a taste of new orleans

As Part II of our honeymoon (Part I was a few nights in the gorgeous city of Charleston), Will & I road tripped from South Carolina to Texas, stopping to spend one lovely day in New Orleans. Neither of us had ever been there, and I had been sufficiently enchanted by the likes of the Princess & the Frog to be very much excited about our little adventure. We were ready to learn what all the talk surrounding the city was about. And, of course, we saw it as a perfect opportunity to cross another item off my bucket list24) Go on a food tour in a major city.

New Orleans is well-known for both its incredible cuisine and unique culture… and we were lucky enough to find a tour that blended elements from both. We settled on a walking tour (Tastebud Tours) lead by a former middle school principal, and followed him as he meandered around the city, painting a fascinating picture of the historical, architectural, and cultural landscape of New Orleans. All in all, we stopped at six local food spots. And let me tell you… we had an incredible experience at every single one.

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We began at the local deli Mike Serio’s, where Will & I both had our first muffulettas. Think bread + salami + mortadella + ham + mozzarella + provolone + olive salad= the biggest (and possibly the tastiest) sandwich you have ever seen in your life. The pictures below show quarter portions. This sandwich originated in New Orleans and is one of the city’s signature items… our tour guide reported that it was created in 1906, in response to the needs of the city’s Sicilian farmers who were attempting to get a lunch that would last all day in the hot sun. Obviously, it stuck around.

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Our next stop was Cafe Beignet, an adorable little hidden garden with live jazz and greenery all around. We were served the hottest, softest, most delicious beignets ever, and covered ourselves in powdered sugar as we tried to eat them gracefully. It beat our Cafe du Monde experience by far. And, of course, what would beignets be without cafe ole? (p.s. since we had been at Cafe du Monde earlier in the day, I didn’t take any photos at this stop. The ones below are from that morning instead.)

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After the cafe, we popped into a little spice shop: The Spice & Tea Exchange. This place was packed with every type of dried herb, spice, tea, and sugar and salt and pepper blend. Our time there was full of peeking into jars and inhaling deeply and saying, “One day, we’ll buy stuff like this”.

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We then strolled on over The Old Coffeepot Restaurant, which was established in 1894, and were greeted by the chef himself… a rotund, jolly man who wore the white hat and had an Yat accent fit for the movies. We listened to him passionately outline the difference between Cajun and Creole histories/ cuisines and quietly sampled both gumbo and jumbalaya. Cajuns, apparently, came from Acadia (Nova Scotia), displaced by the British to eventually settle in Louisiana. Creoles, on the other hand, are descendants of the French and Spanish immigrants who settled in Louisiana while those countries enjoyed control over the area (along with a sizable population of Africans and African Americans). Cajun cooking, therefore, is more “country,” as the Acadians learned to live off the land, while Creole cooking was more “urban” and was generally done by chefs hired by the wealthy, who blended their European cooking styles with local ingredients. As for us, we thought both dishes were incredible.

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We next went to Johnny’s Po Boys, for a famous roast beef po boy. These were served wrapped in paper in the back room of the shop, and we watched as people walked in and out of the kitchen. Po boys are famous for a reason, and Johnny’s is (disputably) the best in the city.

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And the final piece: Laura’s Candies, the oldest candy store in New Orleans. Here, our tour guide gave us a warm goodbye and left us to peruse the shop, where we were privy to free samples of everything from mississippi mud to peanut butter meltaways. And then, of course, we were sent home with a bag of famous NOLA pralines in hand. The perfect end, in my opinion, to a perfect tour.

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And what do you do when you finish an extravagantly delicious food tour? Go and eat more, obviously. Our one day in New Orleans was finished at The Three Muses, a little bar that served exotic foods tapas-style… our meal included (but was not limited to) Tempura Shrimp, Goat-Cheese Stuffed (and Bacon-Wrapped) Dates, Lobster Mac n’ Cheese, & Smoked Duck Breast Enchilada Pizza, topped with a Sunny Side Up Duck Egg. We finished with a Banana Empanada and homemade Nutella Ice Cream, listening to the live musicians as they sang about the wonders of New Orleans.

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The wonders of New Orleans, indeed.

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celebrating the body

1 Corinthians 12:12-26
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

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I should begin this post by saying that my “church” story has not always been a happy one. Like many of us 20-something Christians out there, I have had my fair share of anger, bitterness, and sorrow rooted in my local congregation. Christians are flawed, and the Church is broken. I am fully aware of this, and one day, maybe I’ll write more about that season of my life. There is a story there, and like all stories, it is worth telling in it’s way.

But for now, I simply want to celebrate the beauty of the bride of Christ.

The worldwide Church is made up of all Christians- through time and space- and identifies us in both our individuality and our communion. It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the bride and the body of Christ, the children of God. It isn’t simply one congregation or one denomination, or even those who agree with each other on every point. It is mysterious and sweeping and invisible and simply incredible.

But also, my interactions in the Church are marked by the small things. In my experience, some of the most powerful and lasting images are memories of gestures, words, actions, and smiles. I love the singing and shaking hands and sharing coffee that comes with being part of this community. There is something about that shared belief, about having aligned experiences of faith, about knowing the same words, worshipping the same God, praying the same prayers that is incredibly moving. There is something so sweet, for example, about that moment in a worship service when the leader stops singing… and all you can hear are the voices around you. Or about reading Scripture out loud with other believers- either as part of a liturgy or simply in spontaneity- and hearing the Word of God spoken with power.

But my favorite, my truest celebration, is that of communion. The Eucharist, in its essence, is joining in the death of Jesus Christ… and when I take communion alongside other Christians, it is an incredible reminder that I joined into Christ’s death as a part of something bigger. It is a mark of community, of communal covenant, of partaking in something all together. For me, it is a promise that I will continue to live in the Church, continue to act in such a way that “If one part suffers”, then I suffer with it, or “if one part is honored”, then I rejoice with it… just as I join in the blood and the body of Christ.

And these moments build up into a shared life: one generation mentoring and teaching and discipling another. It means going to lunch together, or picking each others’ kids up from school, or celebrating birthdays and holidays and the victories of life with one another. It means mourning, too, and bringing meals and sending flowers and being there when someone else needs you. It is friendship with the spiritual bonds of family. And despite how flawed it is, how often I feel frustrated or disappointed with those who bear Christ’s name (myself, of course, included)…. I cannot help but see the Church’s beauty, and God’s grace, as more powerful than sin. It is good.

a snapshot and a recipe

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Today is a no-bake cookies sort of day.

Madi’s Almond No-Bake Cookies

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup shortening
3 cups instant oatmeal
2 cups white sugar
dash of salt
3 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
DIRECTIONS:
1. In a saucepan bring sugar, cocoa, shortening, almond milk, and salt to a rapid boil. Wait for a little over a minute.
2. Add oats, almond butter, and vanilla; mix well.
3. Working quickly, drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper (or in my case, a no-stick baking sheet), and let cool.
4. Enjoy!