Louisiana, home of Tabasco Hot Sauce and The Muffuletta.

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I’ve never really been into hot sauce.  I mean, I like a bit of spice as much as the next man, but i prefer it the way nature intended, in fruit form, not jammed into a bottle by a futuristic machine that may one day develop its own memory and start reminiscing about how life was better as a brake fluid distribution reservoir chamber and how it harks back for the days when things were simpler and people had more manners and men were chivalrous and women smoked and wore stockings and could be lured by the tilt of a man’s hat (there, that’s the autobiographical part of this writing over with!)  So, without the lustre of hot sauce not foremost in my mind in the State known for such a thing, I guess there wasn’t that much to look forward to…
Apart from NEW BLOODY ORLEANS, WOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

My life was soon to be complete!  Being a bit of a fan of Jazzy sounding…. sounds, New Orleans has always been a bit of a draw for me, although the historians out there will point out that the jazz that emerged from this part of the World until a certain Mr Armstrong came into being, was traditionally ragtime and Dixieland, just two small sub-genres of the music, but i like these styles so shut up.  But ‘generally’ it’s seen as the birthplace of this most American of music forms and so, i guess, when in Rome…… go see the Sistine Chapel, although you’ll probably be a bit disappointed and i would actually recommend seeing the The Painted Hall in Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College, which in my opinion is more striking and easier to get to…… unless you live in Rome…

But before we got to New Orleans (did i say WOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOO?), there were other places for us to explore and i was pretty excited about seeing them too, but not quite as excited about seeing New Orleans…… WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO……

First up, thanks to this person

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we were to continue our experience of gluttonously testing each State’s culinary delights by hitting up The Magnolia Cafe in Francesville.

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And Oh Boy (or should that be Po’Boy…?, no it shouldn’t), did we luck out.  I didn’t know what a Po’Boy was before i rocked up here but i think it was, up until i hit New Orleans (Woooo…..!!), my favourite sandwich ever.  The sandwich is said to have originated from a New Orleans sandwich shop and was served free to anyone who ordered a nickel beer, which is how it got its name, Po’Boy, short for Poor Boy, referring to it as a poor man’s sandwich.  I guess its similar to the old East End pubs of London within which when you bought a beer, you used to get a pint of prawns alongside it.  There is still one pub that i know of today that serves up a pint of prawns, The Blind Beggar in Whitechapel.  I guess now that, as there are about 4 prawns left in the World due to overfishing, the proprietors use the stock they have in the pond out the back, serving them up in a sherry glass instead!  Anyway, my Shrimp Po’Boy was top of the pops and after a proper good nosh-up, i came out feeling like one of these…

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But i still managed to go next door, to this sweet li’l coffee shop called BirdMan Cafe, for a frozen chocolate peanut butter pie!  A charming establishment, it dawned on me whilst inside that i really was in the heart of the deep south, the proprietor being a sweet lady who wanted to know as much about us as possible (the gossipy wench!!!!!)

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Once we’d saddled up, we headed south to Baton Rouge, desperately in need of some company that wasn’t each other!!  And i guess it was about this time that we started to realise how difficult it can be living with someone 24/7 in a metal-movey-box.  I mean, i’d lived with a giant once before in a vehicle ever so slightly larger and boxier than this, travelling around France and Spain, but in that scenario, many hours were spent doing separate things and i didn’t have the feeling that i had to look out for that person, a) because he was a giant and b) because he wasn’t my wife.  But now, when i don’t get more than the time it takes to do my morning woo to myself, it feels like the World is pushed right up to my ear ‘oles!  Add to that the temperature during the waking moments being the wrong side of zero degrees therefore leaving no time for a comfortable morning meditate and you’ve got one slightly more irritable than usual Mr A.  Seriously, i did really mis-calculate what the temperature would be here in the Southern States.  I said it before and i’ll bloody well say it again (in my best Yorkshire too) ‘It’s right bloody cold ‘ere, i tell thee’…

We hit up Baton Rouge that eve and checked out the local Walmart to see what our morning view over breakfast would be.  And lo-and-behold, we had before us a fine 3-star car park, complete with ‘enclosed trolley storing devices’ and helpful ‘temporary vehicle parking guidelines’ printed on its base.  And whilst my voluptuous fellow voyager popped inside, i surveyed the surrounding area for possible attack points from the enemy.  Having heard that Baton Rouge has a wretched criminal underbelly to rival that of the great Jabba the Hut, i had decided that we needed some kind of protection from the naughty people who may want to disembowel us for our pocket change.  Much deliberation had taken place over what form of defence mechanism one may wish to use upon future assailants.  A baseball bat is always seen as a useful tool, but living in a small shell as we do, there isn’t much room to swing the proverbial cat, let alone a fairly long piece of sporting equipment, so i decided that was out.  Next up was that blunt/pointy (depending on which way you look at it) device for bashing in nails and the such.  A hammer is a pretty nasty thing to be hit with, i thought, and you don’t need much swinging room, but i don’t really wanna have to hit someone, just show them i don’t want them to hit me either!  Sod it, i thought, i’ve got a swiss army knife, if they get to close, i can corkscrew they’re eye out whilst also being kind enough to use the handy toothpick, in case they’ve got a bit of left over pork luncheon meat making an appearance between their incisors.  But did i really want to get close enough to my potential demise to be able to see that he/she clearly doesn’t floss as often as their dentist instructs?  Of course not.  So in the end, i went for possibly the most awesome piece of personal safety weaponry i could think of.  And would you Adam ‘ Eve it, it cost me less than 5 dolleroonies.  Check this bad ass out…

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Now i can decapitate someone for under FIVE BUCKS!!!!!  Seriously though, as a deterrent, i think it doesn’t get much better than a machete.  It looks like it’d do things to you that you’d only see in a Tobe Hooper film and so i thought rather than actually have to use it, i could just look like i might use it and that’d be enough to send a sod running.  Lets just hope they don’t call my bluff… unless they do so in a Frank Bough style, then we may have a ‘real’ game on our hands…  There’s also a rather funny, but at the time for us, a pretty scary story relating to the purchase of my weapon.  When a rather cute travelling companion of mine was buying the killing-instrument, she was asked for I.D by the cashier, a young black girl, in her late teens/early twennies.   When she saw that there was a birthday on the near horizon for my philanthropic philly, she said ‘Oh, it was my birthday last weekend’ and when asked what she did, she responded, ‘I didn’t do anything, i don’t go out after dark, it’s too dangerous, people get shot here’!!  And when she was told we were heading to New Orleans (Woo…) next, she retorted ‘Oh, it’s worse there, people get shot in the daytime’!!!  And there’s us, two whiteys with nice shoes in our bright green salubrious camper with number plates from the most white country in the World, parked in  the less than glamorous part of town, in a car park of one of the cheapest stores in America!!!!  I felt like Moby Dick in an odd-one-out contest, involving a bunch of Sikhs, a monkey wrench, God and the Rolly Pollies.  But undeterred and with my new Predator ass-whooping tool now taking pride of place in Trixiebelle, we went off in search of live music, a nice pint and some conversation with someone other than each other.  And this is where we wound up… http://www.bestofbatonrouge.com/nightlife/chelseas_cafe.php.  It was pretty cool to hit up a bar in a random city but apart from the bar lass, there wasn’t really much of an opportunity to talk to anyone and after having driven 27,467 miles in the last few days, i was bush whackered post-beer-number-one and so it was back to Walmart for a night listening out for gunshots and the galloping hooves of a thieving Highwayman’s steed.

It’s got a damn interesting history has Baton Rouge and even though its more illustrious neighbour is far better known to the World, Baton Rouge is actually the capital of Louisiana.  It’s name, meaning Red Stick, comes from a poncey French explorer who gave the place its name (although it already had a perfectly adequate name ‘Istrouma’, given by the local Indians that had been living there since 8000BC) when he saw a reddish Cypress pole decorated with dead bloody animals that was used as a marker between two territories for two Indian tribes. How very creative of the periwig-wearing git, ‘Red Stick’!  It is one of the ‘Top-Ten Places for Young Adults’ in the U.S due to its strong economy and has ‘hoods with such names as Froggy Mo, Ghosttown, Tigerland, Scotlandville and Ogden Park, named after Hilda Ogden one would assume.  And after i had seen about 3 hours of it, i was happy to gallop off in our horse-car to the more interesting and ExxonMobil-less city of……… Wooooooooo Hoooooooooooooo….!!!

Upon reaching New Orleans, i got lost in the French Quarter and drove round and round and round and round and rou…  If you have ever been to the French Quarter, you would know doing this in a tank isn’t the easiest of tasks.  But eventually, on Decatur Street, we found a comfortable looking parking space and decided we would have a brief look ’round and sup on a Daiquiri, something Louisiana is famous for.  In fact, Louisiana isn’t just famous for them, they positively promote the drinking of them, to the point where this State is known for its ‘Drive Thru Daiquiri joints’!!!!  I kid you not, you can go up to many different establishments and just as if you were at a burger joint, wind down your window and order a MASSIVELY alcoholic beverage, stick the straw in ya gob and wheel off gulping an ice-cold tasty cocktail whilst lolling all over the road, trying not to bash up old women and cops!!  It’s mental and ever-so-slightly cool…

Whilst on our 2 hour jaunt, which is all the parking nazi’s would allow us, we hit up what has become a member of my top-ten-top-shops list, in the World Global category of Earth.  Central Grocery is an Italian-American institution.  It’s one of those shops that no matter how much of Little Italy in New York you walk around (and unfortunately there’s hardly any left so it won’t take you long), you never see because long ago these types of shops were made redundant by the exploding Asian population and astronomical rents.  And it’s a crying shame, cos it’s one of the few things in this fast-becoming sterile World that is as close to the real-deal as you can get.  Check these pics out…

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And let me tell you something else.  No matter who tells you where you can get the best sandwich on this wondrous Earth, let it be said here and now.  If you can find a better sandwich then the Muffuletta at Central Grocery, New Orleans, you’re either the luckiest person there ever was or a big fat liar!!  This is indeed the home of the Muffuletta, a sandwich first created in the early 1900′s for the Sicilian farmers who worked at the farmers market, once in the same area as Central Grocery.  As is a Sicilians wont, the farmers would eat all the ingredients (Muffuletta bread, capicola, salami, pepperoni, emmentaler, ham, provolone, an olive salad consisting of olives, celery, cauliflower and carrot, seasoned with oregano and garlic and covered in olive oil) separately, balancing all on their knees until the sandwiches creator, Salvatore Lupo decided to stack all of the ingredients between the 10-inch-diameter bread to create the sandwich that rocked my World.  Most people can’t eat a whole one, so we went for half each, much to my disdain (i went back a coupla days later and gorged myself with a whole one!!). This is what one looks like:

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I think they deliver ANYWHERE!!  It rocks.  Get one… 1-504-523-1620

That evening, we decided to stay outside of New Orleans and head for some comfort, so we hit up the Bayou Segnette State Park, hooked up to some proper southern electricity and turned on the ‘leccy blanket and oil heater.  Mmm mmm, waking up naked when the outside temperature and therefore usual indoor temperature is way below freezing felt TRES AMAZANT!!  Add to that, having a long hot shower and doing some laundry and life just couldn’t get any better!!!  Not only that, but it was a Saturday when we awoke and that night we were treating ourselves by staying in a proper guest house on the edge of the French Quarter… http://www.elysianfieldsinn.com/.  We were to have a Saturday night in New Orleans and could walk home in a matter of minutes!!!  And the sun was out that day too!!!!  The first warm day since we left Toronto about 3 months earlier!!  Armed with my experience-mimicking-mechanical-rememberallowing-product, i shot back into the city from the State Park, clean as a whistle in me best shoes and took a load of pictures of cool New Orleans stuff that looked very much like these things…

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Unfortunately, that’s about where the beauty ended in New Orleans for me.  ‘Oh No’, you cry.  I’m afraid so, peeps.  Saturday night came, we left our wonderful guest house and hit up a pretty decent Oyster Bar.  We were served by two Black fellas, one older, one younger.  All night every night, these guys shuck oysters for white tourists.  They stand there, having perfected their shucking art for many years, and open oyster after oyster after oyster, constantly, consistently and listen to the same old questions time and time again; ‘How long you been here’?, ‘How many Oysters have you shucked’?, ‘What’s it like since the Hurricane’?, yada yada yada.  But here’s the thing, whilst i would probably be dying inside and hating on anyone who ordered two dozen of these bonza-bivalves, these cats were just as friendly and welcoming as your favourite aunt.  The older one even gave us some of his homemade pecan brittle that gets him through his shift, probably cos we didn’t attack him with dumb-ass questions like ‘Where’s the best strippers at, man’? which some preppy cock face sat next to us did!!  But when we hit up Bourbon Street, looking to chance upon some sweet jazz to round off our night, i lost my mojo.  I’d never seen so many jocks, piss heads and stag and hens in all my days.  Everywhere i turned, there were drunk, obnoxious, frat boys and girls shouting, puking, fighting and generally making the whole seen reminiscent of something out of a Porky’s film.  I even got called Chuck freekin’ Norris by some lass!!! (everywhere i go in the World, it seems, people liken me to this dude!!  Wait til i get my hands on ‘im…)  Sure, there was music, but it was all kinda commercial, to please the throng of tourists.  WHERE WAS THE JAZZ AT???  At the end of Bourbon there is a street called Frenchman Street and it was here that we found a cool bar playing what we were looking for, but by the time we fought our way through all the punks and found it, the cats were wrapping up their set.  Frenchman is actually the coolest street in New Orleans, it’s a little more of a close-knit community than the garishness of Bourbon and this is where all the cool shit happens.  But it also happens to close a li’l earlier probably to deter the tourists, so it was back to the surrounding streets, looking for more of the same but all we found was crap reggae, chart-busters and the type of jazz your dad listens to (unless you’re Chris Bliss’ dad, who listens to AND plays the good shit).  My heart yearned for something i longed to hear.  ‘This is New Orleans man’, i thought.  Alas, maybe i’d picked the wrong weekend to be here but i just couldn’t help thinking, like Beale Street in Memphis, the history and soul had been ripped out of this place to be replaced by a history that sells and a soul that appeases the ugly, fat, drunk, white masses…

On our last day, i did see some pretty ace stuff, a children’s big band playing in the square, some old timers blasting some be-bop and a sailors band blowin’ hard but nothing that lived up to any expectations i had of this town being the jazz mecca it once was.  I did eat the best Oysters i’d ever had though, grilled with Parmesan on top, at this place (you have to click on it, it IS so New Orleans) http://www.acmeoyster.com/, served by yet more black guys waiting on wealthy whiteys but it just saddened me even more that in the 21st Century, we still can’t get over this race thing.  I guess once a place becomes popular, everyone wants a taste of its ‘authenticity’ and therefore it slowly loses its ‘authenticity’.  Hell, what am i saying, i’m just like all the other people trying to experience New Orleans’ magic, right?  But maybe my disappointment shows that at least i was there with the best intentions…

On our way out of Louisiana, we stopped off at a place called Avery Island, home of Jungle Gardens, which includes in its grounds the factory that produces the Worlds supply of Tabasco sauce.  We went in for the customary tour and i nearly wet myself laughing at the chick who was doing the ‘touring’.  There were 4 of us on the tour, but you would have thought there were a hundred, which lasted about 15 minutes, 12 of which were taken up by a 30-year-old video of the history of this World Famous condiment.  But the magical 3 minutes were when our ‘guide’ stood in front of us, as though she was on stage at Wembley Stadium and started reeling off, in one breath, everything we needed to know about the place and the sauce, just like she was reading from an autocue drilled into her eyeballs.  If she took a breath, i didn’t notice it.  I almost wanted to peel her scalp off and see if she was made of the same stuff as the robots from Space 1999!  It was priceless and something i’ll never forget.  And yes, we did get some free samples as well as a taste of Tabasco ice-cream that was an amazing sensation.  I’d never had a food stuff that was such an oxymoron, hot and cold at the same time!!  Totally mental…  Something else i will never forget is the beauty of Jungle Gardens itself.  In the summer they have huge Alligators walking around, right in the same place you can walk around!!!  How mad is that?  I have read reviews from people exclaiming their shock at how such a place can let man-eating alligators wander round, whilst children play 10 feet away!  I’m all for it as a form of population control.  Hell, measles aint working, lets introduce 20 foot Alligators into our cities instead!!  Check out this website for the fabulous history of the place… http://members.cox.net/mryfon/avery.htm

And to prove that we were really there, check out these stunning shots…

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And check this out, they even had a massive bamboo forest!!

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I’ve always wanted to see a bamboo forest in Japan and even though this was nothing like the pictures i’ve seen from the Land of the Rising Sun, it was wicked to see some proper big bamboo.  And the Spanish Moss hanging from the trees was just soooo Louisiana, it was unreal.  We even half-inched some and hung it on our rear view mirror, where to this day, it’s still going strong (it’s an angiosperm and they feed by absorbing calcium and water from the air!!  How freekin’ ruuuude is that.  I love Earth…!!)

As our time in the Deep South was coming to an end, i started to reflect on this small part of our journey.  Although we missed out Georgia, a State with a rich history, i was kinda glad.  We’d seen some pretty amazing places, eaten some delicious food and experienced the warm, Southern hospitality that is so rife in these parts.  But i had also experienced something that, even though is talked about the World over, was still a li’l shocking to see.  The huge racial divide that keeps the blacks working for the whites is still apparent everywhere you go.  It seems the poverty is almost exclusively black, the money exclusively white.  I was tired of being served by black guys who were probably on less-than minimum wage.  In fact, i will never forget what was said to me when i asked our black oyster shucker where he eats in New Orleans on his night off.  ‘Where do i eat’? he said, with incredulity.  ‘Man, i haven’t eaten out in 14 years’…  It made me realise how even things that we take for granted, like eating out once in a while are, in the Deep South at least, race dependant.  And i find that incredibly sad, so, so backward for the World today and in a country with a black President, something that should have been addressed immediately.

As for Louisiana.  Well, New Orleans, great for Italian sandwiches and Oysters, shizzle for Jazz, Steam Boats and all that it should be good for.  Great for hot sauce, Jungles, Alligators and history, atrocious for racial equality.  But then, I guess that’s what the Deep South has, is and always will be known for, right…?

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2 thoughts on “Louisiana, home of Tabasco Hot Sauce and The Muffuletta.

  1. Yeah, it ain’t all roses in the South, that’s for sure. What a lot of ideas you have put forth here! I had to scribble a few notes, so as not to forget to comment on stuff:

    !. I once had an awful traveling companion in Baton Rouge, but it wasn’t my spouse. It was a Bible-thumping Creationist, and I had to ride allllll the way back to Auburn AL listening to her rants.

    2. You got a machete and never showed it to me?

    3. Drive-thru daiquiris have to be one of the worst ideas ever.

    4. I want to call that # and order up a muffeletta. It looks incredible.

    5. John and I had one of our greatest times ever in New Orleans. We saw real jazz at the Funky Butt Club, ate amazing food, and joined a jazz funeral procession in honor of the wife of Tuba Fats. Also rambled around the warehouses housing Mardi Gras floats, and watched an all-black high school marching band: it all knocked us on our heels. Katrina has since occurred and New Orleans isn’t the same.

    6. There was a buddha in the Jungle Garden?

  2. Ha ha, i guess there were a few too many points made in a single blog! You wait til Texas appears, you’ll need a week to read it!!

    I know we didn’t see the best of New Orleans but whether it was due to luck or judgement, i couldn’t help be disappointed. After speaking to people, i think Katrina had a major impact on the city and therefore our experience.

    The Buddha story is as follows:
    According to tradition, in the 1920s a Chinese warlord sent a roughly 900-year-old statue of Buddha to America, where it sat unclaimed for many years in a New York City warehouse. In 1936, two friends of E. A. (“Ned”) McIlhenny purchased the statue and sent it to him by rail as a surprise. Ned responded by designing an Asian-influenced garden setting for the sacred statue. He constructed a long forest pool, an arched stone bridge, and glass-enclosed temple. He built up seven “hills of knowledge” that surround the Buddha and covered them with azaleas, sasanqua, camellias, and bamboos.
    Fascinating…
    And such things as Machete’s should not be forced upon such tender eyes as those of a woman, Kerry…!!

    Thank you for your words…

    p.s PLEASE call for the Muffuletta, i would love to know if they are true to their word!!!

    x

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