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30 Restaurants: Mr. B’s Bistro & Galatoire’s

November and December eating was in the French Quarter, which I rarely do because of how annoying it is to get to with parking and now the Bourbon Street construction. But invitations from other people will get me out of my slump every time.

Mr. B’s Bistro

Mr. B’s Bistro is known for their barbecued shrimp, so naturally, that’s what I got. I would get it again in a heartbeat!! The sauce was so good that had I been in different company, I’d have sopped it all up with all the bread left on the table and then licked the bowl. But since I was there for a lunch meeting I decided to act like I had some sense. As an appetizer, I got the Gumbo Ya Ya. I enjoyed it, but something about the flavor made it seem like something was missing; nothing I could pinpoint. Thought it was salt. I added it. It wasn’t the salt. *shrug* Maybe it was just a new flavor. For dessert I had:lemon icebox cake (Delicious!) And though I tasted some of the other desserts, except the bread pudding, I liked my choice best.

Galatoire’s

Oysters Rockefeller

I went to Galatoire’s for dinner for a friend’s birthday, and since it was the holidays everyone there was dressed festively, even saw a few ugly christmas sweater-suits. We sat in the main dining room, which apparently doesn’t take reservations and can be tricky to get a seat in. I failed a bit on the picture department, but I was enjoying the eating part, so… We got a bunch of things to share, and then we each got a separate something for ourselves. For appetizers we had: Soufflé potatoes (potato puffs with béarnaise sauce) , oysters rockefeller, and I think we had Galatoire Goute (crabmeat maison and shrimp remoulade). I had a cup of duck and andouille gumbo, and then we shared the Stuffed Eggplant and I think the Crabmeat Yvonne. I say I think because there are a lot of crabmeat dishes and I wasn’t listening when it was ordered. The Stuffed Eggplant had Louisiana jumbo lump crabmeat, boiled shrimp, béchamel sauce, and green onions inside a grilled egggplant. The Crabmeat Yvonne was Louisiana jumbo lump crabmeat, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, green onions, and meuniére sauce.

There was nothing I put in my mouth that wasn’t delicious. So much seafood, so much sauce, so much delicious! The oysters rockefeller had at least 3 oysters on each half shell underneath the mound of spinach. I tasted a friend’s escargot as well and that was also perfect. The only thing I probably wouldn’t waste belly space on the next time would be the gumbo, but I’d be interested in trying their turtle soup.

The Impact of Police Violence is Far Reaching and Long Lasting

Last week I, as many others, looked for every update that could be found about Erica Garner. Horrified at the possibility of police violence claiming yet another victim. Hopeful that she would pull through. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. At 27, a woman who had to watch her father get choked to death on TV just 3 short years ago–who had to constantly relive that trauma amplified by the media and played on repeat and be subject to the opinion of every fool who wanted to explain why he [Eric] deserved his fate, who had to endure police harassment, community harassment, and online harassment, who had to continue living in a city where her father’s murderer not only got away with it, but kept his job AND got a raise–had a heart attack. Is it any wonder given all that she went through that her body couldn’t continue on?

I have so many thoughts that would take too long to organize into anything coherent and succinct, but luckily other people have been able to put in writing what I cannot at this time. I will say this…as public health researchers, we have to stop dancing around this topic. Police violence is what I chose to focus my research on, or maybe it chose me. I don’t have the privilege of engaging with this work without it taking an emotional toll on me because it’s not something I can distance myself from like with worms or preventing tropical diseases or maternal health in a country halfway around the world, or is it something that has either politically neutral connotations or tangible solutions like with childhood obesity or STI prevention. Not to say that any topic in public health/social sciences is more important than another, or that finding viable solutions is in anyway easy or easier or doesn’t get political pushback from someone. But we can’t even really talk about police violence in an intelligent way, first and foremost, because we HAVE NO DATA! Not zero data, but not the kind of data and information that we have for all of these other issues. And not only that, we’re not even really trying to find solutions to getting surveillance systems that can be used to really do a good investigation.

All of us are out here using The Guardian’s dataset (The Counted) or relying on other databases collected by volunteers who are passionate about this topic who mine newspaper articles for their information. We already know the FBI and CDC information is useless and severely undercounted. All of us are out here piecemealing data sets, coming up with our own investigations, working in this de-centralized and largely ineffective manner. Why? It’s a catch-22: you can’t get people to take seriously that there’s a problem until you show them numbers, and you can’t get accurate numbers because there’s so much resistance to transparent and efficient reporting.

At the very least, I need us [researchers] to stop writing articles on this topic that has any statement to the effect of how “relatively rare police shootings are.” It’s diminishing and it’s an abandonment of your responsibility. We study so many diseases and ailments that are “relatively rare,” because if they’re causing excess death, excess morbidity, and are PREVENTABLE, then they’re worth investing our time and energy into. How do you even make a statement about its relative rareness when we know we don’t have accurate data?

More importantly, our crap data on police violence isn’t just about how many people were killed (which is about 1,200 every year, at least). It’s about the people who are physically injured and/or disabled, it’s about the sexual violence–which we really don’t talk about, it’s about the harassment and humiliation and disrespect, it’s about the psychological trauma, it’s about the neglect. And when you take all of that into account, it’s not longer a relatively rare event. It’s ubiquitous, and it’s inequitably distributed among communities of color, immigrant communities, and the LGBTQIA+ community.

It doesn’t just harm the victim of the violence, their entire family and community is harmed as well, ESPECIALLY if they try to seek out justice in this country. We’ve known for years how violence and trauma experiences of children literally changes their DNA, makes them more prone to chronic disease, engaging in risky health behaviors, impaired social/emotional development, and early death. It also creates epigenetic changes, meaning it changes how your genes express themselves, and those changes can be inherited across generations. The trauma experienced by one person can be passed onto their grandchildren. Intergenerational trauma. The murder of Eric Garner most certainly precipitated the untimely death of Erica Garner, and her death is going to have an impact down to her very young children and across to her siblings and other family members. And it will continue on.

We can sit around and scratch our heads in wonderment about how to solve racial health disparities/health inequities/excess Black morbidity & death, but if we’re not talking about racism–interpersonal AND structural AND institutional–then we’re wasting our time.

I guess I did have words after all. But for more words, read this article by Kashana Cauley, Erica Garner and How America Destroys Black Families.

One way to describe Erica Garner’s last few years is to say she spent them fighting against police brutality. Another way is to say she fought against the forced separation and destruction of black families by the state. And that fight may have killed her, just as it might have killed the mother of Kalief Browder, a young man who had been unjustly accused of a minor crime and sent to Rikers Island, where he spent two horrific years in solitary confinement.

“They do these things for you to give up,” Erica Garner said in an interview last month. “Look at Kalief Browder’s mother. She died of a broken heart because she kept fighting for her son.” She added, “I’m struggling right now, with the stress and everything.”

“The system,” she said, “beats you down to where you can’t win.”

The Garner family continues to be disrespected. Officer Pantaleo is still employed by the New York Police Department. Eric Garner’s death was ruled a homicide, but it increasingly looks like one of those homicides no one committed. Similar to the Immaculate Conception, which meant Mary was free of original sin, apparently we are also supposed to believe that deaths like Eric Garner’s are immaculate executions, just as free of sin.

If there is no sin in killing Eric Garner, no crime, then black families like the Garners can be destroyed without anyone having to answer for it.

Also read this: Slow death: Is the trauma of police violence killing black women?

30 Restaurants: Compère Lapin & Casamentos

In October I hit up a couple more restaurants on my list.

Compère Lapin

Everyone’s been talking about Compère Lapin and its chef, Nina Compton, and since she’s a WOC, that sealed the deal on my going. I went for lunch with my husband for our anniversary. While I’d been preparing my stomach based on looking at the dinner menu, the lunch menu didn’t disappoint. First of all, the biscuits they serve as their complementary bread…I could’ve just eaten those for the whole meal. Perfectly flakey and buttery and then the additional butter on top was just the icing on the cake. We always order so we can try the most items without killing ourselves or our budget. For an appetizer we got the cold smoked tuna tartar with avocado and crispy bananas and the radicchio & endive salad. As a second I got the curried goat with sweet potato gnocchi and cashes and he got the drum with apples, collard greens, and fennel. The appetizers were tasty, the tuna tartar was good but nothing I’d go out of my way for but the radicchio salad was unexpectedly delicious. What did knock me over was the curried goat: definitely something I’d go back for. I tasted his drum, but the goat was just so good that I wasn’t really tryna taste something else and really have an opinion about it. I always have to try dessert but they were out of the roasted banana zeppole, so we got the grilled pears with angel food cake and hazelnut granola instead. It was pretty looking but underwhelming. Overall, the meal was really interesting, but I think I need to go back for dinner since that was the menu I was most excited about. I really want to try the seafood pepper pot and some of the small bites. I also need to go back when I can drink again so I can try one of their cocktails.

Casamentos

I’ve been to Casamentos before, but it was lent and I’d decided to go gluten free for some ridiculous reason. Casamentos does fry all of its seafood in a gluten free batter, so it wasn’t like I couldn’t eat when I went, but I couldn’t try their signature item: the oyster loaf. On this visit, for some reason I still didn’t order the oyster loaf. I got some raw oysters, chargrilled oysters, and tried some the oyster stew. The oysters were great, it’s pretty hard to mess up oysters, but the oyster stew was not the business. It looked like it should’ve tasted like clam chowder but with oysters instead of clams, but my expectation was wildly off base from what I received. I’m not really sure how to describe that stew but the base is much thinner, and it’s oily and not very flavorful. I didn’t finish it. My husband got the gumbo and ordered the oyster loaf. Both of those were definitely the better decision, especially the oyster loaf. Basically, if there’s a signature dish on a menu or something the restaurant’s well known for, I should just get that and stop being ridiculous. The oyster loaf just looks like a basic oyster sandwich–fried oysters in between two pieces of white bread. But they give you a generous portion of fatty oysters relative to the amount of bread and the way they’re fried isn’t quite the same as what you’d get at other places; it’s better!

The building itself hasn’t changed its decor in decades; it looks like an old cafeteria between all the tiling and lighting. It’s also cash only. Don’t expect some new age, chic, sit-down-and-remark-on-the-ambiance, experience. Because nothing’s been changed in so long, it’s like eating in a time capsule. That’s the experience and the ambiance to be remarked on. Also, you go there because the food is delicious.

I don’t have many pictures from either of these visits because I’ve been telling myself to detach from the phone and just enjoy being in the moment when I go out. Then I get home and get annoyed for not having even one picture to go with my posts. I need to find some balance: take a couple pictures at the beginning and then put it away. Next time I guess.

On abstinence from alcohol

My journey to 30 has evolved into this very big project of personal goals. But it started with my decision to give up drinking alcohol for a year. How exactly does one who lives in a place like New Orleans, where the drinks flow freely, where you can take it in a ‘go-cup’, where there’s really no need to wait for 5 o’clock, come to the conclusion to completely abstain for an entire year?  Well, it all started with a juice cleanse that left me with an inordinate amount of time to think. Apparently, when I’m food deprived I get even more introspective than I already am. By day 2 of this juice cleanse I was realizing how much more time I had in my day since I didn’t have to think about shopping for meals, preparing meals, eating meals, cleaning meals, and how after awhile I wasn’t even hungry any more. I wondered what kind of time I would have, what kind of mind-shift was possible, if I quit drinking. I wondered if I’d stop wanting it the way I’d stopped wanting food. I know of people who’ve given up drinking for a prolonged time, but I never really saw the need to do it myself. I don’t have a drinking problem. Plus, drinking is such a part of the social fabric here–there’s hardly a networking session, fundraiser, meet-up, university function, etc., that doesn’t have liquor or wine present.

So in my food deprived (or food lucid) state of mind I made the resolute decision to quit drinking from 29th birthday until my 30th birthday. Thirty is supposed to be a big deal–at least that’s what every rom-com movie about 20-somethings say. At the edge of turning 29, I certainly didn’t feel any impending doom about being closer to my 30s. In fact, I was pretty much looking forward to it. So instead of forecasting gloom and doom, I decided I should do something to enter my 30s with a bang…or rather, leave my 20s with a bang. Either way. Not drinking was going to be part of this plan to enter into a new decade with a new attitude.

Other than having to constantly be prepared to quickly shut down anyone’s soaring joy at the prospect of my being pregnant, and then being met with the confused stare of ‘why-the-eff-would-you-CHOOSE-not-to-drink,’ being sober hasn’t been too difficult. It does makes you acutely aware of how uninteresting people truly are. When socializing means that you have at least one drink in your system from the start of any event, being sober means you get to notice all the quirks about people that you might have been less attuned to with the alcohol. Some people who may be mildly intolerable while tipsy turn out to be terrible company while drinking club soda: jokes aren’t funny, conversation is boring, even the food is meh. You may start to wonder why the hell you’ve been wasting so much of your time and energy on these folks and start rethinking how you really want to spend your free time.

Despite my earlier assertion that I didn’t have a drinking problem, on October 27th that confidence started to crumble. I was having a bad day, for whatever reason, and my mind was racing all over the place. I couldn’t relax. I couldn’t settle in. Usually at a time like this I’d reach for a glass of wine to “unwind.” But this time there was no glass to be had, and I couldn’t clear my head of the impending panic, couldn’t quell the agitation. I wanted to run, or give in. Ultimately went for a walk and then came home and wrote this:

Although I don’t think I really have a poor relationships with alcohol consumption, I don’t depend on it or abuse it, today I realized maybe I need to rethink what we define as dependency or poor relationship. It’s been about 60 days since I gave up drinking for my 29th year, and it hasn’t really been an issue other than to have to explain at a few social events or just deal with the curious stares of whether I was pregnant. But today, I really was feeling a mixture of anxiety and gloom and all I wanted was a glass of something…wine, champagne, whisky. I just wanted one glass to dull my senses just a little bit. Because they were roaring. And it was making me feel crazy, like I needed to run out of my skin to get away.

Since I can’t escape from my body, escaping my mind seemed like the best next solution. Then I realized, maybe I do have a problem. That I don’t have another healthy way to deal with how I’m feeling. That when I’m  internally screaming, rather than trying to detangle the noise and figure out how to address it, I’d rather silence it and move on to something else. I took the dog for a walk, which helped. I’m writing this now, and that also seems to have quieted the roaring…my head isn’t throbbing anymore and I no longer feel nauseated.

I have some things to think about.

I was left with questions. Do I have a problem? How is “problem” even defined? Do we only have a “problem” once we’ve reached the level of dependency that’s unshakeable? Shouldn’t it be considered a problem that instead of finding a constructive way to deal with anxiety or agitation, a way that’s probably more difficult and time consuming, that we call it socially acceptable to have a glass of something to “unwind?” That we’ve somehow “earned it” because we got through another day? (So long as it’s just ONE, maybe two, to stay within social norms.)

I think we need to reframe how we define problem. I mean we’re not talking about addiction, which is really a medical issue. We’re talking about the ways in which we deal. Get through. Cope. Or rather the ways in which we DON’T. Numbing isn’t dealing. After that glass of wine I don’t think about why I was panicky/anxious/agitated to begin with. I just move on to something more pleasant. And now that I’ve acknowledged that, well…I guess abstaining from alcohol was a good idea after all. How can I work through a problem, prevent its reoccurrence, if I’m ignoring it as a practice? If I can’t think clearly about it?

Lately I’ve been practicing yoga more consistently, which sounds soooooo trite. All the same, I’ve found it beneficial for feeling better physically and de-stressing. Maybe I need to stop, drop, and yoga whenever I’m feeling like I did that day.

Work in progress

Book 5: Half of a Yellow Sun–Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

It should come as no shock that I know nothing about Nigerian history. We barely learn anything about American history beyond the anglo/christian/hetero/male perspective, so why would I expect to learn anything about the continent of Africa in general, let alone the history of one country in particular. Although Half of a Yellow Sun is fictional, Adichie did considerable historical research, using her family and friends, in addition to other documents, as sources. So for an introduction to the history of a newly independent Nigeria, this book was really interesting. But for the characters that she developed and the tale that she wove into this history, this book was fantastic!

Admittedly, it started kind of slow. Not uninteresting, but not gripping either. She had to construct the setting, develop the characters, provide context, let you learn who/what/where/when/why.  All of a sudden though, this book becomes a page-turner. Of the 500 some odd pages I read about 350 of them over the course of a day and a half.  I haven’t sat and binge-read a book like that since the seventh Harry Potter book came out.

I know I’m being repetitive, but…WE NEED MORE OF THESE TEXTS IN OUR EDUCATION! We are such an informationally stunted, nationalistic, revisionist-history culture! The dominant (read: western) narrative regarding anything Africa is what? Abject poverty, famine, desperation, disease, conflict, corruption, backwardness. There’s never any context, never any explanation of how those situations came to be (Reminder-everyone on that massive continent is not starving, naked, and living in a hut).

This book takes a complicated situation and tackles it in such a digestible way, without the objectification, without the oversimplification, without the sad music and requests for donating money to charitable organizations. It got at the nuances of why and how a civil war begins: how European powers historically helped to create ethnic tensions and then continue(d) to aggravate those tensions politically and economically even post-independence, all the while blaming the ensuing chaos on the “uncivilized nature” of the people they formally colonized and using it as a hindsight justification for their prior crimes against humanity and continued human rights violations. It showed how the rest of the world gets it wrong in understanding why these manmade disasters happen, and how little all these charitable donations really do since the problem originates from power structure abuses internally and externally rather than a lack of actual resources. This novel does all of that without preaching, without being overly academic, and without being melodramatic. That’s what was so genius and enthralling about it.

It was beautiful and absolutely heartbreaking at the same time, but probably one of the best ways to talk about how a nation, or a groups within a nation go from stability to the opportunistic poverty-porn images we see broadcast across the world. Caveat: like I said, I don’t know much about Nigerian history, so maybe somebody from there, who lived through this has a different perspective on this novel. Maybe it still is oversimplified and missing substance, maybe it’s not still 100%. But since we get ZERO over here, 75-80% more clarity if a far cry better.

There is a movie adaptation of this book, and I was excited when I remembered that because I was left wanting more once I finished the book. This is a story that deserves a serious approach and effort in its motion picture depiction, much like what’s given to the hundreds of movies about the lone (small group of) white war hero(s) year in and out.  Unfortunately, the movie version (available on Netflix) didn’t even begin to do the story justice. I actually couldn’t even finish the movie, which is saying a lot because I’ve sat through some pretty bad movies. I normally don’t quibble about inaccurate casting, but when an author spends a vast amount of time commenting on a character’s appearance, especially in contrast to another character, such that it becomes central to the story, why on earth would you cast an actor/actress that directly contradicts that description?

I know that Black/African/Diasporic stories rarely, if ever, get the budget and resources that white movies get, especially if they’re not directed by someone white, or don’t center a white character within the story (see: The Last King of Scotland). And they don’t get those budgets because studios swear they don’t as well in the box office–that black audiences don’t turn out and that black stories don’t resonate enough with “mainstream audiences” to encourage their turn out either. It becomes part of a self-fulfilling prophecy: fewer resources can lead to lesser quality can lead to disappointment can lead to poor reviews can lead to low box-office turnout can lead to fewer resources the next go round. Although, it’s been proven repeatedly that many black films do as well, if not better, than “mainstream” movies among ALL demographics, And lower budget doesn’t necessarily  mean lower quality.

However, this was one of those cases where the screenplay and casting really impacted the storytelling. The individual cast members are all great performers in their other movies, but some were inappropriately cast (imho). But more than that, the plot line didn’t flow. It’s a 500 page book and cutting it into a 2 hour movie is always going to be difficult and will inevitably have to deviate in some of the details, but it’s been done better with longer books as source material. Events were reordered and entire dynamics between characters were altered, to the point of it not making any sense and changing the actual story. But at the same time they’d choose conversations from the book to repeat verbatim. So it just got too messy for me.

Anyway, there’s really no need for me to continue critiquing the movie, since like I said, I didn’t even finish watching it. So if you want to watch the movie, I’d suggest you watch it before you read the book, because the reverse would probably be as disappointing for you as for me. But regardless of whether you watch the movie, READ THE BOOK! You won’t have wasted your time. You’ll learn something new. But better than that, you’ll develop a personal relationship with the characters that’ll leave you wanting more (and maybe one day they’ll do another film version that does it justice while still filming in Nigeria and having a director/producers of the people, with all the resources they could ever want and need *fingers crossed*).