Illustrations by Jane Sanders
1. Red Beans as a Comfort Food. It was, so the story goes, the custom for housewives to set a pot of red beans to simmer on Monday mornings, before getting busy with the week�s washing. By the time the last shirt was on the clothesline, dinner would be ready. Now, when most women work outside the home, a can or two of Blue Runner red beans does just fine. It�s made in Gonzales, but hard to find in grocery stores far away from Louisiana � as Katrina evacuees learned with sorrow.
2. The Travails and Triumphs of Al Copeland as a Continuing Soap Opera. Both before and after he sold Popeye�s � his fried chicken empire � Copeland has given us lots to talk about: the stand-off with neighbors who objected to his annual Christmas light display, feuding with Anne Rice over the décor of his St. Charles restaurant; renting the entire New Orleans Museum of Art for his wedding to third wife Luan Hunter; doing legal battle with Luan when they divorced; being arrested because of a dispute with his fourth, now ex-wife. Where will it all end?
3. Pre-Parade Parties on Neutral Grounds (more common than tailgate parties in parking lots.) There are rules. You stake out your space well in advance, at dawn or the night before the big parades, like Endymion and Bacchus.
4. Ladder Seats. These are small wooden seats attached to the tops of ladders, the time-honored way for parents to hoist their kids high enough to see and be seen by parade riders, guaranteeing them a bagful � or few � of throws.
5. The Way We Pronounce the Name of Our City. It depends on which neighborhood we grew up in. Some say New Awlins; some say New Awlee-uns, some say New Orlee-uns, and WWL-TV�s Frank Davis says N�Awlins. But nobody says New Orleens unless they are writing song lyrics, as in �Do you know what it means, to miss �
6. The question �Where did you go to school?� always referring to high school. We know a lot about a person from their answer, and we can probably list a handful of people who went there.
7. When We Hear Sirens, We Don�t Get Alarmed; we look for the parade even if it isn�t Mardi Gras time. There are parades on and around St. Patrick�s Day, St. Joseph�s Day, Halloween, Easter, Labor Day and, if you count jazz funerals, even more often than that.
8. Second Lines. This once meant the group of people that follows the band at a jazz funeral, walking somberly on the way to the grave, each person improvising individual lively dances on the way back, when the band plays happy songs. It has evolved to mean those who dance behind the band at any jazz parade.
9. St. Expedite. The legend says that the word �expedite� was stamped on the side of a crate holding a statue that arrived at a local church. The priest read it, and assumed that was the saint�s name. He set the statue in the church, where people could pray and light candles in front of it, and before long St. Expedite developed a following. Maybe it�s not true (some people say there really was an Expedite), but we never let the facts interfere with a good legend.
10. No U.S. mail on Mardi Gras. So it isn�t a national holiday. It�s a national holiday here.
11. Fleur-de-lis. The stylized lilies seem to be everywhere, on Saints helmets, imprinted on cocktail glasses, standing alone as small statuettes, hanging from women�s ears … We see them as a symbol of faith in New Orleans after the storm, but we are not unique in claiming it as our symbol. We share it with the province of Quebec, Canada (along with the Napoleonic code, and street names like St. Ann and St. Louis,) with various fraternal organizations and coats of arms, and, of course, with France.
12. Dunbar�s. It may be the world�s only soul food school cafeteria, now that it�s moved from its pre-Katrina, Freret Street location to Loyola University�s Broadway campus. It offers red beans and rice, fried chicken, smothered chicken and a whole lot of other things more mouth-watering than mystery meat.
13. Being on a First-Name Basis with a Saint. For example �Tony, Where�d I put my keys?� instead of St. Anthony. If you lose your keys a lot, you feel a certain familiarity with the Saint of Lost Objects.
14. Monkey Hill. The view from the top is considered scenic. It started out as a mound of dirt dumped in Audubon Park back in the 1930s, probably dredged out of a lagoon. People decided it was the closest thing children in New Orleans could come to seeing a hill and dubbed it Monkey Hill. Kids have been playing on it ever since. Now it boasts, besides a grassy slope to roll down, a waterfall, a rope web for climbing and statues of lions.
15. Mignon Faget Jewelry. It�s designed and sold by Mignon Faget, a native who began as a ready-to-wear clothing designer in the 1970s and moved on to her popular and easily recognizable jewelry. After Katrina, her inexpensive fleur-de-lis on a fold of blue grosgrain, suggestive of roof tarps, helped spur the current trend of wearing fleur-de-lis on everything.
16. Lagniappe. (Lan-yap) That�s custom of giving a little something extra with a purchase � 13 doughnuts when you paid for 12, for instance.
17. Blue Plate Mayonnaise. Some of us pronounce it �mynez,� and no other mayonnaise tastes quite the same to the New Orleans palate. It was first made in a Gretna warehouse in 1927 and owned by Wesson-Snowdrift Oil. The company built the landmark art-deco plant on South Jeff Davis Parkway during World War II. Wm. B. Reily Co., which also owns Luzianne coffee and tea, bought it in 1974. Although Reily headquarters is located on Magazine Street, the mayonnaise itself is now manufactured in Knoxville, Tenn.
18. K&B Purple. Generations of New Orleanians have grown up describing a particular shade of rich purple by that name. It started in 1911, when the owners, Gustave Katz and Sydney Besthoff got a good deal on purple wrapping paper. It became the theme color of their Canal Street store and all the stores added to the K&B chain thereafter, appearing appeared on everything representative of K&B: signs, uniforms, paper and plastic bags, ice cream cartons, labels and more, until Rite Aid bought the chain in 1997. Youngsters learning their colors still pick up the term from their parents, so the expression lives on.
19. Beignets. (ben-yays) They�re square doughnuts without the hole. After they�re fried, powdered sugar is sprinkled on them � and on you too, if anyone at your table happens to sneeze. You buy them in portions of three at Café du Monde, the French Market coffee stand, and you sip chicory café au lait as you nibble them. The tradition dates back to the 1800s, and some credit the Ursuline nuns with bringing the recipe to New Orleans, as well as bringing Our Lady of Prompt Succor.
20. Our Lady of Prompt Succor. Don�t snicker. It�s French for �fast help.� The statue of Mary was brought from France to New Orleans by the Ursulines, who prayed before it in times of peril. Their prayers are credited with winning the battle of New Orleans in 1815 (Andrew Jackson thanked them for their help); for saving the Ursuline convent in 1812 when fire destroyed most of the city; and for Tom Dempsey�s 63-yard field goal for the Saints in 1970.
21. A Pair of Beads. That�s a necklace thrown from a Mardi Gras float � the longer the better � but no one calls them necklaces.
22. Little Girls Named Marigny, as in Faubourg Marigny, the Neighborhood Below the French Quarter. It was originally part of the Marigny family plantation. Its last owner, Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville, subdivided the family property into parcels for development. He also, according to one story, introduced the game of craps to America in the early 1800s.
23. King Cakes. Served from King�s Day, January 6, until Mardi Gras. They have evolved into more than the purple, green and gold sprinkled oblongs of yore; now you can choose stuffed, French brioche or fried, among others.
24. King Cake Babies. Whoever gets a piece with a little plastic baby is obligated to buy the next king cake or give the next party � depending on what rules you are playing by. Back in the 1940s, the baby was porcelain; before that, it was a gold or silver bean among high society, or among regular folk, an uncooked red bean or a pecan in the shell. Some claim the baby represents the Christ child, but what it really represents is a bargain that Donald Entringer of the now-defunct McKenzie�s pastry shop chain scored some years ago from a Chinese importer � cases of porcelain babies, perfect for king cakes. In the early �50s, the chain switched to the plastic babies. They were cheaper than the porcelain ones, cuter and not as likely to cause a tooth to break.
25. Yats. Originally from Mid-City, but more recently identified with the Ninth Ward and then St. Bernard Parish. We say �Yats� because of the greeting: �Where you at?� pronounced �Where y�at?� However, the more common greeting in the city is �Howyadoin� answered with �Awri.� It�s never �Hi, there!� and �Just fine.�
26. Yatspeak. This is why, when we travel, people want to know if we�re from Brooklyn. One theory holds that it�s because New Orleans is a port city and assimilated many of the same immigrant groups that Brooklyn did: Irish, Italian and Germans. That was before travel by Interstate or jetliner was possible, so once they were here, they tended to stay, and talked to each other, and language incest developed. Burgundy became Bur-GUN-dy, theater The-ATE-er, for instance, and the term �locker� was used for �closet.� People always wrenched their hands in the zinc before dinner to avoid goims. However, as travel became easier, natives began moving on, and people from other parts of the country moved in. Katrina accelerated the exodus, of course. Before long, most of us may sound like Mid-Westerners, or the Mid-Westerners will talk like we do. Woulden� dat be sump�n.
27. Morgus the Magnificent. The goofy mad scientist created and portrayed by Sid Noel since 1959. He introduced late night horror movies on WWL-TV�s House of Shock until 1962 and has been on and off the air ever since. For a while before Katrina, he was appearing regularly on Cox 10 cable, mostly airing old episodes. He survived the storm, and is reappearing this month on Cox 10. He also has a Web site: www.morgus.com.
28. Mardi Gras Mambo. It�s one of one of those songs you can�t get out of your head. �Down in New Orleans where the blues was born, It takes a cool cat to blow a horn, On Lasalle and Rampart Street, the combo player with the mambo beat, Mardi Gras mambo, mambo, mambo, Mardi Gras mambo, mambo, mambo Mardi Gras mambo, down in New Orleeenz �� and on, and on, and on. It was originally recorded in 1954 by The Hawketts, a group that included Carol Joseph, John Boudreaux, Art Neville, Israel Bell, August Flurry, Morris Bachemin and George Davis.
29. Sewerage and Water Board Meter Covers. They feature a crescent moon beaming on seven stars and are occasionally stolen right out of the street, despite the fact that each one is made of cast iron and weighs nine-and-a-half pounds, and that the next passer-by on the street may step in it and break a leg. Rubbings from the covers appear on potholders, coasters, guest towels, hats and even baby clothes. The design � so tempting to petty thieves � was created in the early 1920s by Edwin Ford, founder of the Ford Meter Box Co. of Wabash, Ind.
30. Mardi Gras Indians. Known both for their elaborate costumes and their incredible Afro-Caribbean music, the Indians (who are not Indians, of course, but Black) belong to individual tribes � there were about 38 of them before Katrina. They first began to appear sometime in the late 1800s, and now march on Super Sunday (nothing to do with the Super Bowl � it�s the Sunday after St. Joseph�s Day) on Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras. Although women accompany them, it�s an all-male tradition, right down to the sewing of the intricately beaded and plumed Indian outfits, which are created anew every year.
31. Lundi Gras, Literally �Fat Monday� is the day before Mardi Gras. The celebration is only about 20 years old. Bands play at the Spanish Plaza, in front of the Riverwalk mall, all afternoon. Then Rex, the King of Carnival arrives by boat and meets with the King of Zulu. They are greeted by the mayor, who makes a speech advising the assembled throng to have a good time but stay out of trouble; Rex decrees �Let the good times roll!� and Mardi Gras officially starts.
32. Stories of Huey and �Uncle Earl� Long, brothers and populist governors of the state, Huey from 1928-32 and Earl from 1948-52. Huey was also a U.S. senator from 1932-1935. For decades after their deaths, the two frequently appeared alongside saints in personal ads in local newspapers. Such an ad might read, �Thanks to Huey and Earl Long, St. Jude and St. Ann for favors granted.�
33. In the �They All Axed for You� category � we have mosquito hawks, not dragonflies; crawfish, not crayfish; minny cats, not kitty cats; and flying horses, not merry-go-rounds. We also have roaches, which by any other name, is still a roach.
34. Mr. Bingle. �Jingle, jangle, jingle; Here comes Mr. Bingle …� That high-pitched ditty announced the 15-minute Mr. Bingle skit that aired on WDSU-TV every day just before Christmas in the 1950s. The child-sized flying snowman with holly-leaf wings and an ice-cream cone hat was created by Emile Alline � an employee of Maison Blanche department store � in 1947, and brought to life by puppeteer Oscar Isentrout � who was also his squeaky little voice. Mr. Bingle was the main attraction in the Canal Street store�s display window, and plush Mr. Bingles were as beloved as Teddy bears. When the Dillard department store chain bought Maison Blanche, it acquired Mr. Bingle as well. It eventually donated the huge papier-mâché Mr. Bingle that used to grace the front of Maison Blanche to City Park for its annual �Celebration in the Oaks� light display. Now Mr. Bingle�s original fans can point him out to their grandchildren, and explain that Mr. Bingle was around before Frosty the Snowman was so much as a snowflake.
35. The Moonwalk. That�s the paved walkway atop the levee next to the French Quarter. It was named after the former mayor Moon Landrieu, father of Sen. Mary and Lt. Governor Mitch. It has nothing to do with Michael Jackson.
36. Our Pulitzer-winning daily newspaper, The Times-Picayune. It�s not to line birdcages; it�s to eat crawfish off of. After we read it, of course.
37. Sandwiches Dressed. That means with all the fixin�s, not with a hat and coat.
38. Snowballs � the kind you eat, not throw � and knowing the difference between them and sno-cones. It�s all in the texture. The ice is delicately shaved, not crushed. Hansen�s on Tchoupitoulas and the Plum Street snowball set the standard.
39. Cemeteries. They are poetically dubbed �cities of the dead� because of their above-ground tombs, necessary because of the high water table. They are practical, because several generations can occupy the same tomb. This ashes-to-ashes; dust-to-dust awareness probably helps us to deal so matter-of-factly with the inevitable. It may also why we are so good at conducting ghostly history tours in the French Quarter.
40. Pralines. There are all kinds except non-fat. The best are made with condensed milk, brown sugar, real butter and pecans, cooked down to pure heaven. Some say plow-reens, but most of us call them praw-leens with p�cawns, not pray-leens with pee-cans, as our Southern brethren do.
NOW FOR SOME LAGNIAPPE
41. Go-Cups. Since the law says we can�t carry alcohol in glass containers on the street, we solve the problem with plastic go-cups. Perfect for strolling the Quarter, and not nearly as reprehensible as going to drive-through Daiquiri shops � even though the Daiquiri is handed into the car with a tape over the straw hole.
42. Southern Decadence. A raucous celebration of gay life that�s been staged in the French Quarter every Labor Day weekend for 35 years, even, in subdued form, right after Katrina. There�s a parade on Sunday, several street parties and a costume contest, among other activities.
43. Music, Music, Music. The Olympia Brass Band; the Storyville Stompers; Benny Gunch and the Bunch; The New Leviathon Foxtrot Ochestra; Donald Harrison Jr.; Harry Connick Jr. … We can go on and on and on.
44. The Camellia Grill on S. Carrollton Avenue. It may be the world�s only restaurant brought back by post-it note acclamation.