The Big Easy
I must, least I loose my street cred, say right up front, that NO ONE in this town refers to New Orleans as ‘The Big Easy’.
This was a fabricated ‘term’ made-up by Hollywood paper-pushers to sell tickets to this movie. Well enough.
What we do refer to ourselves as is The Crescent City, the City Of Second Chances, The Center Of The Universe, and the best damn place in the whole freakin’ world to hang your hat.
What we produce (as a State) is… 70% of all the fish consumed in the USA, Movies (we’re #1 for active production with California & Canada tying for 2nd place), 30% of all agriculture (livestock feed, fruits and produce) Energy (petrol, wind, natural gas), Import/Export (both domestic and international), and shipbuilding. Well enough, but a bit boring.
Let’s discuss what we produce that we are the most proud of … great Chefs, great food, great cocktails, great architecture, great festivals, great art, great music, great times.
Why does this happen here?
I’ve given this a lot of thought and have come up with a few unique cultural differences:
The State’s Civil laws are carved from Napoleonic Codes- still. These laws are VERY female and child friendly. As such, there are a lot of happy women here. They open the businesses their former partners thought they couldn’t handle– and are laughing all the way to the bank. Ha. Ha… HA.
The region was settled by European wealth, pirates, and people that were thrown out of other places. This is a great combo- money, people who know to hide money, and people who are willing to
do whatever they need to do for money create new streams of commerce. They had to learn to live together to survive the heat and the swamps. Toss in a little malaria and a revolving door of Imperial ownership (Spanish-French-Spanish-French-USA) and you get a very inclusive society that pretty much just did what they wanted. We still do.
New Orleans has a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. A true ‘vivre et laisser vivre’ attitude. I real ‘I’ll do my thing, you do yours and we’ll meet for drinks’ kind of awesomeness.
I typical day goes something like this: wake-up late, go out for coffee, smell the jasmine, dance a little to the jazz tunes you hear coming over the rooftops, swing by the fishmonger, strike-up conversation with the Chefs that are in line, get an invite to join in a private party after hours at their restaurants because you’re fabulous, meet up with a girlfriend for grilled oysters and champagne in the late afternoon, invite her to the party, go home and change your single-strand day pearls for your multi-strand evening pearls, fill your to-go cup of libation while applying mascara and telling your husband there is no need for him to accompany you, call a cab, refill your to-go cup of libation, wind through our narrow streets yelling out salutations to pedestrians, get several other invitations, consider them, end up somewhere where you will eat gumbo, get the name of the stylist that does the maitre d’ drag Queen’s wigs and who tells you who you should see about getting into the back door of the Jazz club down the block where Jonny Lang is on stage with the house band tearing one up off tour, and finally, get a late night beignet, ’cause a girl’s gotta eat to keep her strength…
…to do it all over again.
We have been a bit b-u-s-y lately. (Actually, I should say, ‘I’ have been busy. Ben just pretty much shows up to play Master Of The Universe. Sound familiar gals?).
Over the past FOUR weeks we have hosted TEN people, in THREE groups. In. Our. Home… Sleepovers. With meals.
This, factually, accounts for a total of FOUR beds being changed THREE times which equals TWELVE sets, which equals FIFTY TWO pieces, EIGHT towel sets being laundered FOUR times, which equals NINETY SIX pieces, THIRTY SIX meals cooked & served, which equals (I don’t have a fucking clue how many dishes?), TWENTY FOUR dishwasher loads In & Out, FORTY EIGHT rolls of TP, TWO freezers stocked, TWO refrigerators full-up, THREE filled Easter baskets (SIX more delivered), FIVE dinner reservations, ONE brunch, THREE dinner parties, SIX trips to the airport, FOUR cabs, and EIGHT Hurricanes (It’s a drink. I need them.)
Am I tired?
Will I do it again?
Yes, and here’s why: Aside from the fact that I LOVE these people, I know how to run my house like a hotel (…and who among us doesn’t LOVE a Five Star? ***hand waving***)
Am I a one-woman staff of eight? Why, yes I am. But I have a few secrets… Organization, Planning, Inventory, and Involvement.
Be ORGANIZED, and by that I don’t just mean having all of your flatware in the same kitchen drawer, I mean having available space in bedroom closets and dresser drawers, creature comforts (like Kleenex and Tylenol and shaving cream and razors and fresh toothbrushes, etc., and even baby wipes if it’s appropriate) at the ready and within arms reach at Midnight without calling you for help. No one wants to be a pain in your ass when they’re on your dime. I mean having duplicate cleaning supplies all together- on each floor. I mean extra iphone chargers- by each bed. I mean make your guests independent of you.
PLAN, and by plan I mean, have an ITINERARY, which includes not only activities but meals- and make it flexible. I will have at least one suggested activity per day (There is a back-up for rain) and always a block of time unscheduled for naps, reading, neighborhood walks, or just plain down time. The way I get our guests to happily participate in this is to tell them I’M TAKING A BREAK before starting the evening and the preparation for the last meal of the day. Which brings me to menus. Take stock of your guests (their ages, restrictions, ridiculous vegan lifestyles) and plan your meals before they arrive. In fact, shop for ingredients and prepare as much as you can beforehand. I keep the disposable aluminum pan companies in business. Also, having an axillary freezer is worth it’s weight in diamonds- which is saying A LOT, coming from me- because I cook with all my diamonds dripping from my slender youthful wrists.
INVENTORY perishables, and by perishables I seriously mean toilet paper and chips & dip (as well as other items, of course). It’s all equally important. And remember to keep them where they’re needed, which means the TP should not be in the kitchen and the chips don’t belong on the floor of your car.
INVOLVEMENT, and by that, I mean, not only encouraging your guests to participate in the kitchen and garden, the evening’s Netflix selection and which vintage will be uncorked, but driving (which in my case usually involves those FOUR Hurricanes that I mentioned above). It also might mean giving them a ‘break’ from all involvement- an opportunity to rest. You should provide that too. You’ll rest when you die.
One time, many years ago, our son Chase, angered after finding his smelly sheets changed, floating bits of paper discarded, his videos put back in their correct sleeves, and the last piece of his favorite pie eaten (but replaced with a new desert), said to his father, “Dad! She makes me crazy! Mom’s makes me feel like I’m in a hotel!”.
“How lucky are we?”, he replied.
I think the better question is, ‘How lucky am I?”.
When Home is a Hotel- Thank GOD!
Peach Pie- and other Tarts. All done!
When I was a kid, my grandfather used to speak like an alien to me.
He used phrases that might as well have been Greek. (See what I did there? ‘Might as well been Greek’ was one of his favorites).
Here are some examples:
“Well, don’t you look like the bee’s knee’s.”
“Bees have knees?”
“If you believe that one, you better not take any wooden nickels. Now come here and gimme some sugar!
“Grandpa. I need some help.”
“You’re a good egg. I’ll make it right as rain.”
“Grandpa. Grandma’s looking for you.”
“She acts like the Queen of Sheba. Tell her I jumped ship with a bucket of worms.”
“What did you say?”
“Grandpa. Grandma and I are going shopping.
“Jesus K Riste. She already owns everything and the kitchen sink!”
“Grandpa. That man’s waving at us.”
“Don’t know him from Skippy.”
Was his name Skippy? And if so, how could he not know him and yet know his name???? Ohhhhh the questions.
And finally, “Grandpa. I’m going downstairs to play the organ. Wanna sing along?”
“You’re the Cat’s Meow, Cheryl. I’d love to. Sweet as peaches. Your Grandmother says my claptrap is horsefeathers. But your asking the choir!”
I do love cat’s. Any kind of trap sounds bad though. I didn’t know he sang in the church choir, but I get the ‘Peaches’ reference…
“Let’s ask Grandma to bake us a pie!”
“Good idea. She’s can bake-up a storm.”
“That sounds kinda awesome. The whole controlling the weather thing.”
“What are you talking about, Cheryl?”
Grandma’s Peach Pie
Prepared pastry- enough for two pie shells
8 peaches- poached (see directions)
* 2 quarts water
* 1 cup sugar
1/2 cup peach liquid
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons salted butter
pinch of salt
Bring the 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add the one cup of sugar. Reduce heat and dissolve the sugar. Do not let this mixture come back to a boil.
Slice each peach in half and remove the pits. Scoop out any fiber from the center.
Place the halved peaches, skin side down, in the hot pot of sugar water. Let them cook for 10 minutes then remove them to a shallow pan and pour the syrup over them. Let this sit until room temperature then remove the skins.
Reserve 1/2 cup of the syrup.
Slice the soft peaches and put aside.
Directions for the Pie Assembly
Reheat the 1/2 cup of reserved liquid to simmer.
Add the additional 1/2 cup of sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice and butter blending it all.
Whisk in the corn starch to this mixture until smooth.
Remove from heat.
Line your pie tins.
Arrange the peach slices in the bottom.
Pour the liquid syrup over the top.
Bake at 425 for 40 minutes.
I made tartlets, instead of pie. These are right before going in the oven.
It seems to me, that in Life, a person should be able to count on a few things to be true: your mother and the deliciousness of a chocolate croissant.
Other then that, all bets are off.
The problem is that we all get caught-up in the mind-numbing illogic of rumors, advertising, old wives tales, people we want to impress, love, hatred, apathy… google search results. You get my drift.
Well, this is never more evident then when we are young.
My youth was filled with bad information. Some of it I even believed. Some of it I defended. Some of it I got employment from. Some of it took me out on the town.
Here is a list of out-n-out LIES the 1970s told us all:
That your grandmother’s cooking was too rich for good health. LIE. Turns out that Grandma was using fresh and whole foods. Grandma didn’t use any ingredients she couldn’t pronounce. Grandma was pretty smart.
That the USA would commit for now and all time to developing space exploration. LIE. Someone forgot to tell JFK about the future expense of a Global Economy not to mention expanding social services, a weapons race, and the true desire of the population: an expansion of direct streaming cable networks ’cause that’s what’s really important.
Going braless was liberating and beautiful. LIE. More like a idea that could have only come from the mouths of youthful perky boobs without a thought for the results at midlife. Dear God Woodstock be damned.
Women could have it all. LIE. First of all, what did that mean? Certainly no one in their right mind was suggesting that women should be superhuman and that if they didn’t bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan while nursing a child with one hand and giving a hand*** with the other she wasn’t living up to her full and Universal potential? Nahhhh. No one did that.
Free Love was without consequences. LIE. Unless, of course, you value your health and actually toyed with the idea that you should at least know someones name before you received an STD.
All people are equal. LIE. They are not, but they should receive equal protection, equal initial advantage, equal Rights. What I want to yell at someone about is why I’m not aging like Heidi Klum? Who do I see about that?
Misunderstood, seemingly half-baked Medical advancements would lead to cloning. LIE. Remember that? When LIFE magazine did that article on Dolly the Sheep that said stem cell research would lead to a world full of human robots, because really, could any of us stand more Heidi Klum beauty in the world? (I’m on a Klum kick today).
Traveling was best when done on the cheap- more wholesome, more real. LIE. Book a room at a 5-star and call me.
Vitamin supplements could cure anything. LIE. And yet we still purchase them by the pound. We are a hopeful bunch.
Sun tanned skin was healthy and desirable. Even younger. LIE. Have you seen my skin?
Formal education was unnecessary. LIFE was the best teacher. LIE. This was espoused by young hippie parents who were on the dole from their hardworking parents. Come to think of it….
The Beatles would reunite. LIER. LIER. PANTS ON FIRE! But wouldn’t it have been loverly?
The LIES the 1970s Told Us
The first thing we all have to agree on is that if there ever is an event on an awesome catastrophic scale, those that survive will need to be heavily armed and know how to distill whiskey.
Every time my husband discovers me setting up odd equipment involving rubber tubing & smoked Spanish paprika or doing something behind a closed door (‘Cheryl. What are you up too now? This better not cost me any money!”) I simply answer with “Someone’s gonna need to know how to do this in case the World comes to end! Well-oiled flints and a decent sourdough starter will be what keeps us alive!”, by which he replies, “Oh boy. How did the children survive?…” and continues watching ESPN.
So, because I’m nothing if not
cynical cautious a Girl Scout, I would like to share with you the skills I believe are always going to make the difference between life (albeit with 12 toes from radioactive fallout, but I’ve always felt an extra two would be superb for my Yoga practice ’cause I sure as hell can’t do it on ten) and being vaporized.
I will need to know how to:
Pick locks. And by ‘locks’ I mean choosing the best clip-on hair extensions at Ms Boobalicious’s salon down the street. I can’t afford them at this time. I am counting on supply and demand to kick-in.
Tan—- leather. I’ll still desire a new Spring handbag each season (What? Should I stop ‘living’?) and I’m assuming I’ll be fried enough from the fallout to make it through a nuclear winter so spending time in a tanning bed would be silly- and I hear they’re not good for you- so there’s that.
Produce copious amounts of tomatoes and pot. Together. A hybrid. I will call them Really Better Big Boys or maybe Aunt Cheryl’s Caprese Grass Salad fixin’s? Yes- with a nice balsamic drizzle.
Hot wire a car. This will be the perfect opportunity to economically expand my expensive automobile collection and drive as fast as I want. All ‘photo enforced’ speed traps will be snapping away at my middle finger.
Syphon gas… and Vodka.
Generate power. No- not the kind that runs your appliances. Amateurs
Catch, reel-in, decapitate, gut, fillet and grill a
Zombie fish. Or a Zombie.
Diagnose and treat
improperly accessorized mean girl’s evening ensembles medical issues.
Develop black market items into the NEW economy. This will require anyone left in Washington DC to be summarily exiled and replaced by people that actually understand what’s going on. I’ve always liked a white house.
And finally… Grow grapes. Not really ‘grow’ as much as cultivate and harvest. Well, really, not ‘harvest, so much as ferment. Oh hell, who am I kidding?
I’ll need to know how to make wine.
What would YOU need to learn?