Before floodwaters had even begun to subside, I had spoken to all my friends and relatives in and around New Orleans, making sure everyone was okay. It wasn’t until I saw so many in one place a few months later — the Southern Foodways Alliance’s annual meeting — that I realized everyone was not okay. Good friends had put on weight. Others had shed pounds they didn’t have to lose in the first place. All were in various degrees of shock and many were self-medicating with too much liquor.
And he’s been doing it ever since. Of course, he was a chef before Katrina, but since then, he has become arguably New Orleans’ most well known outside the city. I’ve eaten uncounted times at his restaurants and will undoubtedly end up in one before Tales of the Cocktail is over this month. As often as I visit, I don’t, at the end of the day, live in New Orleans. That may change one day. But until then, one of the touchstones of the city’s cookery is Besh’s massive cookbook, My New Orleans.
In it, Besh writes about the aftermath of the storms:
The story of our city is greater than those storms. We have been here for over 300 years, and we'll be here for another 300. Maybe it's about my children's generation, and their children's. Will they still eat red beans on Mondays? Make St. Joseph's Day altars? Will they still love the Saints? Will we ever win a Super Bowl? All I know is that I cook New Orleans food my way, revering each ingredient as it reaches the season of its ripeness. No other place on earth is like New Orleans. Welcome to the flavors of my home. Welcome to My New Orleans.In short order, I will share with you one of my favorite recipes from Besh’s book. But in the meanwhile, I’ll leave you with this: The Saints did win the Super Bowl. Red beans still get made every Monday. And, by god, New Orleans will most assuredly be with us for another 300 years.
John Besh (2010)
My New Orleans: The Cookbook
384 pages (hardback)
Andrews McMeel Publishing