“Brutal yet Beautiful”

I was born and raised in Louisiana. No, not New Orleans, but I was definitely exposed to all the wonders of this city thanks to my mom’s true and undying passion for it. When Katrina hit the South, I was not there, however, I kept in constant contact with my family throughout. Though they do not live in New Orleans, and only suffered minor damages due to the hurricane, they were there, and still are, helping feed and clothe the victims.
Even though I have a direct tie to this beautiful city and state, and definitely feel the Louisiana blood flowing through my veins each and every day, being so far away I can’t help but continue on with my daily life, not always thinking about what others went and are still going through down there.
Lately, I’ve been drawn to my roots. A couple of weeks ago, I saw Dr. John at the B.B. King Blues Club. About a week ago, I saw Geno Delafose at a pub called Connelly’s. Last night’s Louisiana theme was a bit different.
I attended Slow Food’s and the Project for Public Spaces’ event “From Disaster to Dessert β€” The Fate of New Orleans Food.” Poppy Tooker (Leader of <A HREF="
http://www.slowfoodneworleans.com”>Slow Food New Orleans and Chair of the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste), Richard McCarthy (Founder of the Crescent City Farmer’s Market and leading player in marketumbrella.org), and Clara Gerica (a Gulf Coast Independent Shrimper and partner in Gerica Family Seafood) spoke on what they went through, what they saw, and “the impact on food production in New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Region and what we can do to save the unique cuisine of this area.” While all accounts were interesting and touching, tears poured during the story-telling of Clara Gerica.
If I’ve never felt worse about being so far away, then last night really did it to me. Clara, her husband, her daughter, and her mother-in-law were smack dab in the thick of it. It was hailing outside, the water was rising, and the Gerica family was trying to find shelter within their home when Clara’s husband looked out of the window and noticed two of the neighboring houses burst like a box of matchsticks. Scattering to reach shelter, their roof blew off. Their roof meaning their roof, their ceiling, ceiling fan, etc. The walls collapsed. Clara’s mother-in-law was trapped in between two walls with a gash in her arm reaching down to the bone. Clara floated away from what was left of their house down toward a marsh, away from her family, screaming. Her daughter was being sucked under with the carpet only to find herself slammed into a fence ripping off her clothes. Her husband managed to unhinge his mother from the walls, to find his daughter, and to find Clara about four blocks down hanging for dear life onto her floating door, and bring them all to safety. But what do they do now? 35 years of your life’s investment gone just like that. “It’s a mess. It truly is,” said Clara, as tears streamed down her cheeks. “St. Bernard is the worst. There is nothing to go back to. There is a lot of suicide. One fisherman tried to shoot himself, but his gun misfired. So he hung himself.”
Richard McCarthy is positive about the future of New Orleans, a city he says represents “fusion before fusion was cool.” There is no government help for small businesses, and if there is money to rebuild houses, etc., why would they rebuild when the government may come right back around to take away their property for governmental use? But Richard and others are trying to develop the marketplace into even more of a ground for gathering; a place for the locals to hold onto. There is more experimentation agriculturally, and they believe that despite the lack of political structure currently in the city, the citizens of New Orleans will stick together to make their city even better than before.
The culinary sector of Louisiana is enormous. There are folks there who have based their entire lives on farming, fishing, etc. It is not just about having a house and food. It is about finding ways to fix the roads to bring in new equipment. It is about finding the hundreds of thousands of dollars necessary to rebuild boats and purchase all of the new equipment. It is about rethinking the laws to allow the locals to do the work they need to get done. It is about clean water and soil. It is about waiting lists. It is about so much more than we think or imagine.
There are many ways to help:
Slow Food Terra Madre Fund
Farm Aid Family Farm Disaster Fund
Southern Mutual Help Association
Southern Foodways
Project for Public Spaces
Crescent City Farmer’s Market
Food Not Bombs
Also, next Tuesday, February 28, 2006 (MARDI GRAS!), Slow Food NYC and Brooklyn Brewery will be hosting a Mardi Gras Benefit for Gulf Coast Farmers, Fishers, and Food for $55. So if you are in New York, and aren’t planning a trip down to Louisiana for the festivities, please join in on the fun. Area chefs will prepare Louisiana-style food, music will be played by The Dixie Bee-Liners, beer will be drunk, beads will be worn, and there will definitely be some bon temps rouler-d by all.
Although we may tend to be preoccupied, and/or may be a little bored watching further news on this disaster that happened months ago, those who have been affected continue to struggle, and they desperately need our help. Thank you and have a delicious day.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Maman says:

    I sit here with tears running down my face as I read this. Although I have heard many stories up front and personal, and work with displaced people in similar dire straits, I could not help but be moved to hard tears by this blog entry. This is so personal to those of us from Louisiana. I hope people don’t get too bored or turned off by hearing about it. It’s so very real and it’s so necessary to get the story out there. The people of the Gulf Coast have been forever changed and their lives impacted so greatly and profoundly by this storm. We all have. The unreality of it all continues to permeate our lives daily, just when we think it’s getting better, the horror story continues to grow and swell. Although New Orleans will never be exactly the same (it coudln’t be), it’s still a vital, wonderful, magical city and will once again be a fabulous place to live and visit, at least someday, with our help, prayers and your lovely, gracious fundraisers. Please keep up all the good work!! Thank you chere for your efforts. Je’taime bebe and gros bisous. I miss you so much!!!

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