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Stirring the pot again


FistFullaRoux
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Bourbon Street is an outgrowth of the port city mentality. Any port city nearly anywhere in the world, has a section of seedy bars that cater to the purient interests of men who have been on a boat for an extended time and a pocketful of money. Hence, 24 hr drinking, strip clubs, and other festive locations. Mardi Gras has quite a bit to do with that as well.

I think Kevin is making my point better than me. There are still a variety of restaurants, if one takes the time to do a bit of research and not spend too much time in the French Quarter. They are not all on the main streets, and not all claim to serve classical French food. Would he still be as "respected" if he thought the only restaurants in NYC were in Manhattan?

Another thing to note, this article was written post-Katrina. If anyone anywhere thinks that NO is back up and running full speed, they are naive and mistaken. Some restaurants are open, but if I had to hazard a guess, probably half of the restaurants that were there 15 months ago are no longer, due to lack of tourism and the increased cost of doing business in the city. Not to mention finding decent cooks and waitstaff, repair of facilities, and other legal and insurance snafus. Sure, the tourist heavy/famous spots were the first to re-open, as they are vital to the city's rebuilding by providing jobs. It still took Commander's Palace a year or so to re-open. If they couldn't pull it together quickly, the smaller businesses are in far deeper water, pardon the pun.

I think it has stirred up so many emotional responses since any bad review of anything in the city is seen as a negative in the recovery. Ostensibly, people were influenced (wrongly or not) by this article. How many were considering a trip down for the food and festivities, are now making other plans? The food, according to Richman's article, is not so good, or at least not what he expected. What else is there if you are not into the Bourbon Street scene, when your only knowlege of the city is from movies and CNN?

It's not so much that he didn't like the food. He's got an opinion and a byline. He can do that. But people who love the city see it as an insult, especially when the author did not take the time to research his subject. He needs to sit down with John Folse and Paul Prudhomme and take notes. I think it would have been a different article, even if he didn't care for the food.

edited for typos

Edited by FistFullaRoux (log)
Screw it. It's a Butterball.
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Some restaurants are open, but if I had to hazard a guess, probably half of the restaurants that were there 15 months ago are no longer, due to lack of tourism and the increased cost of doing business in the city.

Actually, the numbers are worse than that. According to the Brookings Institute's "Katrina Index" only one-third of restaurants had reopened by Katrina's anniversary (see p. 9 of pdf).

Bridget Avila

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Local food guru Tom Fitzmorris disputes that number. He argues that the majority of restaurants, and particularly the places that tourists might visit, are open. The official number, according to Tom, covers any foodservice establishment, including gas stations and the like.

My guess is that it depends on what you mean by restaurant and where you are. Tourists are probably fine. In Uptown, I don't find it hard to eat. If I lived in Mid-City, Lakeview or New Orleans East, I would probably have a very different perspective.

I'm hoping to investigate the whole issue in an upcoming OffBeat article.

Edited by TAPrice (log)

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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After reading the blog interview, I stand by my statements. As Peyton says at the end of the blog post, Richman just does not get it. Richman uses the unfortunate form of the throwaway joke to get several points across, and readers of the story unfamiliar with NO will not get the joke, and take that information at face value.

I'll reiterate my previous sentiment. Richman is a dumbass. And he is a smug, narcissistic child. I don't like his style of writing, and he comes across as a frat boy who only read the Cliff's notes before handing in the article. He may have done "research" on the Cajuns and Creoles, but he fails to get his point across.

Any story that requires 2 or 3 followup articles or interviews to fully explain is badly written, and shows that he does not know about the subject.

edited for tpos and clarity

Edited by FistFullaRoux (log)
Screw it. It's a Butterball.
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As a former New Orleanian( and Quarterite,and chef) I can agree wit the fact that there are a slew of mediocre(at best) and bad restaurants in N.O., and that Bourbon Street is a abomination( the only locals there are the ones taking your money). But whose fault is that? I say its the ill informed, uninspired, and dimwitted tourist(and stupid college kids on spring break) who want nothing more than this charactericature of what they think New Orleans is about. I feel the street keeps those idiots contained in a secure area for everyone else who actually can appreciate what the city has to offer.

Tim, IMOP you at least attempt to address the opinion expressed in the GQ piece. The problem I have is most people here seem to want to simply attack Richman and discredit him without having to deal with anything he says.

After all these are just opinions.

I'm pretty sure what I wrote on my website, albeit filled with immature invective, counted as analysis of what he actually wrote. I didn't want to reproduce it here mainly because of the length. What Mr. Richman wrote was offensive to a lot of New Orleanians, because he made a lot of pretty snide comments about us generally. What was worse, there was the perception that he simply got a lot wrong, factually. I think the issue about the roux was a significant error on his part, and one that made me question a lot of his opinions about our food; not just the "classic creole" cuisine, but the more modern stuff he also didn't like.

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Richman:

"You’ve heard about the cuisine, of course, but you’ve probably heard wrong. Meals are rarely accompanied by washboard thumping and zydeco bands. That ritual goes along with Cajun food, fundamental and spicy, brought down from Canada—good Lord, are we trying to save food from Canada? —by Acadian farmers and their spokesmodel, Longfellow’s Evangeline. What has been said about one-pot Cajun cooking being tasty is true, except nobody goes to New Orleans to eat it. It’s best appreciated in Lafayette Parish, a three-hour drive west. Folks out there call themselves Cajuns, and I promise you they do not behave like the rest of us."

Well, you are actually more likely to see Zydeco bands on Bourbon Street than you are in Lafayette or Lafayette parish or most Cajun restaurants in the SW. Some touristy places like Randol's in Lafayette and Mulate's in Breaux Bridge have Cajun music (hope he didn't confuse Cajun music with Zydeco music like a lot of people do!), or even places in the country like D.I.'s Restaurant outside Basile or Bubba Frey's Restaurant in Mowata, but the food at those places is seldom as good as the regular Cajun restaurants, grocery stores, plate lunch places, etc. A notable exception is Cafe Des Amis in Breaux Bridge (zydeco brunch on Saturdays). I ate there in peace and quiet on a Sunday and loved it!

To me, you can get a better idea of Cajun eating in the SW at the New York Times article,

It Takes More than Crayfish (sic) to Make a Cajun Wiggle

Hope that URL works for you.

I didn't take the line about Cajuns not being like the rest of us as an insult, but they are actually very Americanized after all, I think.

Edited by My Confusing Horoscope (log)

Scorpio

You'll be surprised to find out that Congress is empowered to forcibly sublet your apartment for the summer.

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I didn't take the line about Cajuns not being like the rest of us as an insult, but they are actually very Americanized after all, I think.

You and I are included even though we don't get our mail there anymore. Cajuns are Americanized to a certain extent, cher. Just like our forefathers, we are willing to assimilate the good things around us while paying mind to the traditions. Crawfish Fettucine, anyone?

Screw it. It's a Butterball.
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  • 3 weeks later...
I must say:  all of Kim Severson's pieces on Louisiana have been thoughtful & way-better-than-decent.

That is simply because Kim is thoughtful and way-better-than-decent. She gets it. She's made the effort when she is here to go way, way beyond just getting a few interviews and going back home and writing them up. Lots of people have written lots of things about New Orleans since the storm, both good and bad, but her pieces, along with the one Corby Kummer wrote early this year in The Atlantic, are total standouts in my mind.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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I must say:  all of Kim Severson's pieces on Louisiana have been thoughtful & way-better-than-decent.

That is simply because Kim is thoughtful and way-better-than-decent. She gets it. She's made the effort when she is here to go way, way beyond just getting a few interviews and going back home and writing them up. Lots of people have written lots of things about New Orleans since the storm, both good and bad, but her pieces, along with the one Corby Kummer wrote early this year in The Atlantic, are total standouts in my mind.

Can you cite a piece that was even moderately critical of New Orleans that you like?

Richman is an astute, acerbic and thought provoking writer and critic.

(this is a guy who couldn't find any decent pizza in Naples!)

I can understand why many people find him too abrasive and do not care for his style.

I pretty much subscribe to GQ because of Richman.

I have been to New orleans several times and my experiences are pretty much in line with Richman's. The city is not one of my favorites though I am perfectly willing to admit there is probably a lot (a side) of the place I am unaware of. There are also a number of things I like a lot. The people I came into contact with were wonderful. (I also love the Neville Brothers and a lot of the music scene).

There are millions of people who do love the city (really is this any different from any other city anywhere? some people love a place others do not). Of all the people I know who have been to New Orleans, I would say a few absolutely love it a few like it a lot and a few don't like it at all. By the way I understand why a lot of folks don't like my city--I am certainly not going to get myself in an apoplectic state when it is criticized.

Again, Richman does have a very iconoclastic and smart ass style of writing and his humor is a bit quirky --see his pieces on Pizza and Naples as well as Southern barbeque or hamburgers etc

On second thought, don't read em I have a feeling you will just get more upset.

Anyway, after surviving such a large scale natural disaster, it is nice to see the city (love it or hate it) coming back, who wouldn't root for New Orleans?

The Richman piece won't have much impact one way of the other--a superbowl or two in the dome will.

:wink:

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Can you cite a piece that was even moderately critical of New Orleans that you like?

Richman is an astute, acerbic and thought provoking writer and critic.

(this is a guy who couldn't find any decent pizza in Naples!)

I can understand why many people find him too abrasive and do not care for his style.

I pretty much subscribe to GQ because of Richman.

Can you cite a piece that was even moderately critical of New Orleans that you like?

To answer that question literally, I can easily say, "yes." This place is a trainwreck. New Orleans as a functioning municipality was pretty much on the skids before the storm and after, well, it's a very, very well documented train wreck. Schools are bad, our mayor is missing in action most of the time, there are few places for middle and lower income folks to rent, daily life is a grind that's really, really hard to explain to anyone who is not living it and the various programs meant to help bring us back to life are pretty much predictably snafu. There have been lots and lots and lots of things written about New Orleans that were completely negative that I agreed completely with. We're not stupid, you know. We know what this place is and in many cases we actually have some idea how to fix the problems (though clearly we are going to need big bags of money to get the work done) that exist here. We also know that we are very, very happy to be here and regardless of the problems-we're generally really happy to be here. People don't leave here easily. Somewhere out there someone is reading this whose significant other is from New Orleans and they know that at some point they are probably going to have to go home if they want to stay with their partner. It's just how it is. We don't leave easily and when we do, well, we just want to go back home. It's hard to explain (everytime I try I end up rambling-just like this time :wacko: ). Being realistically critical, when basing it on well formed, well researched opinion is always valid and in our case, needed and generally welcomed. Really. We want to get all of this fixed. Right now. Today. This is NOT fun.

On the other hand, if you are referring to pieces that are moderately critical of the food culture here...not so much (meaning that I can't cite many of them-not that I do or don't like them). Most of the people who have come here after the storm to write about food and food culture (and by extension, the tourist related industries) already had or immediately cultivated and developed at least a passing idea of what we are all about (Kim Severson, for her part, had never been here until after the storm-I was a witness to her first bead catches-trust me, she can mix it up with the best of them out on The Avenue during a parade) and also seem to have had some idea that we are doing the best we can with what we have to work with.

New Orleans is, in a very real way, one of the most difficult and complicated places to live in the first world right now. Things don't work. People don't work. It's tiring and though it can be very subtle, or not, there is a creeping depression that haunts everyone of us (unless you are just incredibly well adjusted or completely out of touch with reality-I am neither of those and most folks aren't either). The people who have covered the various offshoots of the story since Aug 29, 2005 seem to have, for the most part, taken the time to appreciate what we had, what we have, and what all of us, to some degree or another, are trying to put together for the future.

Mr Richman, on the other hand, came here with an agenda. I, and many other people that I know, knew that he was here and even before he left we knew that he was up to something. Several of his dining partners (to be unnamed here because they wish to remain that way) recounted that he was basically a morose, grouchy, prick while he was here and pretty much told people that they, "might not like what he was going to say." Well, fine, thought all of us. Frankly, I can go lots of places in this town that are "famous" and do that as well as he can (I think that Mother's, for example, does and always will suck wind-it's a tourist trap with bad food-nothing more-but that's my opinion) . It's food. What you and I like might not be what other's like. On the other hand, to criticize something that really is what it is supposed to be just because it's not the way that you expected it or the way that you like it is really a rediculous way to go into a criticism (i.e. trout almondine mueniere at Galatoire's-it's a sublimely delicious dish, imo, but the important part is that they have been making it that way for over 100 years-it's not wrong-it's just Galatoire's way). Still, fine, he didn't like the food, he got the wrong vintage on his wine (we had about a zillion bottles that had their labels floated off in the flood, butthead. Next time, we'll let you have some fun identifying the mystery wine), and generally he's a crusty old crank with a bone to pick about New Orleans food. Good for him-slash away.

The issue that I have taken, that Kim Severson took, that Brett Anderson and many others took is that there was, apparently, little research done on the part of Mr Richman and he came in with a chip on his shoulder and managed to make that chip into one about the size of a cypress stump by the time that he left. If he was here to talk about restaurants (the food, the business, whatever) he should have left it at that. The problem is that he took it upon himself to become some kind of cultural critic way, way beyond the food realm. One of the lines that pissed me and alot of others off the most was that crack about New Orleanians and exercise-what the hell does that have to do with anything? Lots of people here don't drink a lick and lots of those that do, most in fact, don't drink to excess. Sure, we KNOW how to have fun when we turn ourselves loose. We get it. People come here to BE LIKE US to some degree or another-though I dare say that most of those that tourists see in the Quarter with a "Big Ass Beer" and a girlfriend ripping up her top are most likely just like themselves-tourists. A quick trip Uptown during the parade season to catch beads with the locals will yield a dissapointing result for the "show me" set. It's way more about family and friends up there than it is teenagers from Des Moines with no shirts and even less brains (ok, ok, it wasn't your daughter from Des Moines-it was someone else's so don't get into a tizz. She may well have been from Birmingham or Decatur-but really, it wasn't your daughter).

Richman is an astute, acerbic and thought provoking writer and critic.

(this is a guy who couldn't find any decent pizza in Naples!)

Mr. Richman is, indeed, a talented writer and I have enjoyed his work in the past. I now realize that some of the things that I have enjoyed about his work may indeed be flaws that perhaps I should have noticed on the first pass. How much of his work is based on honest, well researched opinion and how much of it is, as in his New Orleans piece, completely opinionated, poorly researched garbage? I'm kind of leaning towards believing the latter at this point.

Being able to string together words is a talent. Clearly he has that talent. Whether those words, when reconsidered, hold as much weight is something for someone with more time or interest than I have. It's likely that I will run into the guy somewhere, but it damned sure won't be here. He's not coming back. What we did 200 years ago to General Pakenham and his lads would seem tame to what might happen to Mr Richman were he to be recognized here. Surely being forced into the backroom at August would be the least of his worries.

Then again, you know what would REALLY happen if he came back? Most likely many of us would do our very best to try, as hard as we might be able to, to explain what this place and it's bizarrely alluring culture is all about. We're like that. People in New Orleans don't know any strangers. I believe that if there was some way to do a survey of visitors here who ended up going to parties or gatherings or events or funerals (how many other places on Earth do people get invited to a funeral-hell, it's even fun to DIE here) just because some local that they met invited them, that the number would easily be higher than it would be anywhere else in North America. We, all of us, do it all of the time. You meet someone at a parade, on the streetcar, maybe it's a friend of a friend, and all of a sudden they find themselves in your backyard at a seafood boil, or going to some out of the way place to eat (honestly, how many tourists, on their own, really ever go to places like Willie Mae's by their own selves?) and with some folks who just might be their new best friends. We all do that. Those of us who live here, even now, know what it's a big part of what makes this place special and we are happy, crazy happy, to show others. Do they always get it? Oh boy. No. Trust me, I have taken folks places where, sometime during whatever it was, you can just look at them and see that, "these people are out of their minds and I don't want any part of this-not now, not ever" look. What do I do at that point? Well, it depends on how much fun the thing is, but, generally, we'll take them somewhere else. There are always options here. Lots of options. That's why people love to come here and that's why people defend it so vehemently. We like it here. We're not like you. Sometimes that works against us, sometimes it works for us, but whatever it does, most people seem to like it.

I pretty much subscribe to GQ because of Richman.

It takes all kinds :hmmm::raz: . I subscribe to stay up on all of the latest news about Pam and Kid Rock. Also, I find lots of helpful grooming tips, as I am all about looking clean and shiny.

Then again, sometimes GQ is worth reading. This is a very good, well researched piece. I suspect that Chris Heath must have had a few more days, a few more run ins with locals, and a bit more of an open mind (and damned sure more compassion for his subjects) than the astute, acerbic and thought provoking writer and critic

Mr Richman did.

Maybe next time, if there is one, he'll lighten up and just let the place happen to him...

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Richman is an astute, acerbic and thought provoking writer and critic.

(this is a guy who couldn't find any decent pizza in Naples!)

Is that really meant to be a recommendation? Doesn't it suggest Richman is someone who complains to draw attention to himself rather than because of the facts? And if he's consistent in this character flaw (being "acerbic" for its own sake), how is it any less of a flaw?

Andrew

Andrew Riggsby

ariggsby@mail.utexas.edu

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Agreed, I think he's trying to promote the image of "shock journalism" that is requisite in the genre of mags he writes for. Anything else and nobody would notice him, and the GQ realworld set would just tune back into Howard Stern for food literature.

Edited by Timh (log)
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  • 1 month later...

Finally, a topic on this board where I actually have a modicum of experience!

I just finished reading the Richman piece, and I find it to be alright when he sticks to criticism of food, but he can't seem to resist being condescending and insulting. He begins his article by rejoicing in the closing of Uglesich’s where he had a traumatic po-boy experience, as if Katrina had done him a personal favor. He then refers to Antoine's and Arnaud's as the 'twin tourist standbys' which he and everyone else abandoned decades ago, while extolling the virtues of Cafe du Monde as if it were some quaint local eatery frequented only by locals. (Unfortunately Cafe du Monde is possibly the most frequented tourist trap in the entire city, and seems to me to be run by an oriental family. Not exactly the model for local cuisine.)

This dichotomy continues throughout the article. One minute he accurately critiques a food item or restaurant, the next he is taking a potshot at the entire city. Some of his non-critique generalizations:

- New Orleans is decadent and wears five-day stubble

- is there is anything in the city worth cherishing or preserving?

- he all but writes off the French Quarter

- implies that all previous praises of New Orleans cuisine were made by drunks

- narcissism, revelry, indolence, and corruption rendered locals incapable of responding properly to Katrina

- writes off Creoles as myth

- seems to equate Bourbon Street with the entire French Quarter

- asserts that most citizens get their exercise by stumbling out of bars

I can certainly understand why residents would take umbrage with his depiction of their city, especially those who are still trying to cut through the red tape and get back into their homes. At least he spent money there, as did my wife and I over the week between Christmas and New Year's. The difference is that we had a wonderful time, had no predisposition to hate bread pudding or any particular food, and will return again and again.

Mr. Richman does his profession a great disservice with such a hatchet job. Perhaps he should update his byline to 'culture critic.'

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Finally, a topic on this board where I actually have a modicum of experience! 

I just finished reading the Richman piece, and I find it to be alright when he sticks to criticism of food, but he can't seem to resist being condescending and insulting.  He begins his article by rejoicing in the closing of Uglesich’s where he had a traumatic po-boy experience, as if Katrina had done him a personal favor.  He then refers to Antoine's and Arnaud's as the 'twin tourist standbys' which he and everyone else abandoned decades ago, while extolling the virtues of Cafe du Monde as if it were some quaint local eatery frequented only by locals.  (Unfortunately Cafe du Monde is possibly the most frequented tourist trap in the entire city, and seems to me to be run by an oriental family.  Not exactly the model for local cuisine.)

This dichotomy continues throughout the article.  One minute he accurately critiques a food item or restaurant, the next he is taking a potshot at the entire city.  Some of his non-critique generalizations:

- New Orleans is decadent and wears five-day stubble

- is there is anything in the city worth cherishing or preserving?

- he all but writes off the French Quarter

- implies that all previous praises of New Orleans cuisine were made by drunks

- narcissism, revelry, indolence, and corruption rendered locals incapable of responding properly to Katrina

- writes off Creoles as myth

- seems to equate Bourbon Street with the entire French Quarter

- asserts that most citizens get their exercise by stumbling out of bars

I can certainly understand why residents would take umbrage with his depiction of their city, especially those who are still trying to cut through the red tape and get back into their homes.  At least he spent money there, as did my wife and I over the week between Christmas and New Year's.  The difference is that we had a wonderful time, had no predisposition to hate bread pudding or any particular food, and will return again and again.

Mr. Richman does his profession a great disservice with such a hatchet job.  Perhaps he should update his byline to 'culture critic.'

"hatchet job"?

The whole point of Richman's piece, indeed his whole premise is that New Orleans is a dichotomy.

long before Katrina. This is a city that has for decades ridden on its reputation for food and has sold itself as THE Convention town, a giant Disneyworld for adults. Cajun and Creole were and are part of the myth of New Orleans. Richman is merely casting a critical eye (maybe a bit jaundiced) on the city as it has been presented to the rest of the world and as it is seen by the rest of the world in contrast to what it really is (has been).

I think that how one reacts to Mr Richman's article seems to depend upon how much one has bought into that myth (or wants to buy into it).

Interestingly, the myth of New Orleans pre Katrina also glossed over the fact that the city had some very severe social and infrastructure problems--this is a tale of two cities or rather two tales of one city. One tale was never really told or if/when it was no one listened or no one cared.

The endless conga line along Bouron Street was much more fun. Instead of joining it, Richman stays sober and looks at where it originated and where it is going.

In the aftermath of Katrina, the other New Orleans emerged. I fear that a lot of this righteous indignation at any and all criticism of the city is a result of people once again, trying desperately, to get the party restarted. An opportunity to really change things for the better is being wasted.

Let's just get the good times rollin again!

Hey, nothin wrong with the city's food scene let's just rebuild it exactly like it was!

Now--I believe that most cities have a dark side. I think that Richman enjoys looking at each place he visits in terms of how it presents itself and its food scene and how he (Richman) sees the reality in that context. He's done this most everywhere he has traveled. He just left Las Vegas, he did Southern Barbeque. This is his schtick. Yes he often exaggerates and uses some smart ass and sometimes callous language but I find he often gets closer to the truth or at least some truths by examining and challenging the culinary myths. People thrive on myths--creating them (for profit) and buying into them (for fun). it is hard to accept anyone messin with our myths.

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