New Orleans. The last stop on our Southern journey.
The city we loved; the city which tore us apart.
The city in which the Great Love’s food odyssey reached its grand, gumbo-fuelled climax and the city which broke his Backs.
Let’s start at the beginning. We arrived in that glorious city, not feeling peppy after a five-hour drive south along State Highway 55 and just a Wendy’s Gouda Burger to keep us sane.
Regardless, upon arrival, the GL and I took direct to the streets to begin soaking up all New Orleans had to offer.
We wandered the Mississippi River and made our way slowly into the French Quarter and to Café Du Monde. Because where else does one begin their New Orleans food tour?
The GL and I bought ourselves a parcel of beignet and a Diet Coke to share and settled ourselves in to people watch and eat.
The famed beignet is outrageously delicious and like heaven to a sugar-addict like myself. And like a proper addict, this first afternoon visit, marked the first of four I would make to Cafe du Monde for those delicious, deep-fried pastry and powdered sugar treats.
Sugar dusted from the GL’s beard, we wandered down to Frenchman Street from the waterfront, taking in a few bars and just delighting in everything that city could throw up. Then, it was back along Bourbon Street, a rendezvous with Ria and Zach and perhaps another beignet, before hauling our chubby arses to K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen on Chartres Street.
K-Paul’s is located in the French Quarter and a fairly simple Google search will tell you – or the GL who had done the investigating – it is well worth a look-in. The Cajun and Creole cuisine lived to every Google review and was perhaps the best food we encountered our entire trip; K-Paul’s was epic.
The GL elected the gumbo for starter (the best he had ever eaten) followed by a main of duck with shrimp on a bed of rice. We also ate an entire bowl of bread almost instantly after our seating. It wasn’t cheap and it was worth every American dollar. Dessert was a late beignet.
The following day commenced with the GL consuming waffle and scrambled egg for breakfast, before we departed for the bayou and a swamp tour with a guide who was everything that is brilliant about the south.
He was completely charming in the most pleasant, slightly offensive, manner and our two hours with him were some of the most enjoyable, informative and goddamned interesting of the entire trip. We also held a baby gator, which was pretty bloody cool.
Upon our return, we hit up the French Market for a late lunch, the GL chomping down on a gatar po-boy and whatever it was that Ria ordered and then didn’t eat.
We wandered slowly down Bourbon Street on our way home, the GL and I had a fight (he must have been hormonal), I had a nap and everyone else went out for dinner.
I caught up with them late, in time to watch a college football game at a nearby pub, ogle at the waitress dressed as a school girl and take part in the pizza ordered for supper.
The following day turned out to be the fateful one.
We were booked in for a NFL game between New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and our day began early with our foursome buoyed by the arrival of Clint and Anna.
We were in the mood for a party and little did the GL and I know we were both set to peak hard and plummet fast. Mine was to be an alcohol-fuelled trajectory, his a dodgy chicken disaster.
After the GL’s breakfast of waffle and scrambled egg, we hit to the streets. Like hundreds of thousands of team-colour-dressed others.
We arrived at the stadium and slammed down a small beer each, the GL and Clint had themselves a stick of fried chicken from a caravan outside the stadium. That move proved fatal.
On the inside the GL ate pizza, nachos, pop corn and a roast beef po-boy. While I drank.
Post-game we headed for Bourbon St and began drinking grenades. For me, this move proved fatal. The grenades were toxic and that was the direction I was headed.
We left for the Frenchman Quarter and dinner and while I was becoming increasingly obnoxious, the GL began what was to become a series of projectile, power spews. The fried chicken stick had raised its poisonous head.
Spewing, the GL commenced a gents’ lavatory tour of the area and I a drunk-fuelled journey of laughter, anger, tears, getting lost in the bathroom, insistence on beignets, power walking and passing out in bed.
Kudos to the GL, who, despite his frequent bathroom visits, still managed to consume a rather delicious (I’m told) dinner of shrimp and grits which may have ended in a gutter and loo located between Frenchman and our hotel. (I apologise for the missing photo but I must admit, I was lost in the bathroom most of the evening, before my sister came and rescued me, and the camera was the last thing on my mind)
After a detour for beignet we wandered home, me stalking off, out in front because I was very cross over something very important, and the GL staggering at the back of the pack due to what everyone but me knew to be a rather vicious case of food poisoning.
The night ended in both of us passed out; mine drunk, his exhaustion.
The next day he didn’t eat. He weathered the smells of breakfast, a non-responsive, yellow, sweaty-skinned and silent mess. And he departed the south on an empty stomach.
While we waited at the airport, the GL disappeared into the bathroom and I mused, from the discomfort of my hard-backed airport chair and the depths of my hangover, upon his Southern food odyssey.
He had eaten his way around the south, only to be felled at the final turn by a piece of fried chicken, but was he beaten?
Could a severe case of diarrhoea undo what had entered at the other end? No, I thought to myself, no, not even close.
He ate that place out, as we tore through a golden triangle of the South’s best – Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans.
It was an epic journey and the Deep South is quite literally one of the best places he has ever tasted.