various ways.

This year's book is Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table by Sara Roahen, which I'm ashamed to say I can't tell you all that much about because I haven't read it yet. I know I know... I'm ashamed to call myself a bookworm, but in my defense the author of my favourite historical/adventure series published a new 800 page epic and between 50 hours of work a week and that monster of a hard-cover, I haven't even had time to shop for the festival book.

Still, last night's event, entitled: Chapter 3: Dinner at Leah's had me dying to get my hand on a copy of this culinary-themed homage to New Orleans. Dinner at Leah's was literally dinner at Leah's, referring to the aptly titled "Queen of Creole" cuisine, Leah Chase, owner of Dooky Chase
Restaurant and a veritable culinary institution in this city. I was such a thrill to get to be in the same room as her and finally get a chance to sit in her wonderful restaurant. The main dining
room is also home to Leah's famous collection of paintings by local artists, framed against the vivid red of the restaurant's walls. The food was tasty and definitely fed a crowd. To give you an idea of just how celebrated Leah Chase is in the city, President Obama's secret service staff picked up a to-go order from Dooky Chase just before his town hall meeting today at the University of New Orleans (See following post). She famously gave Obama a stern lecture on his last visit to the city, on putting hot sauce in true Louisiana Gumbo and for being too skinny. She quite a character at 85 years of age and it was so neat to be able to hear her speak about New Orleans and about her food.

There were three other guest authors at the event who spoke about their own cooking and about Sara's book: Elsa Hahne, author of You Are Where You Eat:Stories and Recipes From the Neighborhoods of New Orleans; Poppy Tooker, author of The Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook (which I absolutely have to buy); and Times-Picayune food editor Judy Walker, co-author of Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found From the Times-Picayune of New Orleans (which I have on hold at work).

What an amazing event for anyone who likes to cook, and for anyone who likes to eat! To that end, there was also plenty of eating done as well. We had a Creole Gumbo to, start of course, then Jambalya, Creole Green Beans, and a wonderful Bread Pudding for dessert. The whole thing was just lovely and I'm so happy that I got to attend. I certainly won't be missing One Book One New Orleans next year!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Just a little water...

I know I haven't posted in a while. Between work and... other work, I've barely had two minutes to myself this month. Plus I haven't really been doing much with my weekends in terms of New Orleans stuff worth writing about.

So to wean myself back in, this is going to be a mini-post--a snippet if you will, of sub-tropical fun.

Tonight's adventure started when I went into the kitchen to heat up dinner (leftovers of my pseudo-Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner last night), only to discover that water was coming in at the top of the kitchen window and had, in fact, been leaking for a while all over my kitchen floor. It had previously only dimly registered in the back of my brain that it had been raining all day, not exactly an unusual event in New Orleans. In fact it was still raining at this point and had evolved into a rather strong storm.

Still, the house is newly rebuilt and we've never had so much as a drip before. We shrugged it off, called the landlord and sat down to dinner. We hadn't been eating more than five minutes when our neighbour knocked on the door to say that the water was getting rather high on the street and we should probably think about moving our car.

We looked outside and lo and behold there was water beginning to reach the bottom of the car doors. Crazy stuff. Everyone but a few unfortunate souls manage to move their cars to higher ground but there is a sad white sedan parked in front of a house just one down from ours who's owner is going to have a very unpleasant surprise.

You'd think you'd get used to this kind of stuff below sea level but I'm always really shocked at how fast the water rises. At this point anyone trying to drive in Mid-City has a really good chance of getting stuck and having to bail out.

My neighbours are all currently sitting on their porches right now having a good ol' time watching all the passing motorists floundering through the wading pond that has become our street. On the other hand, you gotta love the fact that most of them are also going door to door in a storm like this to make sure everyone on the block is warned.

There are some parts of Southern culture that I wouldn't change for the world. Hands down, there is no better neighbour than a New Orleans neighbour.