My colleagues who read this blog are beginning to wonder if I am actually at the conference I’m supposed to be attending. I promise I am going to panels in between meals, some of them even at 8am…but yesterday was too beautiful to work through lunch and my New Orleanian friend L kindly agreed to take me for a traditional crawfish boil. The crawfish boil is a warm childhood memory for L, from fishing for the critters with special nets to cooking them up in a stock flavoured with spices, whole garlic heads, and sometimes corn and potatoes too.
We went to Frankie and Johnny’s, another low key local hangout, this time further uptown, near the Garden District. The vibe is somewhere between a diner and a dive bar, with extremely friendly waitstaff who were enthusiastic advocates for the eating of crawfish. We kept it simple with 2lbs of crustaceans – which is to say an enormous pan, easily enough for two. L taught me the basics of crawfish eating, which is to say twist off the head (sucking the juices optional), then pinch the tail and pull off the shell. They’re funny looking buggers but delicious in their peppery garlicy broth.
We added another local specialty: artichoke stuffed with garlicky breadcrumbs. This was not a meal for those uncomfortable eating with their hands. Mr Lemur, who freaks out eating anything messier than a pizza without silverware, would not have approved.
After the crawfish, we clearly hadn’t consumed enough fat and sugar for the day, so L took me to another local spot, Tee-Eva’s, for dessert. Tee-Eva’s is a tiny storefront on Magazine St, with a shaved ice-making machine in front for the local treat called a snowball and a tiny kitchen in back, in which we could see one of the staff stirring a giant pan of caramel for the pralines. It’s the epitome of a local institution, complete with in-joke posters of the staff and postcards sent by loyal customers. We ordered a snowball, which is is a summer cooler in New Orleans consisting of shaved ice, sugar-water, flavoured syrup and an optional topping of condensed milk. (Optional, but really the correct choice. Why would you say no to condensed milk?) However, apparently you have to know to ask for it, as it wasn’t offered. This, apparently, is an extra that demands local knowledge.
The snowball was tooth-achingly sweet but also rather yummy. We also had a praline, but that wasn’t terribly photogenic. After all that sugar, we went for a walk in the beautiful Garden District to recover. And then I went back to the conference. Honest.