I recently witnessed a healing transformation of the sort some readers may be seeking during this season of excess.
It was a chilly Sunday under azure skies and a second line parade was weaving around Uptown. A cluster of 20-somethings pushed an obviously hung-over reveler into the line forming behind Linda “Miss Linda the Yakamein Lady” Green’s pickup truck. Their friend, green-hued and clearly miserable, slumped at the edge of the tailgate.
“Not feeling well?” Miss Linda asked. “‘That’s all right, Baby. What you need is a Yakamein right now to make you feel better. You’ll see, Boo.’“
He sniffed the brew in the Styrofoam cup suspiciously then slurped up the contents and lay back in the grass.
An hour later I saw him, fresh beer in hand, trotting merrily along with the crowd. Whether hair of the dog or the restorative powers of Miss Linda’s famous Yakamein, he had been delivered to a brighter day.
My money’s on the Yakamein. The delicious elixir packs all of the carbs, protein and sodium needed to set you straight after a long night of imbibing. It also works wonders on the miseries of a cold or the flu.
Lore has it that black southern soldiers fighting abroad in the Korean War were first exposed to a version of the soupy combination of savory roast beef or pork and shrimp, hard-boiled eggs, fresh green onions, thick noodles and occasionally vegetables in a spicy, salty broth with heavy doses of soy sauce and black pepper when they consumed it after a day on the battlefield or an evening in a bar to sober up and fortify themselves. They brought the tradition home with them, and ever since it has been served in some of the city’s black bars, where it’s often referred to as “Old Sober.”
For years Miss Linda’s mother, Shirley Green, cooked Yakamein at Bear Brothers Bar in Central City. In the early 1990s Miss Linda, a former Orleans Parish Public School cafeteria cook, carried on the tradition through her eponymous catering service and started selling it from the back of her pickup at second line parades and from a booth at Jazz Fest. These days you can also catch her on Thursday evenings outside Ogden Museum, and at various festivals, farmers’ markets and food truck gatherings around town.
Though it isn’t available at the new Westbank location, August Moon Uptown continues to serve in-house – and deliver – curative portions of Yakamein. The house version is a delicious, broth-heavy concoction with the familiar thick noodles, green onions, hard-boiled eggs and shrimp, but it also packs in loads of fresh Asian vegetables and pillow-y wontons while swapping out roast pork for the brisket found in soul food versions of the soup.
No longer just the stuff of second lines, convenience stores and take-out joints, recent years have seen this soul-food-meets-Asian staple turning up on the menus of some of the city’s more upscale restaurants, most notably Ralph’s on the Park, where chef Chip Flanagan prepares it with pork belly in lieu of beef and a thickened broth flavored with star anise. As a finishing touch he floats a soft fried egg atop the soup.
I live in a household that eschews most dairy products and meat. That said I was recently hit with a have-to-have-it-right-now craving for a medium rare rib eye with all of the steakhouse trimmings. I turned to trustworthy old-school Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse to satisfy my envie, and it didn’t disappoint. Though I’m pretty sure the iceberg wedge with bleu cheese dressing, thickly battered onion rings and au gratin potatoes, not to mention the steak itself, did nothing to lengthen my life nor shrink my waistline, the meal was utterly divine in juxtaposition to my health-conscious day-to-day lifestyle. If this is your story, too, then try this post haste! You only live once. Happy Holidays.
August Moon: 3635 Prytania St., 899-5129, MoonNola.com
Miss Linda’s Catering: 344-7218
Ralph’s on the Park: 900 City Park Ave., 488-1000, RalphsOnThePark.com
Ruth’s Chris Steak House: 525 Fulton St, 587-7099, RuthsChris.com