|St. Joseph altar in a private home|
The story really started in 1985. I was an assistant editor for a computer trade magazine, and the spring trade show was in New Orleans. I had never been before. The show didn't start until Tuesday, but I was there the day before. I knew where the French Quarter was, but I knew little else. I went searching for lunch, and I came upon the Old Coffee Pot on St. Peter Street, half a block off Bourbon toward the river. I saw that they had a red beans and rice special, so I went in. I had a great lunch at a very reasonable price. It was my introduction to Cajun and Creole food.
|Altar with symbolic food|
One more bit of setup. Before we left, we asked friends for restaurant recommendations. Two friends highly recommended this one place, and both said to say hi to the chef, whom they knew. We weren't sure about sending greetings to someone we didn't know, but we planned on having dinner at that restaurant.
After our stroll along Chartres, the church bells were ringing noon as we arrived at the Coffee Pot. There was a bit of a lineup to get in. The place wasn't full, but it was being run by only a couple of older women, and they were seating people slowly so as not to get overwhelmed. A guy by himself in the lineup right behind us noticed Sweetie's octopus tattoo and said that he liked it. We started chatting, and he introduced himself, saying that he was chef and owner of a restaurant in the Quarter. I asked which one, and I was floored to learn that it was the one that had been recommended to us. Here was the guy to whom we were supposed to send greetings, and he just happened to be behind us in a lineup at the Coffee Pot!
More than one goddess was at work here. And maybe a saint too.
|Nice that Ignatius is taller than I am!|
We also drove along Bayou St. John and through City Park. The chef, being as big a fan of the book A Confederacy of Dunces as Sweetie is (I've read it, but not as often as Sweetie has), found Constantinople Street. He and Sweetie checked out the houses, deciding which one would be Ignatius Reilly's house. He also took us to the statue of Ignatius that's in front of a hotel on Canal Street. I wasn't always sure where we were on this adventure, but I know we drove through a fair amount of the city.
|Sadly, we didn't have the good camera with us|
We finished the evening by catching a late supper (after all the St. Joseph food in the afternoon) at a place on Frenchmen Street. We reluctantly parted with our new friend. Since his night goes much later than ours, he went off to a club, while we walked home.
It's hard to convey just what this day meant to me. It was about the St. Joseph altars and the food and the Mardi Gras Indians, of course. But much more than that, it was about a chance meeting that it seems could not possibly have been by chance. We were befriended by one of the top chefs in the city, who gave us his day to show us the city he loves. But it wasn't about meeting a celebrity. It was about meeting a really special human being. We didn't run into just any local to show us around. We ran into exactly the right person.