Death and Food
I've had a hell of a time the past few days. My 10-month-old daughter ran a fever between 100 and 104 degrees from Saturday until Wednesday morning and now has a rash from the tip of her delicious toes to the top of her crazy-haired head. I also have a 142-month-old human male who has been sick since Tuesday. There is a saying: “Sleep is for the weak.” I'm weak.
Then again, both of my children are alive.
Martin Richard's parents aren't so lucky. Martin is the 8-year-old who died watching the Boston Marathon on April 15. I wish I could say that I have no idea what his parents are going through, but next month will mark the 22nd anniversary of my brother's death at the hands of a drunk driver, and I witnessed what that did to my folks. I don't really know what it's like, and I hope I never do because I've come close enough.
I started writing for New Orleans Magazine in 2007, but I'd been writing a food-blog for a number of years before that. I think when Katrina hit, I was getting around 750 or so unique visitors per day at Appetites.us, which translated to around 3,000 people who regularly read what I was writing. That's not much, of course, but I did feel some responsibility to keep updating. Then Katrina hit, and I didn't see much point in writing about food. My thoughts at the time were about whether New Orleans would survive. What room was there for such trivial shit as fine-dining?
But I started getting emails. I got emails from displaced locals and from people who'd only visited. I got emails from chefs, from waiters and from restaurateurs. I got emails from people in the media, for God's sake. They all wanted information, and because I managed to get back to New Orleans before many of them, I was in a position to provide answers to some of their questions. I felt like I was doing a very small part to help the city recover back then, and although the importance of my role is arguable, I don't think there's any doubt that restaurants have been critical to the way we've bounced back from one disaster after another.
Food is important, and it's more important in New Orleans than anywhere. Meals are generally shared, and that communal experience is often shared again when we talk to our co-workers, neighbors and friends about where we've eaten lately. Restaurants surely bring tourists to New Orleans, but I think the more important thing they do is bring locals together and give us something other than the Saints and the weather to discuss.
So I no longer feel that discussing restaurants is trivial or that I can't write about food in good conscience after a tragedy like the one in Boston. I hope that people there are able to share a meal and fellowship despite their loss, and that they, too, can come back from bad times.
My daughter is fine. She has a virus that causes a high fever and a rash before running its course in about a week. Although his malady remains undiagnosed, my son is also feeling better. I'm lucky in so many respects, my kids' health being the most important. But I'm also lucky to have been born in New Orleans because I love to eat, I love to cook and I love talking about food. That might mark me as weird in other parts of the country, but here? I'm as normal as they come, brah.