~ Notes from a New Orleans Foodie... in exile ~
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by Kevin Lacassin


A New Orleans foodie and a product of hurricane Katrina, I've landed on both feet and have started a new life in the Tampa Bay area. A natural disaster changed my state of residence and you can take me out of New Orleans, but you can't take the New Orleans out of me.
This is my resource for all things New Orleans: food recipes, culture and history.  In addition, you can find my original recipes and a log of my cooking adventures.  My writing here is unedited and uncut... I don't outline or plan what I type on the page.... consider it a diary of dining and cooking.
If you are a Louisiana native who's landed in the Tampa Bay area, you may be feeling a bit homesick.  Check out my NOLA in Tampa page to guide you to the places and foods that will help you feel more at home.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Thoughts on Tampa
While it is not yet official, I have been in Tampa for about two weeks and I already feel like a Florida citizen.  I don't exactly have a Florida drivers license or the requisite plates on my car, but I do have a house key.  A house key may not sound like a lot, but for a guy that's been on the road for a month, it means more than you can imagine, even if it is a Tampa Bay Bucs key; more on that later.
From Hammond, I drove the ten hours and made it safely to Tampa to stay with a friend in his brand spankin new condo in Clearwater.  The one thing I realized is that Florida is a big state; it only took me 2 1/2 hours to make it to Florida, and the rest of the time was spent driving through the state.
I am amazed at the close proximity of a large number of beaches in the Tampa Bay area.  After living here for a couple of weeks, I don't understand how anyone could live without a beach within a ten minute drive from their home.  My friend Jason is in a volleyball league that plays every Saturday at the Undertow, a cool bar on the beach with the worst bartenders known to man (or woman).  Since I've arrived, we've spent every Saturday on the beach, watching the v-ball games, soaking up the sun and consuming adult beverages (and plenty of water).  What could make for a better weekend?
I've also been cooking a lot since I've been here.  Nothing really special or earth shattering, but it feels good to be back in the kitchen.  I have come up with some good healthy recipes, as I've been trying to get back into better shape.  Last week I was talking to a guy about what I would like to have right now from my apartment, and the first thing that popped into my head and out of my mouth - "my cookware."  Ok, it may be the truth, but next time I'll keep my mouth shut and think of something a little more appropriate, like my set of weightlifting barbells.  Yea, so I don't have any, but I don't think I've heard the end of the comment about my "cookware." Very manly.  Oh well.
Since I haven't been home in a month and my head is still in a cloud, I am not sure what to make of all of this.  One thing is for sure, Tampa is a great place to live.  There are beaches everywhere, the people are nice, the weather is always great and the city is clean.  My only complaint is the lack of great food, but you can't have everything.  I was lucky to be staying with the right person, and through him I have met some wonderful people that have already made me feel at home.  Whether it is e-mailing me job leads or inviting me to pool parties, they've adopted me as their instant new friend.  Oh, and about the key?  Since I may be here for a while, Jason made me a copy of his house key, which is decorated with the Tampa Bay Bucs logo.  When Jason came home with the key, I had just hung up the phone after talking to my dad about living in the area.  While he was happy for me, he sounded a little dissapointed about me re-locating from the New Orleans area.  He told me that everyone would miss me, and with a sad tone in his voice, he said "please just don't start rooting for the Bucs."  Thanks Dad, but I might not have a choice, that is, unless they are playing the Saints.
9:34 am | link

Friday, September 9, 2005

Back in Hammond... temporarily
I've been back in Hammond for less than 36 hours and it seems like an eternity.  I left Chicago at 6:30 am on Wednesday and after 13 hours of straight driving I arrived in Hammond around 8pm... pretty good time.  This tiny city is packed with people, but much better off than Baton Rouge, a city that had bad traffic problems BEFORE the storm. 
Yesterday I woke up early and went to the local AmSouth branch to order checks and a new debit card.  Stopped at a coffee shop and got on the internet for a while, then met my mom and grandparents for lunch at La Caretta, a little mexican joint in the middle of town.  I had accomplished everything before noon that I needed to do, so the rest of the day I felt useless.  Not sure how much longer I can sit around without a job or a "temporarily permanent" home.
This morning I went to Wal-Mart with my mom to pick up a few things;  surprisingly, it wasn't a zoo.  However, it was a bit disconcerting to have military personnel carrying M-16's and sidearms walking around and outside of Wal-Mart.  I'll be cooking tonight, so I hope that will keep my mind off of things. Steak and Chicken tacos, black bean soup, guac and salsa.
Financial problems and lonliness are probably weighing the heaviest on my mind right now.  I thought I had a girlfriend before and during the storm, but she decided to pick up and go to Houston with a friend, possibly never to return.  This was after lenghty discussions about how "we" could help each other and support each other emotionally and financially.  Oh well, she did say that she wanted to "keep in touch."  Yea, I'll sit around waiting for a postcard.  Losing a job and a girlfriend in the same week is definitely a new low for me.
I know I can move to Tampa and get a bartending job fairly quickly, so that is what I will probably do.  Obviously, there are a number of careers and jobs in which I am fully qualified, but bartending seems to be the best route to help me transition to a new city.  Happy people, a fun work environment and a social setting.  I can't see myself sitting at a job all day, then having plenty of free time after five o'clock in the afternoon.  I don't need to be sitting around watching tv every night.
Well, this was longer than I had intended, but I needed to vent.  Not sure whether to be angry at the system (shouldn't be) or depressed about my situation (also shouldn't be);  unfortunately it's the latter.  Please excuse the spelling and the grammar; I really don't have the patience to make this perfect, just a journal of my hurricane experience, not necessarily food related.  I'm about to run down to the social services center to check on some food stamps (now in the form of a debit card).  Not much else to do.  Oh well, when I get back, I'll start making the salsa and marinating the meat;  it actually feels good to have work to do.
12:40 pm | link

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Random Thoughts from an Evacuee
Despite the fact that I may or may not have lost everything from the hurricane, there are certain thoughts that go through my head.  I wish they were noble thoughts or maybe even prolific reflection on the loss of life, but they aren't.  They are just honest.  And when do they pop into my head?  No telling.  I was at the grocery store yesterday, and I thought out loud:
  • I never did open and drink that bottle of 1986 Chateau Lafitte Rothchild.

And some others...

  • I finally splurged and got Earthlink DSL and a wireless router for my house.  I sure hope they don't charge me the cancellation fee when I move.
  • I have a fry pan still in the sink that I never did wash.
  • My poor houseplants will be dead on my return.
  • I wonder about the stray cat that hangs around my house;  I hope he is ok.  And I hate cats.
  • I wonder if my phone company will still charge me for the month that I am not at home?
  • Last week I spent almost $100 at Wal-Mart for deoderant, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc. that are now sitting in an empty apartment.  Any guess where I will be going this week to spend another $100?
7:41 am | link

Saturday, September 3, 2005

Rebuilding - where to start?
After almost five days in Chicago, I believe the shock has worn off.  I have recieved word that my apartment (at this time) is still there, but will it be inhabitable?
It looks as if I will be returning to Hammond as soon as the power is restored, until I can come up with a game plan.  My first thought is to move to Dallas.  I can get a job almost anywhere, but there will not be anything for me in New Orleans.
I recieved an e-mail from a friend (and foodie) who lived in St. Bernard parish, and also lost everything.  Her parents lost everything, including their business.  Where will they begin to rebuild?
Giving to a charity is great, but if you know someone in the New Orleans area, remember that they need your help.  Those that have nothing but a suitcase will still need to buy the essentials.  Some people have been living in hotels for a week and are running out of money.  Send them a gift card to Wal-Mart or Target, I guarantee they will need it.  Charities are getting donations by the millions, but don't forget those that won't be helped by the charities.  If you know someone who is hosting people at their home, think of the cost of feeding them for the next few weeks.
These people may not have been in poverty before the storm, but they will be soon without help.  These are people who have worked hard, had businesses and employed others and paid taxes.  So instead of giving blindly to a charity, think of a relative or friend that you can adopt, and make it your own charity.
11:13 am | link

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