Everyone’s New Year’s resolution these days seems to include eating better. In New Orleans, the home of fried food and starchy red beans and rice, oil and flour-thickened roux for gumbo, etc. etc., that may seem to be an impossible dream. But think about all the fruit and vegetable vendors in town, and it may not seem so far-fetched. After all, we have one of the last remaining singing mobile fruit and vegetable vendors in the country, Mr. Okra. Mr. Okra is famous these days for his newly painted truck, but his musical announcements for his wares dates back to the 19th century in New Orleans. If you’ve never heard this “I’ve got eatin’ pears, I’ve got apples,” sung in a strange rhythmic cadence, you’re in for a surprise. Sung in different ways to differentiate themselves from each other, street food songs have been a presence n New Orleans for many years. A recording made by music historians, The Classic Sounds of New Orleans, on the Smithsonian Folkways label, features Dora Bliggen, another old-time fruit vendor who could have had another career as a jazz singer. Now, there’s just Mr. Okra who cries his wares, using a speaker and Autotune to surreal (and startling) effect, but there are still folks in New Orleans set up all over town in different locations selling fresh vegetables or fruit from their trucks. Some of it is local produce in season-strawberries from Ponchatoula, or oranges from Plaquemines Parish, or greens from St. Bernard Parish truck farmers. Wherever you drive in town, you may see one of these trucks.
Monthly Archives: December 2011
New Orleans has no lack of museums, and as always, they celebrate the city’s renowned diversity. For starters, there’s your traditional art museum, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. That is New Orleans’ flagship art museum, the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park. It’s under new leadership in the person of Susan Taylor, and is proudly moving into its second century. NOMA’s holdings include a significant collection of decorative arts and photography as well as painting, but for its second hundred years, it’s widening the spectrum of pieces in the permanent collection in its new show, NOMA 100.
City Park in New Orleans is a magical place during the holidays, and not just if you’re a kid. City Park, located in mid-city New Orleans on a former swamp that later became Allard Plantation facing Bayou St. John, is spread out over 1300 acres and is the sixth-largest and seventh-most visited public park in the United States. It’s one of the country’s oldest parks; the original land grant was established in 1854. It’s half again as big as Central Park in New York City. Even though it took a beating during Hurricane Katrina, the park has rebounded and is expanding even more in the next few years. During the holidays, it’s a place to visit that never fails to delight visitors and locals.
While millions of tourists flock to New Orleans each year for the fun, food, and music, only the locals know that Mid-City staple Rock ‘N’ Bowl has it all — including an authentic New Orleans experience you just can’t find on Bourbon Street.
Still sporting many of the decorations and memorabilia from 1958, when neighboring Pelican Stadium accounted for most of the business, this late-night hot spot has a vib all its own. Rock ‘N’ Bowl’s 18 bowling lanes are complimented by a stage and dance floor, a menu of bar-style treats with a Cajun twist, and a fully stocked bar.
Like New Orleans itself, Rock ‘N’ Bowl is a unique mixture of old and young, generational residents and new transplants, serious bowlers and…the rest of us. I personally find it hard to care about the five pins still standing when Kermit Ruffins or the Iguanas or the Bucktown Allstars take the stage. It’s not unusual for a favorite band or song to send perfectly dressed jitterbuggers spilling off the dance floor and into the pits or even to catch a couple of regulars waltzing on the bar.
From human statues to fortune tellers, New Orleans is the number one place to experience the most unique street performers in the world. Visitors can find some of the most interesting types of street artists year round. Painters, cartoonists, tarot card readers, usicians, dancers, jugglers, and magicians can be found throughout the French Quarter, entertaining locals and tourists alike. Enjoying the street art of New Orleans is one of the least expensive ways to appreciate the city, especially for those visitors or locals on a budget. It is important to remember, however, that while the entertainment and performances are done for free, many street artists make their living from their talents. If by chance you take a photo or find ourself pleasantly entertained, it is a kind gesture to provide a tip to the street performer or artist. Tips
help keep the street art of Crescent City alive and thriving!
New Orleans’ Treme’ neighborhood was a haven for free people of color, Haitian immigrants, and white New Orleanians since the end of the 18th century. The racially mixed neighborhood, situated on the north (lake) side of the French Quarter, was bounded by Rampart Street on the south, Canal Street to the west, Esplanade on the east, and Broad Street on the north. Before there was “Treme’,” the HBO television series set in post-Katrina New Orleans and celebrating the food and music of New Orleans, there was Treme’, a vibrant and intellectually advanced community where Creole artists, musicians, tradespeople, and writers spoke French and congregated in Congo Square, now Louis Armstrong Park. This is where jazz began, folks. In recent times, the neighborhood contributed to New Orleans jazz by producing Kermit Ruffins, the drummer Shannon Powell, and the Treme’ Brass Band, who still perform at clubs in the area.