Saundra and Corrine
Lee and I went to New Orleans last weekend. He won an all expense paid trip through his job. Among the things that included was our choice of activities. He indulged my love of cooking and we took a Cajun/Creole cooking class. We decided to call it an eating class, because two lovely women did the cooking and we did the eating. We had Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, Jambalaya, Bread Pudding, and Pralines. All homemade, right down to the roux needed to prepare the dishes. It was some of the best food I ate all weekend, I kid you not! We also got an in depth history of the peoples that settled in Louisiana and what foods they brought to the proverbial cajun and creole table.
The food was wonderful, but the ladies were what made it special. They worked so well together, you could tell they are great friends. They are both also survivors of Hurricane Katrina. They told story after story of their experiences before, during and after the storm. Saundra evacuated early and went to stay with her mother, "Something a woman of my age should never do!", she told us. Her house in Metairie was not badly damaged.
Corrine, on the other hand was determined to stay. She felt sure the storm would not be a direct hit. She'd seen these storms turn at the last minute. When it became clear that it was going to hit, she was able to get out of Louisiana. It was a good thing she did. Her house in the 9th ward was a complete loss. Mud and muck from Lake Pontchartrain was up to the second story of her house. She wasn't able to salvage anything. She said one of the most sentimental and thus, the most valuable things she lost was iron skillets handed down from her grandmother. A true chef, this woman! She said she knew it was over when she finally got back in to see the house and, "a big black water moccasin slithered down the stairs from the second story of my house. I told him he could have it and left."
The part of this story that hit home for me, was that these women didn't know where the other one was for several weeks. Saundra thought Corrine had stayed and watched in horror as the water breached the levees in Corrine's neighborhood. I can't imagine not knowing where my best girlfriends are in a disaster!
The one thing these gracious ladies stressed over and over was how grateful they were that we were there. Tourism is what allowed them to come home to New Orleans. I've often thought I couldn't live in a town that was a tourist destination. Tourist often carry an odd pairing of cluelessness and self righteousness all wrapped up into one person. I've never thought how I'd feel if I were displaced from this town that I love and never be able to live here again. If something as simple as someone coming to my town and spending some money would allow me home again, I'd take them in a minute. These women LOVE their town. It's home.
I know I thought after the storm, "what is the matter with these people living below sea level!" I now know that no matter what I think about New Orleans rebuilding that it is home to people. For many of them it's always been home. They love it as much or more than I love my home town. The ladies pointed out, "there's a culture and a people here that is nowhere else on the planet, we don't want to lose it."
If you're thinking about a vacation, think about New Orleans. Especially think about taking an eating class at Creole Delicacies with Saundra and Corrine. The store has a website with an online catalog that includes all things cajun and creole. Thanks ladies for a wonderful and tasty afternoon. You do your city proud!
For more information here's link to the store and school. http:/www.cookincajun.com/