According to the introduction of Gumbo YA-YA: Folk Tales of Louisiana, any person who chooses to either drink or bathe in the water of the Mississippi whilst in New Orleans is destined to return to the city. It’s difficult to avoid as all Louisianan water is sourced from the river. It’s also difficult to imagine not returning to New Orleans. It’s definitely my spiritual home – if by “spiritual home” we mean “place my liver goes to die.”
I love spending days wondering around the French Quarter, moseying between bars and curious little shops that sell all sorts of ridiculous things, from solid glass quills to Tabasco bottles the size of my thumb to Mardi Gras masks that cost $700 to honeyed pralines to plastic vampire fangs to strings and strings and strings of jewel coloured Mardi Gras beads which hang from EVERYTHING, from overhead wires to tree branches to street signs.
Unfortunately, New Orleanian cuisine isn’t really geared up towards vegetarians: crawfish po boys, seafood gumbo, jambalaya … it’s slim pickins. I’ve eaten a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches and salad po boys in NOLA.
On my last trip to the city, I was with my veggie brother. Armed with the HappyCow.net application, my brother found us a few tasty options for cruelty-free dinner, but none better than the Gumbo Shop in the French Quarter. The best thing about the Gumbo Shop was that we could quite comfortably stumble from our seats at the Pirate Alley Café straight into the restaurant. The veggie options were limited to two Creole creations: a nightly veggie special, usually some kind of veggie gumbo or bean casserole, and a gumbo z’herbes in addition to the ubiquitous grilled cheese and my darling spinach and artichoke dip. We both rolled with the nightly special, a thick white bean gumbo served with an island of rice and chopped spring onion, washed down with a cold glass
of Abita. We were absolutely blind drunk, and the soupy gumbo was the perfect dish to line our stomachs. Also, non-vegans might want to curl up and die in their amazing selection of Southern-style deserts.