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Anyone reading between the lines of this travel blog has to surmise that the way Carol and I eat and drink in Europe is not sustainable year round. Even when we spent all that time in Germany, we still found ways to turn the food pyramid on its head (thanks to some wonderful Italian restaurants there). Inevitably though, we wound up enjoying our last meal in Europe the way diners on death row enjoyed theirs. “When we get home, we’re going on a diet,” Carol would intone solemnly. I would receive those words with the same death row chill an inmate would experience in learning there’d be no intervention from the Governor.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Betsy in 1965, much of St. Bernard Parish and Chalmette were flooded to a depth of about five feet. These were the days before federal flood insurance and FEMA trailers. What was available was a loan from the Small Business Association, which my parents dutifully took out and repaid just in time for Hurricane Katrina.
My family’s roots are submerged in the bayous of Louisiana. If you think Louisiana is the armpit of the country, then the bayous are the pit hairs.
My grandparents raised eight kids on little more than what could be hooked, dragged, dredged, gigged or netted out of Bayou Des Allemands. My grandfather was a barber; my grandmother ran an ice cream parlor. Between my grandfather not charging the Depression-devastated inhabitants for their haircuts and my grandmother frightening the children who came in her shop at the wrong time for ice cream, my grandparents eventually lit out for greener pastures: the reclaimed malarial swamp known as Chalmette, where I grew up.
With time on my hands now, I used part of it to noodle around my ambivalent attitude towards authority, resulting in a liberalism that believes in government as a force for good and resents its intrusiveness at the same time.
As with everything else in life, it started with my parents. As nurturers, they expanded the “children should be seen and not heard” maxim to include not being seen either. In summer we were sent out from the house after breakfast into the stifling heat of New Orleans and told not to return until dinner. Left to forage for lunch, we learned to distinguish the hard way between poison mushrooms and berries and the good ones.