A Taste of New Orleans

New Orleans' famous shrimp po' boy. Yum.

This morning I was reading a few articles about President Obama’s commemoration of the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The first family traveled to New Orleans where the President addressed Xavier University yesterday.

As the articles discussed the President’s official business in ‘The Big Easy,’ I found it interesting that most of them made it a point to mention the President’s lunch. His speech, visit to a local housing development and even meetings with hurricane survivors did not overshadow his sumptuous shrimp po’boy at Parkway Bakery & Tavern.

Why was the seafood sub such a big deal?

A few thoughts:

1.The strength of small businesses gives a fair read on the pulse of the economy, and a mom & pop restaurant sure looks hopeful and healthy when you have the President as a patron.  Plus, it’s exciting for locals!

2. Food = comfort, especially during hard times.

3. Identity is often linked to food. What better way to affirm a recovering community than to chow down on a traditional meal that represents what New Orleans is about?

In fact, The Times-Picayune recently ran an article about how Hurricane Katrina affected the New Orleans food culture.

Item #3 on the list: Locals’ Appreciation for Food Deepened.

The article quotes a director of a New Orleans non-profit as saying, “In a very intense, concentrated space of time, people found out what really mattered to them. Food became the most important rituals of our lives.”

Item #8 on the list: New Orleanians began cooking all over the country.

This point was most interesting to me since NPR just ran a segment that featured a displaced New Orleanian. Patrick Wooten and his family were air lifted to shelter when their neighborhood of Algiers flooded during the hurricane. They’ve permanently relocated to Plymouth, MA where Patrick now works as a chef at The Salvation Army. Though the setting is a lot different than New Orleans, Patrick keeps in touch with his Cajun roots by serving up home cooking at The Salvation Army kitchen. If he can’t be in New Orleans, what a great way serve others and bring New Orleans to them!

What's for dinner tonight? Try this dirty rice recipe from our own Salvation Army chef.

Lucky for us, Patrick shared with NPR his Dirty Rice recipe that he made on Sunday to remember the 5th anniversary of Katrina. I’m including it below for anyone who’d like a New Orleans culinary lesson:

RECIPE: PATRICK WOOTEN’S DIRTY RICE (Serves six)

Ingredients:

1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound Andouille sausage
1/2 pound ham steak, cubed
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 bell pepper, diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Worcestershire sauce
Uncle Ben’s white rice

Instructions:

  • Brown the meat until beef is no longer pink.
  • Add Worcestershire sauce.
  • Remove meat from pan and saute vegetables in the leftover oil.
  • Add cooked rice and more Worcestershire sauce to taste.
  • While it cooks down, “sit and wait like a pit bull.”

Read how The Salvation Army has been providing relief to the Gulf Coast in our report “Hurricane Katrina: 5 Years On.”