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Sharing The Best of New Orleans Culture with the World


Yesterday the New Orleans Citizen Diplomacy Council (NOCDC) invited me to address an international group of NGO (a nonprofit organization that operates independently of any government, typically to address a social or political issue) managers interested in learning more about the non-profit sector in the U.S. The leaders were “visiting” New Orleans via Zoom as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program, the State Department’s premier professional exchange program for which the NOCDC serves as the local “chapter.” Through the program current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields experience the U.S. firsthand, ideally to cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts.

“As we bridge New Orleans with the rest of the globe, we strive to import international understanding and continue to export success,” said Sarina Mohan, NOCDC’s Executive Director. “By creating a significant transformational experience for our international visitors, we have already hosted virtual visitors from over 100 countries this year, with more to come!”

The participants in yesterday’s program were visiting from the African countries of Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zambia. They chose New Orleans to host their group for which I made a very seasonally inappropriate (for us) pot of Cajun gumbo loaded with smoked chicken and andouille (from Wayne Jacob’s Smokehouse in LaPlace) complete with the hot lava that is a proper thick, dark roux. The foreign participants were enthusiastically engaged while those of us in New Orleans eyed that simmering cauldron of fine winter food with cold salads on our minds.

The gumbo demonstration and discussion focused on Louisiana’s culinary cannon and New Orleans’ food and culture specifically while illustrating how the preparation and sharing of meals assists in NGO Management, bringing people together by providing a means for fundraising and by meeting a community need such as hunger. The discussion flowed to the many non-profits, both formal and informal, that carried New Orleans through the pandemic. The Krewe of Red Beans and its efforts to feed and protect first responders, unemployed musicians and hospitality workers, and cultural bearers (such as Mardi Gras Indians) was a topic for much discussion.

Cooking Demo With Jyl Benson 1

As our city reopens, our jobs and lives shift, and visitors such as those NOCDC hosted today start to arrive in person rather than virtually let us not forget the enormous debt of gratitude we owe to those nonprofits that continue to help those impacted by the pandemic with everything from grocery shopping, meals, and healthcare to pet food.

I am going to go out on a limb here an assume no one is interested in in a piping hot bowl of dark, heavy, meaty gumbo for Father’s Day or anything else. It is with this in mind that I am offering up a recipe for a curry vinaigrette I created and have been using on absolutely everything. It is amazing on cold salads made with raw vegetables such as corn, tomatoes, shaved shallot, cucumber, and greens, especially if finished with dried fruit, such as sultanas, cranberries, or blueberries and a small handful of pistachios. This also works as a drizzle for roasted vegetables, atop a chilled soup, or over the ripe Creole tomatoes that are in markets now.


Lazy Curry Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 3/4 cup

  • 3/4 cup organic apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Mixed flower honey to taste (I use about 1 tablespoon)

Combine all ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake vigorously until combined. Alternatively, combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and blend thoroughly with an immersion blender. Store, refrigerated, in a sealed container. Bring to room temperature and shake to blend before serving.


Have a great weekend. Try to stay cool. Ya’ll play nice.




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