Thursday, December 23, 2010

December 23: Last Day In New Orleans

There is a wide world out there and new experiences add to our personal growth. I believe we better understand others when we take the time to walk in their world. Travel can lead to better global understandings. People are basically the same no matter where in the world you go. We all want and need the same things—a decent and safe place to live, good education, enough food to eat, good medical care, and so on. Misunderstandings occur when we don’t reach out to interact with our human brothers and sisters. No matter what country you are in, you will find people who are a lot like you, people who are kind and caring. In New Orleans I have met and spoken with many individuals who all have been kind, helpful, and interesting.

The more we understand what is at first different, the less we fear the unknown. It is wise to remember, too, that what seems familiar and everyday to us might appear as foreign to an outsider. It is better for the world if we all get along, and that begins at home with each of us as we try to understand and get along with those around us. 

 Cafe Du Monde has been on the go since 1862. How many years has it been in business?

I love good food. It’s that simple. For someone who is an aficionado of well prepared cuisine lovingly crafted using the freshest ingredients and interesting spices, New Orleans is a treasure trove of exquisite fare. How could I possibly come to a place known for it’s excellent food and not try new things? My attitude is that if you want everything to be just like at home, stay home. Why bother to travel to interesting places to see and do the same things you can do from your own location?

When I came to New Orleans, I knew that taking the time to eat well would be important. Luckily, it is easy to find outstanding food here because there are restaurants everywhere. I have begun each day by walking a mile over to the Café Du Monde (French for world coffee house) where I’ve enjoyed a lovely repast of café au lait, a mixture of half strong coffee and half cream, along with hot beignets (pronounced ben-yays) drowned in powdered sugar. As I ordered this morning, the Vietnamese waitress said, “You want what size coffee—large? Small?” before scooting off to fetch my breakfast. In short order she returned bearing my first meal of the day.

The Café Du Monde is open 24 hours a day, and is a bustling tourist mecca. There is minimal seating inside and the vast array of tables outside are always filled with lines of people waiting on each side for a chance to sit down. The menu is minimal; the only food served is beignets! A small assortment of drinks is offered, but most customers opt for coffee. I learned the hard way that wearing black and/or dark brown are not sensible options because no matter how careful you are, powdered sugar flies everywhere when you bite into a hot beignet. I asked the fellow manning the cash register how much powdered sugar the restaurant uses in a day. Shaking his head he said, “It’s in fifty-pound bags. We can’t count it!” Nothing tastes quite like a beignet, but after three days, I’ve had my fill. (I’m sure I’ll feel differently in a week or two.)

 Most of the waiters and waitresses are Vietnamese. They all wear these hats.

 Inside is like an assembly line as the waiters and waitresses line up to get the beignets and drinks.

 I'm afraid I wasted a lot of powdered sugar because I couldn't eat it all. It did get all over my face and clothes. 

Most customers choose to eat outside.

My travel co-planners—Tyler, Monica, and Brendan—did an excellent job coming up with a list of interesting places for me to visit. They suggested that while I’m in New Orleans I enjoy a local favorite, a po’ boy. This is a long sandwich served on a French baguette, bread that is a crunchy on the outside, but soft and moist in the middle. The baguette is sliced in two, and the bread is piled with fried seafood. A “dressed” po’ boy comes with lettuce and tomato piled on top of the seafood. You have the option of adding tartar or cocktail sauce. The end result is pure Heaven! You can see a picture of my shrimp po’ boy below. It already has a big bite out of it.

Every single bit of food I’ve had in New Orleans is memorable because of its exceptional flavor. There are only two places in the world where I can say I’ve never had a bad meal. They are Italy and New Orleans. Another lovely meal I enjoyed included roasted red pepper soup with goat cheese and shrimp stuffed with crabmeat over pasta whose sauce was a creamy delight. Pasta jambalaya, too, was expertly prepared. I’ll be sad to leave New Orleans if for no other reason than the outstanding food.

Would you like to have lived in 1850? What would your life have been like? Unless you were exceptionally wealthy, it would have been quite hard, and even wealthy people had to put up with no air conditioning, no central heat, no electricity, cars, or modern conveniences. Today I visited “The 1850 House” at the suggestion of my co-planners—Tyler, Monica, and Brendan. They deserve a big thank-you for suggesting such interesting places for me to visit.
Whenever I visit a historical home, I am reminded that everyday people like me would not have lived in such a grand place had I been alive during the time period. Why? Because historical homes almost always represent how wealthy people lived. As an example, 98% of the people who lived in Colonial Williamsburg—both black and white—lived in one-room cabins with dirt floors. Only two out of every 100 people in Colonial Williamsburg lived in the houses on display in Virginia’s early capital. Like the homes in Williamsburg, The 1850 House was definitely a home for wealthy occupants. For one thing, the family owned at least nine slaves, and also the furnishings were quite expensive. You can see from the pictures below how a wealthy New Orleans family lived 160 years ago.

 Many New Orleans historical homes have back courtyards.

The kitchen was outside on the back of the house. It was a long way to the dining room.
What clues in the picture tell you the people who lived in The 1850 House were rich?
 This cradle served as a baby's bed.

 There was no bathroom in this house and no sinks. A maid or slave would keep the water pitcher filled and the bowl would be used as a sink for washing faces and hands.

 The bed is so tall you need stairs to get in it. The chamber pot on the top step was used during the night if you had to go to the bathroom. (Remember, there was no bathroom!) Someone had to empty the chamber pots every morning.

 No running water meant that a maid or slave had to carry water upstairs for a bath. How long would it take to fill the tub? How would you keep the water warm?
This chair has a chamber pot underneath it.

The main street in this part of New Orleans is Canal Street, an exceptionally wide thoroughfare divided into two parts with streetcar tracks running down the middle. Today I discovered some interesting history related to Canal Street. For starters, a canal was planned to connect the Mississippi River to Lake Pontchartrain, but it never was built. On one side of Canal Street is the French Quarter and on the other side is where the English settled. So street names change when you cross Canal Street. As an example, my hotel is on St. Charles Street but once you cross Canal Street, it becomes Royal. Bourbon Street—named after French King Louis XXIV’s House of Bourbon—becomes Carondelet Street. In the mid 1800s people living on one side of Canal Street spoke French while on the other they spoke English. The middle part of Canal Street—where the canal was supposed to be built and where there are now streetcar tracks—was called “Neutral Ground”. Why do you suppose this was so? Even today, the area where the tracks are is called Neutral Ground though the original reason for the name has long been forgotten.

If you visit New Orleans, you definitely should walk through the French Market. You may even be tempted to spend some money. Founded in the late 1700s, it is the oldest public market in the United States. This open-air mall has many features that make it special—inexpensive goods for sale, places to eat, music, and interesting people. At the end of the market is a community flea market. Below are pictures of some of the wares for sale in this open-air shopping center.

 Rich aromas from food sold in the French Market tickle one's nostrils.

 Fresh produce is for sale.

 Lots and lots of jewelry is for sale.

 You can by Mardi Gras masks at any time of the year.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana
If I have been to a city that has as many statues and memorials as New Orleans, I sure can’t remember where. How many times do you pass a statue or memorial in your town or city and never stop to find out what or whom it is honoring? Who are these people and events, and why do humans feel the need to erect things in their honor? If we are alive at the time a memorial is constructed, I believe we feel more connected to it, but often these remembrances are put up long before we were alive; many are erected long after the event. So, what’s the point? We humans devise ways to ensure that people and events are not forgotten. We want to learn from our past, not forget it or repeat mistakes we have made. Begin to notice what has been memorialized where you live. Think about why they are there. Find out what they mean.

I took over fifty photos of statues and memorials, but have decided to share only a few. As you look at each picture (remember you can enlarge a picture by clicking on it) try to guess when it was created as well as what it is memorializing. Which ones are old? Which ones are more recent? Then, think about your classmates and the people in your community. Who do you envision as being remembered some day by having a memorial erected in his or her honor? What events in your life do you believe will some day be memorialized? Some memorials are not erected until many years after an event occurs or an individual dies.

 This is also part of the Holocaust Memorial. Why is it important that we never forget the Holocaust?


I thought I'd end today's post with a picture of something I've seen around town in many different places. What do you think it is? How old is it? For what was it used?

Did you guess that this was used to tie up horses back before there were automobiles?


Rach said...

And to think I thought I used a ton of powdered sugar making Christmas candies this year...

The food, oh, the food. I would LOVE to have a po'boy right about now. Mm. :o)

I think I would like a crawdad statue, please. ;o) (What is that a statue for?)

Please be safe in your travels tomorrow. And, if you could, remember to call as well? We missed you today.

Anonymous said...

I just want to thank you,I'am having my granddaughter who is in second grade read your blog. She loves history and you are giving her alot thank you so much.