The Braille Monitor                                                                                               __May 1997

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Speaking About New Orleans

by Jerry Whittle

From the Editor: This is the final pre-convention article about New Orleans and the 1997 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Begin getting ready for the experience of a lifetime by learning what the locals are talking about. Here's what Jerry Whittle has to say:

New Orleans has many features that set it apart from all other American cities. One of the most distinctive differences is the colorful street jargon. When visiting the Crescent City, perhaps it would be helpful to know these unique terms. After all, Federationists should find the time to visit the French Quarter since it is only a few short blocks from the Hyatt-Regency Hotel.

Banquette: A term meaning sidewalk, derived from a time when the walks were made of wood.

Batture: The land between a levee and the river. It is often covered by the river's high water from late winter through spring.

Bayou: A marshy, sluggish tributary of a river or lake.

Beignet: A hole-less French doughnut sprinkled with powdered sugar. A local tradition, beignets are generally served with cafe au lait.

Cajun: One who descends from the Acadians. French people who were exiled from Nova Scotia and who settled in southern Louisiana in the 1760's. The word applies to the people, a form of French dialect spoken by these people, and the food and music they popularized.

Chicory: A root roasted and ground to flavor Louisiana coffee. It is said to counteract the bitter taste often imparted by pure java.

Crawfish: Sometimes spelled crayfish, but never by locals, and nicknamed mudbugs, crawfish are common, edible freshwater crustaceans.

Etoufee: A savory concoction of Creole origin with a roux (flour and butter) base; the holy trinity (celery, onions, and green peppers); plenty of spices; and either crawfish or shrimp. Considered an elegant dish, etoufee is traditionally served over rice.

Flambeaux: Before the advent of electricity and automotive transportation, men carrying large frames of lighted torches called "flambeaux" once illuminated the way for horse- or mule-drawn vehicles. Carnival organizations still feature flambeaux in their evening parades.

Go-Cups: Plastic cups into which a bar's patrons may pour unfinished portions of their beverages before heading for the streets. You can take liquor almost anywhere in New Orleans, but not in anything glass.

Gumbo: A soup, thickened by either okra or fil‚. It usually includes everything but the kitchen sink. Staplesinclude shrimp, crab, oysters, fish, chicken, and sausage. All New Orleanians argue that their grandmother makes the best.

Hurricane: An alcoholic beverage concocted of rum, fruit juice, and sugar. Its original home was Pat O'Brien's bar in the french Quarter.

Jambalaya: A rice version of "the kitchen sink," this local dish always starts with rice and includes various, seafood, and seasonings.

King Cake: Traditionally served during Carnival, this cake resembles a large sweet roll and is decorated with purple, green, and gold sugars and white icing. Hidden inside is a small, plastic doll. The recipient of the doll is supposed to host the next king cake party.

Lagniappe: A little something extra, like a "baker's dozen."

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler: "Let the good times roll," a popular expression among Cajuns.

Mint Julep: An alcoholic beverage of crushed mint leaves, mixed with sugar, laced heavily with bourbon, and finished with a little water.

Muffaletta: born in the French Quarter's Italian markets as a hearty meal for seamen, this large, round sandwich features a variety of meats and cheeses and is dressed with olive salad on soft, seeded Italian bread.

Nutria: A beaver-like, fur-covered rodent that's eating the marshes and levees of Louisiana's swamps. Many have migrated into the city through the canals and bayous. They look like giant rats with long, orange teeth. You should avoid them, but some locals cook them.

Picayune: Once a common Spanish coin in New Orleans, the picayune was worth 6.25 cents. It was originally the cost of a daily newspaper now called the Times-Picayune.

Pirogue: A small, flat-bottomed boat invented by Cajuns for maneuvering through shallow water.

Po-Boy: Originally filled with inexpensive, filling fare (such as French fries) and served on long loaves of French bread, this sandwich was first offered to the poor by local merchants either free or at a very low cost. Now it is a delicacy overflowing with meats, seafood, and more.

Praline: A disc-shaped candy traditionally made of pecans, vanilla, butter, cream, and sugar. The creation has evolved to include several versions, including chocolate and chewy.

Sazerac: This cocktail was make famous at the turn of the century. It incorporated rye whiskey, Angostura and Peychaud bitters, and sugar. This mixture is strained over ice and served with a twist of lemon. It's not for the weak-hearted.

Shotgun: A common architectural style of small, linear, wood-frame houses on narrow lots in old neighborhoods--so named because most consist of two parallel sides with consecutive rooms, arranged like the barrels of a shotgun.

Veranda: A balcony usually covered and often surrounded by ornate wrought iron or cast iron railings--the perfect place to consume a mint julep.

Vieux Carre: The original city, now called the French Quarter, was first dubbed Vieux Carre, which literally means "Old Square" and was so named because the city was initially laid out in a perfect square.

Where Y'at: Direct translation, "Where are you at?" is a typical New Orleans neighborhood greeting. It means the same thing as, "How are you?"

Zydeco: The dance music of southwestern Louisiana's black, French-speaking Creoles. The music is produced with a variety of instruments, including washboards, spoons, accordions, harmonicas, washtubs, and floor boards.