Waitress at The Coffee PotI never thought I'd have anything to say about football, but here I am, in New Orleans, surrounded by football. With my usual dumb luck, I fell into an historic moment here. Sunday was a special day in New Orleans--the day of the big game. Now I know nothing--I mean nothing--about football. Don't know how it's played, don't understand when people score, or why they kick the ball sometimes, and throw it the rest of the time.
But I love a good story. And the today's New Orleans Saints are a great story. To recap: this past Sunday they played the Vikings--the winner getting a ride to the Super Bowl. The Saints have never gone to the Super Bowl. The game was played at the infamous Louisiana Superdome. Being a Red Sox fan, even for only 11 years, I think I have a bit of an idea about how they feel.
Setting the TV up for the Game (I think he lacked the converter)Ever since we arrived here Saturday morning, the excitement has been palpable (and audible). I'd say 8 out of 10 people I pass on the street are wearing something Saints related: team jersey's, t-shirts screaming the 'Who Dat' cheer, black and gold mardis gras beads with fleur de lis. Business casual men in khaki pants wearing pink woven belts with fleur de lis mingle with gentlemen wearing fleur de lis ties or pins on their lapels.
The point is it's everywhere. Bars have signs in their windows, but so do upscale galleries in the Central Business District, and white-tablecloth restaurants. The signs hang in the windows of homes and businesses, on the St. Charles streetcars, and flash on the buses, alternating with the destination. Sandwich boards proclaim 'Geaux Saints' and 'Braveaux Boys'. Get the picture?
Pavel and I mainly skipped the evening. I've never been tempted to come here for Mardis Gras, and the Sunday game was pretty close to that, from what I heard. It also felt a little wrong, me, a football non-enthusiast. And that's all on me--New Orleans is not the kind of city that lets you feel an outsider. So we contented ourselves with drinks at the hotel bar, watching some of the game, and then going up to our room. Just after the Saints won, I looked out the window and saw men with instrument cases pouring out of the building across the way. Horns and shouts and laughter and happiness. And it didn't stop until long after we went to sleep. In fact, at 1 I looked out the window and saw the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the freeway, of people coming in to town. Still.
And the calas? Once common, these rice fritters are hard to find now. When we got to town I picked up a copy of Edible New Orleans (always a good way to get your bearings in a new town), and there was an article about calas (and one about Ramos Gin Fizzes as well, but that's another story). Apparently on of the few places left to enjoy them is at The Coffee Pot in the French Quarter. So Monday morning I picked my way over the shards left from the celebrations of last night, and went for calas.
What I forgot was the city would largely be asleep. The Coffee Pot was nearly empty. But it was still hopping. The Saints theme song (Who Dat, natch) played on a loop the whole time I was there. The waitress was in full Saints regalia: jersey, beads, hat, and the front section of the newspaper worn sandwich board style. My calas were about what you'd expect: crispy on the outside, soft inside, scented with nutmeg. They came with a side of grits (something I dearly love). As I ate my calas, the customers tumbled in, most of them hugging the waitresses, reliving where they were when it happened, and how late they were out.
When it was time for a coffee refill, my sandwich-board clad waitress danced it slowly to me, from across the room, stopping every few steps to call out 'who dat!'.
Overheard before and in the days after the game:
"Get your orders in...we're closing the kitchen one hour early because..." (big shrug here) "we all gotta get drunk before the game." (A waiter to a happy-to-oblige party at Sunday brunch).
"Are you having a mimosa?"
"No baby, I gotta work today." (Monday morning 9 AM at the Coffee Pot, a dead-tired and totally happy couple.)
"We got to...everybody have their season, and this is our season." (Waitress at the Coffee Pot to a dining family, when talking about the chances for a Saints win in the Super Bowl).
"We earned it. We deserved it!" (Two days after, clerk in a shoe store to friends).