This being our “Ultimate New Orleans” issue (as determined by our readers), and the magazine being a cultural and lifestyle publication, here’s a list of five ways that New Orleans has influenced the nation’s culture and lifestyle (as determined by me), over the last 20 years or so.
5. Sugar Busters! Amazingly, a city known for its culinary fervor, located in a sugar-producing state, gave the world a bestselling book that put the hex on the granule. Atkins would later become the rage, but in the spirit of New Orleans, Sugar Busters! allowed for excess, as long as it was sugar-free.
4. Blackening. What used to be tossed out as burnt fish became an item that was literally “hot,” as seasoned by chef Paul Prudhomme. Now blackened items, including chicken and beef, appear on menus throughout the country. Blackened redfish was such a rage that it practically depleted the Gulf of Mexico of the species. The dish was the most popular of a line of creations that evolved into what might be called Nouveau Cajun. Prudhomme’s kitchen had much to do with the entire Cajun revival of the ’80s.
3. Discoveries at the Jazz Fest. More than just another music festival, the Jazz Fest provided stages where music previously limited to neighborhoods or small parts of the region could reach wider audiences. The Mardi Gras Indians, zydeco, Cajun music and New Orleans-style gospel singing were all discovered by new audiences and given new life at the Jazz Fest. Among those in the audience were recording producers scouting new talent.
2. The American Carnival. Whether it’s Labor Day in Morgan City or the Fourth of July in any town, if there is a parade where people are throwing trinkets from floats, that is an influence of the New Orleans Carnival celebration. Mardi Gras-theme events have spread nationally, absorbing the colors – purple, green and gold – king cakes, and the word “krewe.” The entire North American Mardi Gras celebration as practiced in lodges in Aspen or as revived in Mobile is really New Orleans-style.
1. Jazz. If only a moment and place could be pointed to as the birth of jazz. Instead, the music evolved gradually in the streets of New Orleans. It would eventually be named and packaged in Chicago, but the sound reflected the cross-cultural influences of New Orleans’ poor black and Italian musicians. Jazz’s greatest star, Louis Armstrong, came from New Orleans and gave the music, which some had previously regarded as low-class, a warm, friendly face.
A smile and a song is a legacy that any city should be proud of.