A Taste of New Orleans in Utrecht

okra

This morning, before lethargy and two jobs could distract me, Charlie and I headed out to the market at Vredenburg in search of some okra. I knew that there used to be a vegetable stall there that always had okra, but it has been a while since I’ve been to the Saturday market and I was worried they wouldn’t be there today. Fortunately, my concerns were soon allayed and I was in possession of a nice bag full of okra. And I only had to wrestle Charlie back to his sit position twice!

(Charlie is relatively well trained, but when he’s out in the world with lots of distractions, he gets a bit overwhelmed. I’m trying to get him more used to crowds and all the associated smells and such and he’s definitely making progress. I’m very proud of him!)

As for the okra, the reason I absolutely had to get some today is because I’m turning Vino Veritas into a Creole/Cajun restaurant for one night only on Tuesday, which happens to be Mardi Gras. This time of year, I always get nostalgic for my years in New Orleans and I’ve had a hankerin’ for some authentic gumbo. Since the Klein New Orleans event last summer was such a big hit (although I still question some of the recipes), I thought I’d host my own Klein Mardi Gras — on a much smaller scale, of course.

This has been a really last-minute decision, so I’m sadly short of purple, green, and gold decorations, but at least we should have some mighty fine food and a good Mardi Gras/New Orleans music playlist. I brought a small selection of some of my Mardi Gras beads with me when we moved, so maybe I’ll hang some off the cactus we have at work, in honor of the trees covered in Mardi Gras beads in New Orleans. We had one such tree right outside our dorm room freshman year. I have fond memories of sitting on the balcony and watching the plastic beads catch the light.
Mardi Gras [Day 47/365]
Oh, but the food! That’s what y’all want to know about! We’re going to be serving up gumbo, jambalaya, and shrimp etouffĂ©e, and I’m thinking about a marinated avocado and crab salad and/or a corn and black bean salad for starters. And if I can scrounge up some food coloring, I might be making mini king cakes for dessert. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it! And if you’re wondering, I have my own recipes, but also got some recipes from my friends from Louisiana, just to make sure I’m doing it right. Seriously, y’all. This is going to be the authentic taste. I guarantee! Ooo weeee!

(I had to throw that Justin Wilson link in. My grandpaw, who used to catch his own shrimp and fish in Florida and cooked a bit of Cajun-style food — despite being from Tennessee — used to watch Justin Wilson regularly and I’d watch with him when I was visiting. It’s one of my fond memories. The last time I saw my grandfather before he died was actually in New Orleans. We ended up going to the Court of Two Sisters for lunch. It was one of the first restaurants I went to in New Orleans and it was always a favorite. While we were having lunch, he told me about visiting the restaurant while he was in the Navy during WWII. They’d been stopped in New Orleans before heading out and he and some friends had dined at Court of Two Sisters. Years later, while we were cleaning out my grandparents’ home, I found a photo taken that night. It’s one of my cherished possessions. That’s him on the right.)
grandpawneworleans

So, anyway, if you’re in Utrecht this Tuesday, 9 February, head to Vino Veritas (Biltstraat 9) and pass a good time as if you were down on the bayou! Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Throw Me Sumthin’, Mister!

King Cake Babies
Happy Mardi Gras! I had thought about actually making a king cake this year, but as sick as I am, I don’t see that happening now. Maybe shrimp etouffĂ© for dinner? Or shall I embrace the British Pancake Tuesday tradition? To be honest, it all sounds a bit overwhelming right now. In the words of the immortal Dead Milkmen, “I’m all messed up on cough syrup now, so just like, nevermind.”

Recommended music for today: “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans” by Louis Armstrong or Harry Connick Jr. or any number of other singers.

Day of Celebration

Carnaval
There’s so much to celebrate today! It’s International Women’s Day! It’s Mardi Gras/Carnaval! It’s my parents’ wedding anniversary! It’s my birthday! Cake for everyone!

Saturday afternoon, we heard marching bands nearby, and when I peered out the window, I saw that there was a parade going through the main street through the city! Although the biggest celebrations of Carnival/Mardi Gras take place down in the southern part of the country around Maastricht, other cities still put on some sort of celebration. Utrecht had a parade. It took me back to my university days in New Orleans.

Today is the final day of celebrations before the beginning of Lent (if you follow all that), but I’ll be celebrating a bit of excess this evening with another feast of small round foods and a decadent chocolate birthday cake — which needs to be made, so I’d better get a move on! In the meantime, enjoy a few more photos of the floats in the parade.
Meisjes
Float
Tree Stump
Windmill
King Float
End of the Parade

Throw Me Somthing, Mister!


Happy Mardi Gras!

Between the Saints winning the Super Bowl and now Mardi Gras, these old beads I collected at the various Mardi Gras parades have gotten a lot of use recently! Mardi Gras, or Carnaval, is celebrated here in the Netherlands, although primarily in the southern Brabant region (the southern part of the country), with one of the big celebrations taking place in Maastricht, as well as in Eindhoven and ‘s-Hertogenbosch, among others. Although I haven’t experienced a Dutch Carnaval yet, from what I understand, it’s not that different from the New Orleans Mardi Gras with which I’m familiar. People dress up in costumes, there are parades, and generally it’s one big party. Having experienced the New Orleans version, someday I’d like to experience the Dutch version (and the Venetian and Brazilian versions, despite the massive crowds).

If you follow the religious aspect of this holiday and are giving something up for Lent, make the most of this fat Tuesday and enjoy yourself! Me, I’ll be noshing on chocolate eggs until Easter.

Saints Almighty!

Who Dat [Day 39/365]
I pulled out some of my old Mardi Gras beads — the gold ones, of course — to wear during the game.

As some of you may know, I went to Tulane University in New Orleans, and I fell in love with the city. I also became a Saints fan as I embraced everything New Orleans-related. Of course, I’ve also been a long-time Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, so I was used to supporting a non-winning team. It’s now been 20 years since I first became a Saints fan. In all that time, I never really expected us to do that well; certainly not to make it to the Super Bowl! I mean, I’ve had my hopes raised in the past; I was there in the early ’90s when Coach Jim Mora had some success with the team, success that lead to the whole Cha-Ching chants and bumper stickers calling for Mora for Governor (which might not have been a bad idea considering David Duke and Edwin Edwards were the actual candidates).

So this season, as the Saints began their 13-game winning streak, I was thrilled, but still very cautious. It was the Saints, after all. Something would invariably go wrong. When they lost the last three games of the season, I thought it was the Saints as usual. Don’t forget, they used to be called the Ain’ts. I knew we were going to playoffs, but still thought that would be the end of it. Oh, I was thrilled we’d done as well as we had, but I didn’t want to get too excited. History was certainly not in the team’s favor. But they kept winning. They even beat the mighty Brett Favre and the Vikings to finally, FINALLY go to the Super Bowl for the very first time in the team’s 43-year history.

I still couldn’t bring myself to be too cocky about the Saints actually managing to win the Super Bowl. I figured I’d be happy just that we’d finally made it that far. The first half of the Super Bowl made me think that line of thinking was appropriate. But then the second half of the Super Bowl started and things turned around. Boy did they turn around! Touchdowns, interceptions, more field goals! I still couldn’t believe it and it wasn’t until the Colts’ last play, with only 40 seconds left that I finally allowed myself to believe that the Saints really were going to win the Super Bowl! They did it! They won! The New Orleans Saints are NFL Champions!

Did I mention that the game didn’t start here until 12:30 a.m. and that the end of the game wasn’t until almost 4 a.m.? Oh yeah. We watched. I wasn’t the only displaced Southerner/New Orleans Saints fan who stayed up and watched. This morning when I got up a few measly hours later, I was afraid it was just a dream. But no; it was all real! So if you’ll excuse me, I have some gloating to do.

Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?

WHO DAT?!