New Orleans is an intermediate place. Life holds hands with death. Around the path reminds us that there is nothing left. Overwhelming laughter surrounds overwhelming despair.
Always with us, always together, always apart. Is it any wonder that Homer Plessy got on his train to Covington here in Bywater, right next to NOCCA? Separate but equal and all that jazz.
Sometimes it feels like we’re all in a giant game of hide and seek. To see and not to see. Go out and then hide again. In a way, the Mid-Westerners wouldn’t understand.
Life is more complicated in an intermediate place.
Take out the card. The barrier islands are just down the road – and get closer and closer with the seasons.
Shoot the trash. Compare our civics joy of living with seasonal care forgotten – neutral ground cleared hours after the parade fire truck against a high sidewalk stacked long after the last cluster of hurricanes. All on a Mardi Gras and, pray God, trash day.
Finally, stop by our neighborhoods – the social science experiment of drawing red lines atop floodplains mixed with estate property law. Blessed are you if you are in Flood Zone X and have a clean chain of titles. You, in fact, will inherit the earth.
New Orleans neighborhoods, of course, are the middle paradigm. Move a block and get ready for a shift in demographics, in history, in the response where you go to school and a plan where you hope to end up.
For all our struggles, the New Orleanians are experts at living in different worlds.
I thought of all of this at the fifth hour of my lunch at the Galatorium on Friday. Or was it my Galatory’s dinner? We are an intermediate place, remember? A mobile feast, all the same.
The Galatory Friday lunch and dinner has been a dream of mine for a long time. Just below world peace and a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway and the sacking of Bill Vinovich. In a certain order.
A small group of friends and family accompanied my journey from meal to meal. We marked the era with the song “Happy Birthday” (six times, by my count), narration from waiter John Fontenot (much over six episodes), and drink consumption (redacted number).
It was fabulous, without being forced. And I’m still waiting to hit a menu – a distinct compliment from Galatoire.
As the lunch crowd stumbled and the dinner crowd continued to search for a decent jacket to wear, we found ourselves almost alone in the dining room. It was the pulsating calm of Avenue Saint-Charles between the afternoon and evening parades. Joy for what has been, joy for what is yet to come.
And that’s when the party became the most New Orleans, the most intermediate of cities.
Between the stories of Brobson Lutz saving his life and the blocks of ice no longer shaving, John decided to give us a ride. He wanted to show us the apple soufflÃ© station, small potatoes puffed up with the pride of Galatoire during their second fry.
Pushing back the swinging kitchen door, our ersatz tour manager led us to the frying station. The grease-black schmear decorated the wall, a mark of honor just above the fryer. In a few seconds, the pieces of potatoes transformed into a delicacy worthy of the French name.
Our trip to the kitchen will always be my lasting memory of the six hour meal – not a little statement based on the House Crab I made appetizerâ¦ and main course. It wasn’t the cooking demonstration that mattered, however. It was the window to our city.
A door separates the jackets and ties of the upper class from the hurried whites of the predominantly black working class personnel. The ingredients may be a little fresher and the recipes more sanctified, but the Galatoire’s cuisine resembles all the others in its composition. During my summer on Legal Aid, for example, a number of homeless clients indicated that their oldest employer was one of the French Quarter. great lady Restaurants.
Our trip behind the thin curtain encroached on the staff meal: an economy-sized platter of meat and veg tacos, with tortillas for wrapping. Rockefeller oysters sent; Taco Tuesday stays inside. We’ll call this an off-menu special.
Four steps separated my seat from the kitchen door, a dozen or so from the frying station. As at Galatoire, as in life.
New Orleans is an intermediate city, always forcing us to look again, to note the intersection, to consider our neighbor.
Something to think about when you request the next check-up – after a six-hour meal or a more easily divisible meal.
When you spend six hours in a restaurant, you also think of some culinary thoughts. One of my brothers-in-law ordered fried eggplant, which the Galatoire serves with powdered sugar. I’ve seen this trick before, but never the next one: pour in sugar and drizzle with hot sauce. Believe me. Try it on something that could be sweet and spicy.
Then one of the many century-old innovations (there’s an oxymoron from New Orleans, for you) that Galatoire’s picked up from Antoine’s is CafÃ© BrÃ»lot. Enjoy the show.
Finally, if you are not yet hungry, explore the kitchen of this Galatory with Phillip Lopez. The man who was once known for his $ 200 / person tasting menu and cigar boxed scallops now oversees the traditionalist’s traditional place.