To quote my colleague, “I finally live in a country where November 1st is a holiday!”
I’m not particularly fond of Halloween, or any commercialized holiday really, for that matter (yes, that’s all of them), but I can certainly appreciate the bringing together of people and traditions.
In New Orleans, Halloween is huge. For the last thirty years, we have had the famed and amazingly awesome fundraiser for Project Lazarus, where my dear friend Dustin Woehrmann is on the Board. As Vice Chair of Marketing, he ensures that the word gets out, people stay engaged and it’s always an exquisite time. I’m sorry I missed this year’s event; the theme was “Chapel of Love.” I definitely would have gone if I’d been in NOLA. If you missed it, there’s always next year … or you can help out right now: Just go to their site and donate. Both of my parents died from HIV-related causes so this and the NO/AIDS Taskforce are very close to my heart. You can donate to NO/AIDS, too, if you want. If there’s a memo box, put “NOLAfoodie” down as your in-honor-of/reference. (If you want a real name, leave me a comment.)
In addition to the parties, we also have beaucoup decorations all over town. Surprisingly enough, when I was searching for decorations images on WWL’s site, I discovered that video … and what do you know: I know Dominique! Shout out!! 🙂 The haunted houses, the tours, the costumes …. the celebrations. And we can’t forget Voodoo Fest, which is still going on as I type. I went when it was still Mojo Fest, but not since it changed names … and the … um … crowd.
New Orleans is the city of the dead, in so many ways, so it’s only proper that we show our love extra on Halloween. Here in Brussels, however, Halloween isn’t really celebrated. Unless of course you count all the college house parties and the American expats who want to inflict American traditions on our peaceful neighbors. I did see an advertisement for a state-sponsored party though. I think it was meant to get all those unruly teenagers into one or two places and safe instead of traipsing all over town throughout the night disturbing the sleep. Regardless, Halloween went by without much fanfare. For that, I am happy. I did miss donning my full size Disney character costume and making people smile, startle and laugh their butts off …. and of course, making little children cry. 🙂 (Just kidding. That only happened three times.)
In any event, since yesterday was a holiday, I decided to make the best use of it. I cooked, of course!
A few weeks ago, when I got my Crockpot, I suddenly realized: I have no Pam. Now, it may not seem like a big deal, but apparently, PAM IS A BIG DEAL! It’s not something you can find in the grocery stores here. Trust me, I went to about ten grocery stores in search of Pam. Destined to Google my life away, I finally found it at this AMAZING little place called Mexigo! I took an afternoon off and made my way over there, where in addition to over two pounds of dry black beans, I bought crunchy peanut butter (also impossible to find) and PAM! So very exciting!
Really, the thing about the black beans is that I couldn’t find them in the stores … not even in a can. I was really really craving them, especially since I ate them several times a week in NOLA. Santa Fe Midcity is a staple in my diet and I seriously miss the gang and the food. I even have a drink named after me there, that’s how much of a regular I am. 🙂 My favorite dish is the Tuna Tostada. Man, those luscious layers of tuna, sour cream, corn, black beans, guacamole and lettuce on a tostada … gosh, I wish I had one now! I digress.
Black beans! I was rockin’ the metric system with home-cooked black beans! I have a couple of recipes that call for black beans, and frustrated with the search, I knew I had to do something. I tried red, I tried white … I tried garbanzo, but it’s just not the same. Black beans have a texture that cannot be replicated. I found this incredibly easy recipe and I’m telling you, you have to try it today. Even with no salt at all, the beans with the rice … it was just superb.
Though I am very proud of my black beans, as I am sure my uncle would be (hi, UB!), I think the thing that I really enjoyed was this:
I love taco soup. It started out as an accident, really. When I was in NOLA, some friends and I had monthly standing-date “Fantastic Four” dinners. We alternated location and responsibility for cooking. At one of these dinners, my friend made taco soup. I thought, “hey, this seems easy, and oh boy this tastes great … I bet I can make it.” Fast-forward almost a year later: I never *not* have taco soup in the freezer.
Okay, so, disclaimer, it’s a Weight Watchers recipe, but we doctor it up. Oh yeah, do we doctor it up. The recipe really does make ten servings, but I change some things every time I make it. Now that I don’t exactly have access to everything the recipe calls for, I had to do some things differently. What did not change, however, are two ingredients: Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix and Taco Seasoning. I specifically asked for these in my last care package and I am SO thankful I did. I needed taco soup like there was no tomorrow!
The best part of my day though was at the very start … with my very first European-made steaming hot cup of PJ’s coffee: Tiger’s Blend! It was like a breath of fresh air, truly the taste of home. In the last month that I was in NOLA, I think I had two Medium Tiger’s Blend Iced Mochas with Light Ice and Skim Milk each day. Halfway through this cup, I realized that I didn’t have chocolate syrup in the pantry. I immediately put that on my grocery list!
Don’t forget to change your clocks tonight, NOLA. We changed our clocks last week, so I’m already one step ahead of you! 🙂
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